how to write a good CV???

Writing a good CV

What sort of CV (resume, if your prefer) is going to impress a DoS (Director of Studies) in a language school? Who better to ask than DoS at IH Barcelona, Evelyn Byrne…

“What am I looking for? Someone who’s got a good qualification from a reputable place,” is Evelyn’s immediate answer. She expanded on that: she’d much rather see a Cambridge ESOL qualification (CELTA, that is) and tends to be choosey about where it was taken – like, at what centre.

“Personally, I’m looking for Young Learner skills – ideally a qualification and experience, because that’s what is the demand is for. Upstairs in Company Training they want business skills but like most language schools we sometimes find it hard to meet the demand for properly qualified teachers for young learners.”

A professional looking CV

And as for the CV itself? “Nowadays, most look very professional ,” Evelyn says. (Now that’s something I guess we have to thank Bill Gates for.) So don’t, whatever you do, send off CVs that you hand wrote in pencil on a page ripped from an exercise book (and, believe me, I’ve seen some!). Basic word processing skills ought to help you with that (and a Word CV template may well come in handy).

“I want an e-mail address , too,” says Evelyn. “It’s just so much easier to contact people that way.” If you’ve not got a Yahoo! account, get one! Include your mobile phone number, too.

“Oh, and don’t include a lot of irrelevant professional experience,” Evelyn says. Like, if you worked in four different jobs as an accountant, or as a cinema usher, is it relevant? Now, on the other hand, if you coached a football team for 14 year olds, or worked with immigrant kids from deprived backgrounds, make sure you include that (particularly when you are starting out, having just done your CELTA, and are struggling a bit to find relevant teaching experience).

Meanwhile, along at Human Resources…

Along the corridor in the Human Resources Department, head of department Olga Luna agreed with that. “Keep it to one page if possible, and I’m really not interested in your school leaving certificate, or where you went to primary school, if you’ve got a university degree… Or a driving licence, either, if it’s not relevant to the position you’re applying for”. So that’s probably one thing you can leave off to keep it down to one page.

Olga also likes to see a good quality photograph too (no excuse for that nowadays, either!). A black-and-white image, one that has been reproduced from several early generations of photocopies, one that makes you look like a mad axe man is not going to land you an interview, far less a job.

It’s not necessary to be wearing a tie in the photograph, or look like you’ve just had your hair done for a school prom; what you want is to look like someone the DoS wouldn’t mind sitting in a classroom to be taught by.

And up in Company Training…

IH Barcelona also has a Company Training Department, which sends teachers out to companies to do business (and non business) English classes.

Bob Flory, the Director was someone else who stressed putting where and when you did CELTA, and what grade you got. “Your qualifications are the first thing we look for,” says Bob, “so it’s not a bad idea to put that section first. And remember to put things from most recent to oldest.”

“You definitely need to personalise the CV for the job you are applying for,” Bob says. Up in Company Training, for example, that means highlighting what businesses you might have worked for, in what capacity, what real world experience you’ve got- because they’re really looking for business experience. Four years as an accountant just might interest them – while it probably won’t interest the DoS in the language academy round the corner.

“What makes a CV stand out from the pile? What gets yours noticed?” As you might expect, Bob had quite a few good ideas on that [see side bar]. Bob also likes to see a “business-like font”, say Arial or Verdana or Tahoma – “nothing flowery”. You really want a job in competitive market, then you’ve got to take care of the details!

Bob must read literally hundreds of CVs – a point worth remembering when you start to write yours. A busy DoS is probably not going to waste much time on yours if you’ve not gone to a certain amount of trouble over it.

General advice

  • Use the minimum number of words to make the maximum impact
  • If you find it impossible to get your CV down to one page , make it two, but don’t go beyond that
  • Make it easy to scan read – there shouldn’t be so much on it that the highlights get lost
  • Using bullet points (as in this list, that is) will make it easier to scan
  • Include job titles (not just who you worked for) and your main responsibilities
  • Try to emphasise the skills that you required (and may have acquired) in the jobs you have done
  • Emphasise achievements – “action” verbs will help with that!
  • When you’ve finished writing your CV, ask yourself whether or not that what it says is going to make you stand out in the pile of other CVs from aspiring English teachers; if it’s not, go back to the drawing board!


Do !

Include what grades you got (especially if they were good!): an “A” or “B” on CELTA means you stand out. Merely “CELTA” on its own is the minimum expected.

If you do have teaching experience, include the levels and ages taught.

Do include language and computer skills. Your experience of learning languages is something that is relevant to a teaching post.

Do run a spell check on it (and remember that spell checkers are not infallible!)

Get someone else to read over it and make constructive criticism of it.


Don’t !

Don’t include lots of irrelevant work experience.

Don’t make handwritten amendments to your CV – retype it!


What makes a CV stand out from the pile ?

Your name is at the top, in a font size 4-6 points larger than the rest

It’s got your photo on it

It’s printed on decent paper, possibly very pale yellow or gray

It’s well-organised



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