After eleven years in Asia it has come to my attention that the quality of ESL teachers hired by schools and universities could be drastically improved by heeding a few simple suggestions. In today’s article, I will give you 10 simple rules to remember that will show you how to find good ESL teachers for your school or business.

1- Race

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not only white people that can speak English. Therefore, when presented with two candidates – one a clearly mentally unhinged and totally unqualified white person, and the other a stable, friendly, and experienced person of any other race, consider picking the non-white one. I know Mr. Caucasian’s milky white skin will help you advertise your school, but if you really give a damn about education, you’ll go with the better teacher. Here in China it is very common for schools to employ Russian or Ukrainian teachers who speak hardly a word of English, yet the parents are delighted to see blonde hair and blue eyes. Trust me, this will not last and will not help your students.

2- Race again.

You might also want to bear in mind that if your job advertisement says, “Whites only!” then you probably won’t get the best applicants. Any intelligent, moral white person will ignore your racist ad and look for a school with better leadership.

3- Age

Following on from the first point, don’t just go for the youngest candidate you can find. Sure, a handsome or beautiful young teacher might look good on your school’s error-ridden posters, but think of the students. Experience means a lot in education. Without generalizing too much, an older teacher might also be in it for the long run, whereas for a 21 yr old, your school might be his gap year – somewhere he makes the money necessary to drink and travel, and then leave when he find a job in his own country. (Also, I hate to bring up the over-played “fake degree” thing, but if you’re hiring an 18 yr old with a Masters then you’re probably being duped.)

4- Qualifications

There is a reason that your own school teachers went to university to earn the right to teach you. Teaching is a skill. You wouldn’t pick some random guy off the street to perform heart surgery on you, or to build your house. A 100 hr TEFL course that you pay to pass isn’t going to guarantee a great teacher, but it certainly is a start. So if it comes down to paying a little extra for someone with qualifications, it’s probably worthwhile. A CELTA is great, a DELTA is better, and someone with a post-graduate qualification in teaching from a good university is probably your best bet.

5- Experience


Find a teacher who cares about their students.

This probably sounds obvious, but a lot of schools genuinely prefer inexperienced teachers who can be molded and manipulated. Inexperienced teachers don’t ask for better wages, or complain about their crappy apartment. They don’t object to changing grades for rich kids, or working classes that were never mentioned on the contract. Experienced teachers tend to argue more with the management and don’t stand for getting their salary late. Just try to remember that education is not just a business. Their experience will give you a better school, and your students a better education.

6- Accent

So the whole world wants to speak with an American accent… That’s all well and good except that it’s never going to happen. English is international, and you should accept that if your school is in China, your students will speak English with a Chinese accent, and the same goes for Japan, India, Spain, etc etc. So if it’s a toss-up between an unqualified, inexperienced American (not to suggest that all American teachers are, of course) and a qualified, experienced Irish person, don’t make the decision based upon the accent. English is English. If you learn the words and how to put them in the right order, people will understand you.

7- References

I know it’s difficult to check references from one side of the world to another, but it is 2018 and we have Skype and e-mails and all sorts of ways to do this. If you are running a business that employs foreigners, you probably speak enough English to check out their background and make sure they weren’t fired from all their previous jobs because for anything disturbing. Even a little bit of searching can go a long way. Get the phone number or e-mail address of their previous boss, and send them a quick message. You never know, they might write back, “Warning! Do NOT hire this awful employee!” That will save you a lot of trouble.

8- Name

This may sound strange but I’ve met a lot of foreigners in Asia who refer to themselves with weird titles. Not that all nutjobs do this, but if someone called John Smith refers to himself by any of the following names on his CV or in the interview (assuming there is an interview…), then you really ought to keep looking:

  • King John
  • Darth John
  • Lord John
  • Big John
  • John, Master of the Universe
  • Evil John
  • Saint John

*Remember, crazy names are for ESL students, not teachers.

9- Advertise Intelligently

Lots of schools and universities outsource their hiring to agents and recruiters, but please be careful. Some of them are unscrupulous. They will post ridiculous advertisements promising the world. The result is that you get unhappy teachers who expect you to follow through on what your recruiter falsely promised. If you write the advertisement yourself, and English is not your native language, please have someone double-check it for accuracy. A well-written advert is professional and will attract a higher class of teacher. Give all the important details, but don’t say too much, and don’t promise more than you can give.

The biggest ESL jobs board can be found at ESLcafe.

10- Keep your current teachers happy

Happy teachers are important for a school for so many reasons. For one thing, a happy employee will do a better job. This will give your school a better reputation, which will in turn make you more lucrative to other good teachers. In addition, a happy teacher will help you recruit other teachers. It just makes sense. If you have a great job and your boss needs new staff, you will help them find a suitable candidate. This can save you money on recruitment, and ensure that your new teacher fits in well with the current staff! Finally, an unhappy teacher will likely take to the internet and have your school blacklisted. There are some ESL blacklist sites online, and the best teachers go there to check for warnings before taking a job. If an angry employee leaves a poor review of your institution, you may find it difficult to get qualified teachers in future.


In conclusion, follow the above 10 rules to help you get better ESL teachers for your school or university.