TESOL's Tips for Evaluating Potential Employers

The following suggestions are offered for informational purposes only. TESOL does not warrant that this information, or the information provided by any outside entity, is comprehensive, complete, or otherwise reliable. TESOL does not provide professional career or academic counseling, legal assistance, or legal advice, and cannot intervene in disputes between an employer and an employee. TESOL hopes the information is helpful but does not intend it to substitute for professional assistance.

Investigate the institution or organization

Before accepting a job, thoroughly investigate your prospective employer. The Internet is a good place to start. Type the name of the institution or organization into a search engine and visit its Web site, if it has one. Look at several other Web sites where its name appears, such as the news media, chat boards, association Web sites, and government Web sites.

Contact the department or ministry of education

Consider contacting the department, bureau, or ministry of education (or a similar government office) in the institution's home country for information about the institution and the educational system. If the organization is privately owned, you might also contact that country's chamber, bureau, or ministry of commerce or a similar, business-oriented agency. Your home country's embassy in your host country may also be able to provide information about the institution that it may have gotten from your fellow citizens.

Ask for references

An organization interested in hiring you will probably ask you for references. Consider doing the same thing. Ask to be referred to a former employee who can tell you more about the working conditions there. You might also ask for photographs or literature that will tell you about the facilities and work environment. If an institution offers a sizeable contract completion bonus, ask how many of its teachers typically receive it. Never count on a contract completion bonus for return airfare. If one party or the other cannot complete the contract, you will need other resources for returning home.

Investigate the teaching resources available to you

Different countries and fields of teaching may have differing ideas about what teaching materials and resources they will provide for the teacher and what they will expect the teacher to supply. Find out what teaching materials you will have to supply, as well as what resources the institution and the host country will provide.

Investigate living conditions in the host country

You can get general information about living conditions in various countries from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's The World Fact Book http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/. If you are not a U.S. citizen, the consular and customs information and some of the safety and security advice that these sources provide may not apply to you, but they are still excellent sources for country descriptions, climate and terrain information, environmental and natural disaster risks, population and demographics, health concerns and access to medical facilities, government and legal systems, economic and commercial statistics, transportation, telecommunications, and any ongoing civil or transnational disputes.

Familiarize yourself with local working conditions

Working conditions vary widely throughout the world. Much of the discontent that arises in ESL/EFL jobs stems from differing cultural assumptions about what is appropriate in the workplace. Before accepting a job in a country where you have not spent enough time to understand the culture, consider investigating
  • typical wages or salary and whether you are paid hourly, weekly, or monthly
  • usual number of working hours in a day
  • usual number of working days in a week
  • normal length of contracts
  • typical amount of vacation or leave time and whether or not it is paid
  • any benefits (insurance, housing, moving allowance, etc.) you might expect
  • whether or not medical insurance is available
  • expectations concerning employee demeanor both during and outside of working hours

Ask for a sample contract from the institution and verify that this information is stipulated and that it is in keeping with local norms.

Investigate housing conditions in the host country

Many teaching jobs include housing for employees, but housing conditions vary widely worldwide and may vary within a particular country. If the standard of living in the host country differs significantly from that in your home country, be sure to find out what to expect concerning size; appearance; furnishings; cleanliness; security; access to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; access to electricity and telecommunications systems; technology (including Internet access); cooking facilities; and toilet and bathing facilities. If an employer does not provide housing, investigate the cost of housing in the host country. Housing is often your largest personal expense, and you need to verify that you can afford to live near your workplace.

Never work in another country without first obtaining a work visa

If you are found living or working illegally in any country, you may be subject to substantial fines, imprisonment, and deportation. Remember, generally speaking, you are subject to the laws and norms of the host country, not your home country, and you should be wary of any employer who asks you to work in another country without a work visa.