1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This maxim holds true for many things in life, and TEFL is no exception.
2. I’m suspicious of ads that seem juvenile…whether it is due to excessive punctuation (including smiley faces) or multiple grammar mistakes. I just am. It’s true that not everyone speaks English perfectly, but it makes sense for a school to check that its ad for an English language teacher is relatively presentable. I’m also just slightly stumped by English language schools which have school websites without any English at all. This isn’t necessarily sinister; local students want information in their own language. But it’s nice as a teacher to check out the website of the school you are thinking of working for and not, I think, unreasonable to expect that an English language school would have at least some part of its website in English.
3. Compare, compare, compare to other similar ads, and check ads from different sources. What salary should you expect? Compare five or ten different ads for similar positions and you will have an idea. What’s the average number of hours you should expect to work? Read different ads. As you get more specific, information may be less commonly given, which leads into the next point.
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4. Ask questions; don’t spam every single school in a city with hundreds, but know that it’s not unreasonable at all to request further information on specific topics and in fact, it often gives a good impression that you care and know enough to ask.
If you don’t get relatively straightforward answers, beware. Do be aware, though, that disorganization is somewhat common and while it’s certainly not ideal, neither is it necessarily sinister; sometimes the best (and most honest) answer a school can give is about what usually happens, or what happened last year. What should you ask about? Try asking about resources, whether the position is salaried or hourly, responsibilities outside of teaching, and academic support. Finally, know that asking questions is just one step; make sure what you’re told appears in the contract as well.
5. Be aware of what the ads don’t say; Don’t make assumptions if something isn’t mentioned. Is housing included? Who pays for the work permit? Will you work split shifts or teach children? By reading a lot of ads you will get to see what is normally mentioned and what is not.