The dress code for ESL teachers can vary widely from school to school; there is no universal standard. In some establishments, men may need to dress in a suit and tie, while women might wear a pantsuit or a skirt with a dress shirt/jacket. However, others may permit more casual attire such as jeans and a t-shirt, though the majority fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The most prudent course of action is to inquire about the dress code during the interview process to ensure you are aware of the expectations. Otherwise, it is wise to err on the side of professionalism on your first day, then adjust your attire accordingly thereafter.
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It is generally best to approach a TESOL interview similarly to any other job interview you have had in your home country, irrespective of whether it's conducted online or in-person. Remember, you are essentially marketing yourself to the school and making a solid first impression is key to securing the job. You should aim to portray yourself as a serious, professional teacher rather than someone merely looking to earn some quick cash before moving on. Ultimately, being overdressed is better than being underdressed in any interview situation.
Even if your interview is conducted online before you depart from home, maintain the same level of professionalism. Also, remember that when submitting application forms and your CV/resume for potential teaching positions, many employers request an attached photograph. Ensure that you are dressed professionally in the photo. A photo of you in beachwear probably won't land you an interview.
While tattoos and piercings have become more accepted in recent years, they are still considered taboo in many countries and in certain contexts, particularly in the business sector or when working with young children. Many schools require their foreign teachers to serve as role models or ambassadors of the institution, which may influence local attitudes towards tattoos and piercings. Some schools even ban tattoos and piercings outright, but it's usually best to cover or remove them initially until you are certain about the school's policy.
Teachers who refuse or are unable to cover their tattoos or remove their piercings due to the quantity they have may have to take a chance and see what transpires, but be prepared that some schools might decline to hire you.
Generally, schools don't have a problem with teachers having beards, regardless of their size or shape. However, if you want to increase your chances of securing the ideal job, a clean-shaven appearance is likely the safest route. If you are too attached to your facial hair to part with it, consider giving it a thorough grooming before your interview to optimize your chances. The same principle applies to head hair; if you have long hair, ensure it's clean and neatly tied back to maintain the professional appearance that most employers prefer.
If you are planning to explore the abundant TESOL job markets in East Asia, there are several considerations. In Japan, due to the cultural association between tattoos and the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime syndicates), many schools won't hire teachers with visible tattoos. In many other East Asian cultures, such as China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, a neat and tidy appearance is usually expected and often preferred.
If you are drawn to the high salaries in the Middle East, be aware of their cultural norms. In conservative Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, female teachers commonly have to cover their hair, arms, and legs. These rules might not apply in an international school setting where the students are also expatriates. Other countries in the region may have similar rules, so it's important to acquire as much information as possible during the recruitment process.
Finally, if you find yourself in a new country for interviews and realize you didn't pack the appropriate attire, don't worry. No matter where you are, you should be able to find suitable clothing to meet the expectations of potential employers in local shops or markets.