How To Get Hired As An Online English Teacher

If you’re interested in teaching online, you might be wondering about how the hiring process works. This post will cover important steps that will help you stand out and start teaching as soon as possible. 

Whenever I start a new job, I have dozens of questions at the beginning. With teaching English online, I felt like I had a million! After I decided I wanted to pursue online teaching, I didn’t know what steps to take next. 

“Who do I message? Do I need to send them a CV or Resume? Should I start creating lesson plans now? If they want to do a Skype call, what do I wear? Is online teaching even legitimate?” 

I’m pretty sure I stressed over every question in the book, but luckily, getting hired was easier than I expected! 

hired as an english teacher

The first part of this post outlines how to get hired by a large scale online ESL company with a more standardized application process, like Qkids or VIPKID.

The second part of this post discusses ways you can get hired by smaller companies with their own application guidelines. 

The last part of this post breaks down a final option: going out on your own and finding individual ESL teaching jobs directly with clients. 

Option 1: Getting Hired By a Large Online ESL Company

With the larger, more automated ESL companies like QKids, EF English, and VIPKID, you’ll be able to find information about the teacher requirements directly on their website. 

Most of these companies cater to the Chinese market and focus on teaching English to children. 

The general requirements for these larger ESL companies are:

  • You must be a native English speaker
  • Teachers need to have a BA or higher
  • You’ll need to have some experience working with children, tutoring, or teaching 
  • A TEFL certification is preferable
vipkid appliation
The hiring process with VIPKID

Should I Choose a Big-Name Online ESL Company?

There are a few things to consider when deciding if a large online ESL company is the right fit for you. One benefit is that these options have been around for a while and have many teachers. It’s easier to find first-hand teacher reviews online to assess if the company is a good fit — and to ensure it’s legit.

Large online ESL companies typically provide you with lesson plans and activities so you don’t have any prep work. They have systems in place for timely payment and students are matched to you so you don’t have to market yourself beyond creating a profile. 

The downside of these companies is that the requirements are rigid and they usually cannot make exceptions if you don’t have a particular qualification.

Also, most of these companies are geared to the Chinese market which means the working hours might be inconvenient for teachers in North America.

While there will be some variation between companies, most follow the same general model. Before you dive into an application, make sure to read the company website carefully to make sure you meet all the requirements and are available at the times they need teachers. 

Have a look at the article I wrote about my experience working with VIPKID to see if it sounds like the company for you.

Step 1: Fill Out a Written Application

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: A lot of online teaching companies use an automated written application process. This means that when you fill out the form online, you’ll be automatically approved if you meet the credentials and automatically denied if you don’t.

For this reason, it’s important to apply to companies where you match their requirements exactly. There won’t be an opportunity to talk to a recruiter or interviewer until you’ve passed the initial written application, so they won’t be able to make exceptions for special situations. 

That said, with so many online teaching companies to choose from, there’s a good chance you will find one that works with your background. 

Step 2: Complete An Interview Or Submit a Teaching Sample

Next, you’ll need to submit an interview, demo lesson, or teaching sample. Depending on the company, this could be as simple as recording a 30-second introduction or it could mean teaching a full class.

The term “interview” is a bit misleading. Even though this step is called an “interview,” you probably won’t be asked many questions about your background or teaching history. 

Usually, companies will be looking at how you teach a demonstration lesson that they provide to you. They want to see a sample of what you’re like as a teacher to determine if you are a good fit on their platform.

When I went through the VIPKID interview process, for example, my interviewer briefly asked me one question about my level of education then told me to begin teaching the sample lesson. They skipped the traditional interview questions completely because the priority was seeing me teach the demonstration. 

Companies want to see what you can do in the classroom so think of this as more of a showcase. 

Online English companies want to see the following attributes in your teaching demonstration:

  • They want to see that you have a neutral accent and speak English fluently without grammatical errors.
  • The way you speak is slow enough to be understood by a new English learner.
  • You seem happy, engaged, and welcoming to students on camera.
  • Your classroom set up is professional and student-friendly. 

Want to know how to set up your classroom? See this post on the must-have equipment for online teachers.

how to get hired as an online english teacher
What my online teaching classroom looks like

Step 3: Complete Additional Training or Mock Classes

After you’ve passed your interview, you’ll move into additional training and teaching practice. Sometimes these additional training sessions are referred to as “Mock Classes”. This is a time to hone your teaching skills and learn about the platform you’ll be teaching with. 

With most companies, you’ll be given information and training videos to review. You’ll receive a lesson to prepare and you’ll practice teaching this lesson with a mentor. The mentor will give you feedback to help you improve your teaching skills. 

You might have to teach the sample lesson multiple times until you’ve nailed it. This is totally normal. It just means you’ll have more practice before teaching your first real student. 

Step 4: Upload The Required Paperwork

Once you’ve completed your mock class teaching practice, you’ll need to upload your required documents. This includes payment information, copies of your degree, and any relevant certifications or licenses. 

This step can take a while, so many companies encourage teachers to work on their bio and welcome video while waiting for their documents to process. 

Step 5: Become a Teacher

With some companies, you’ll dive right into teaching normal classes as soon as your paperwork clears. With others, you’ll start out teaching trial classes.

Trial classes are lessons for students who are considering signing up for the platform. These lessons are often free or heavily discounted so the student can see if the platform is a good fit for them. 

After you’ve taught your first trial classes and received good feedback, you’ll become a full-fledged teacher. 

Ready to try being an online English teacher? If you’re from Canada or the USA, click here to sign up and learn more about teaching with VIPKID (you can work from anywhere in the world). For those of you from the UK or USA and are actually living in those two countries, check out EF Education First

Not from the USA, Canada or the UK? Don’t worry, there are more companies you can work with! Learn more in our article: Teach English Online – Get Paid With These Top 7 Companies

ef education application
The application process with EF Education First is simple

Tips For Passing The Interview and Mock Classes

To make an awesome first impression with your new online ESL company, you’ll want to make sure you do the following

Set Up Your Classroom Space To Be Welcoming And Kid-Friendly

You and your classroom should look the part right from the beginning. You want your teaching company to see that you know what you’re doing, even if you’re totally new to the teaching game. 

To wow your interviewer and improve your chances of passing, make sure you have your classroom environment set up and ready to go. This means that you either have a blank wall or fun academic posters behind you — but you shouldn’t have your back to an open room. This can be distracting

Your classroom area should be well lit and free from outside noises. If you can, try to set up your teaching space in a quiet area of your house that you can close off to prevent interruptions.

Use Props And Teaching Resources

When completing your interview demo lesson, use props and teaching resources like a dry erase board, puppets, and flashcards.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on classroom supplies, but it’s smart to have at least a few teaching materials ready to go. You might be surprised by how many classroom props you have just lying around your house!

Use A Headset With A Microphone

Make sure you are using a headset with a microphone for optimal sound quality. This makes you look and sound more professional.

Many companies use the first round of interviews to assess the quality of your technology and the stability of your internet connection. It would be a shame to lose an opportunity just because there was a weird echo sound caused by not having a headset. 

how to get hired as an englihs teacher

Smile And Be Energetic

Especially if your company works with young children, it’s important to be warm and enthusiastic while teaching your demonstration lesson. Remember to wear a big smile, give lots of high-fives to the camera, and praise your student generously. 

Use Body Language To Communicate

When students are learning a new language, it can be difficult to understand some concepts. Use your body language to act out what you want the student to do.

For example, if you want the student to speak, cup your hand to your ear as if you are listening for their response. If you are teaching a lesson about feelings, make exaggerated facial expressions to demonstrate “Happy” or “Sad.” 

Prepare Your Lesson And Practice With A Friend

Most online English companies will provide the lesson materials that they expect you to teach in the interview demo lesson. Make sure you review these materials several times. 

It’s helpful to practice the material with a friend because you’ll get a better sense of the pacing. When you’re a new teacher, timing a lesson can be challenging.

Have your friend pretend to be a student and teach them the material until you feel confident and are able to finish on time. 

Option 2: Working For Companies Without Systematized Application Processes

While most online teachers go through a big company with an established hiring process, you can also become an online ESL teacher for a smaller company or an independent entity. 

Using a smaller company has a few advantages.

These companies might be willing to work with you even if you don’t meet their exact requirements. Since you’ll likely apply through a recruiter instead of through an automated system, you can emphasize your experiences, skills, and personality. 

The downside is that it can be harder to find these kinds of jobs online so there is a bit of luck involved. While there are dozens of teacher reviews of bigger companies like VIPKID, smaller companies might not have many reviews online, and there are a lot of scams out there that you need to be aware of.

They also might not have consistent teacher support channels established, and even though this shouldn’t happen, sometimes the recruiter fee will come out of your salary — rather than the teaching company paying for the recruiter.

I recommend going through a reputable company like the ones I listed above or the ones in this article. But, if you want to find an online teaching company independently, here are some suggestions.

Where To Find Independent Online Teaching Jobs

One place to find smaller online teaching companies is through a website called Daves ESL Cafe. Go to the homepage and in the lefthand sidebar, click the link called “International Job Board.” Once you’re in, search for online jobs

Another great option is through the company called FlexJobs. This online platform siphons through all the spammy postings and ensures only legitimate teaching jobs are available. 

Finally, if you’ve taken your TEFL course online, many companies will actually help you get a teaching position with a reputable company! I got certified with the International TEFL Academy who gave me a lot of support along the way.

teach english through flexjobs
If you would rather find an online teaching job independently, FlexJobs is a good place to start

How To Get Noticed in First Emails 

Now that you’ve found some options, it’s time to reach out to the job listings that sound appealing. 

If you’re teaching for a smaller company that doesn’t have a systemized application process, you’ll need to email their teacher recruiter directly. 

To get noticed in your first emails, make sure you do the following: 

Submit All Required Information: Read the listing carefully and provide everything they ask for in the first email. If they want your CV, cover letter, and a photo, make sure to include everything.

Do Your Homework: Do some research on the company before sending your email. Make sure you know what the company vision is and who they cater to.

You can reflect this in your message. Say something like, “I’m excited to begin teaching business English to Chinese adults. I love helping advanced English learners improve their skills. I also love learning about Chinese culture.”

Express Enthusiasm: If you don’t have any experience, emphasize how excited you are to learn these new skills. Express that you love working with people from around the world.

Provide Contact Information: Include ways for the company to get in contact with you for a follow-up conversation.

What To Include On Your CV or Resume

You might be asked to submit a CV or resume with your introductory email. Make sure to add the following information to your CV or resume when applying for online teaching jobs:

A professional photo of yourself: Think, work headshot. If it’s a photo of you in your online teaching classroom, even better!

Your nationality and country of residence: This can help companies determine if you have the accent they’re looking for and if your time zone will work with their students. 

Any teaching credentials or qualifications: This can be a TEFL certification or any traditional teaching licenses you might have. 

Experience working with children or adults, depending on the job listing:  With most companies, this doesn’t have to be a traditional teaching experience. Relevant experiences could include any job where you managed or trained groups of people.

Experience working online: If you’ve led meetings via Skype or Zoom, let them know about it here. If you’re used to training employees remotely, for example, that could help you stand out. 

Option 3: Finding Online Teaching Jobs Directly With Clients

Finding online teaching jobs directly with clients requires a bit of start-up work but it could be more lucrative in the long run. This is ideal if you have tutoring experience but don’t meet the other requirements within an existing company. 

The pros of finding clients directly are that you can set your own rate and schedule independently. You can be more specific with who you teach and what your lessons cover. It doesn’t matter what credentials you have if you’re good at marketing yourself and get good reviews.

The cons of finding clients directly are that this option requires more up-front work and you are responsible for marketing yourself to clients — whereas, the established brands already have the clientele. You’ll need to make all your own lessons and curriculum and you are responsible for managing payment and invoicing.

There are two ways to go about this: joining freelance tutoring or language exchange websites or creating your own website and marketing yourself independently. If you start a website through this link, you’ll receive a free course showing you exactly how to set up your website!

chinese student

Join Tutoring or Language Exchange Websites

The platforms listed below allow you to create a profile as a teacher. Then, students who use the website can find you and book you as their teacher.

You’ll have to create your own lessons and materials, but you won’t have to do as much legwork upfront. Students are already looking for teachers on the platform.

Become a Teacher On Italki: You can become an iTalki Community Tutor for any language you’re fluent in. To become a teacher, create a community Tutor account and fill in the required information, like a profile picture, written introduction, and introduction video. Once iTalki verifies that you’ve filled out your profile correctly, you can begin teaching. 

Start Tutoring on Platforms like allow passionate tutors to make profiles highlighting their expertise and offer lessons. Clients can search the platform for what they need and they can choose you if you’re the best fit. 

Become An Independent Online English Teacher

The final option is to create your own online tutoring business. This is definitely the most time consuming and challenging option, but if you pull it off you could make more money and have more freedom than if you went through an existing platform.

Create a Website With Your Services: One of the best ways to start finding students is to make a simple website promoting yourself as a teacher and listing your services and schedule. You can send this website to potential clients or share it on social media to find new leads. 

A well-designed website makes you look more professional. This is also a great place to list your testimonials and student reviews to build trust. 

Use Social Media To Your Advantage: Create a professional Facebook page or Instagram account promoting yourself as an English teacher. Name the page something like “Nicola Rae Online English Tutor.” Now your page could pop up when people search for online English tutors.

On your page, you can share ESL tips and mini-lessons to demonstrate your abilities. You can also promote your services to interested followers. 

Create a Youtube Channel: Youtube can be another great way to get yourself out there and promote your teaching abilities. I’m a huge fan of providing clients with value before they actually spend money. Teaching mini-English lessons on Youtube is a great way to do this. 

Your potential clients know exactly what they’re getting with you as a teacher, making them more likely to book. You can also get your teaching in front of more eyes this way. Remember to link to your website where viewers can sign up for your lessons in the video description. 

Final Thoughts On Getting Hired As An Online English Teacher

As you can tell, there are many ways to get hired as an online ESL teacher. No matter what you choose, as you go through the hiring steps remember to focus on positivity, professionalism, and providing the best environment possible for your students. Your new online teaching job might be closer than you think. 

*Images in this article are from, an online platform filled with incredible royalty-free images and video footage.

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Written by

Nicola Rae

Nic is a fulltime writer for Goats On The Road. She's a former classroom teacher turned full-time traveler and online English teacher. In June 2017, she stumbled on an online English teaching gig that allowed her to travel anywhere with good WiFi. She got TEFL certified, packed up her classroom and decided to take her job on the road to combine her two passions – teaching English and traveling! You can also find her at See Nic Wander.

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