Part 1 – the Personal Statement
It’s easy to find a lot of information on employers and interview techniques for most ELT jobs, from disgruntled rants on Dave’s ESL cafe to informative reviews on Glassdoor. However, information in one of the market’s best-known employers seems thin on the ground.
The good news about their application process is that it’s uniform and transparent and aims to be as objective as such a procedure of selection can be, so there is a process you can follow.
I’ve experienced three BC interviews and a number of applications so far in my ELT career, two of which have been successful. Each time I’ve refined my process using help from others and what minimal internet resources I’ve found. Here’s my guide to making the best impression you can.
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Writing the personal statement
There is helpful information on all sections of the British Council online application form, which is, for the most part, very practical and straightforward. The most ambiguous part is the statement.
This is the opportunity to bring the list of previous employment to life. It must still be concise and informative (and avoid just listing or repeating what’s already in the form) but you can select the focus to showcase your strengths, achievements and also your interests. The Council’s own Guidance Notes to the application state:
The purpose of this section is to give you an opportunity to say why you are interested in the job and what you would bring to it. When writing your supporting statement please refer to the role profile and link your experience, qualifications and interests to the requirements. Your supporting statement should be succint and to the point. It will be used for shortlisting so please ensure you highlight the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications you have relevant to the role. This can relate to information listed earlier or you can give other examples.
I recommend starting with a paragraph solely about your experience. Without repeating information entered elsewhere in the application form, you should aim to include here anything which didn’t fit neatly into the employment history section, or elaborate on anything that you feel represents you well. “800+ hours teaching adults” meets the job’s shortlisting requirements but doesn’t say that you’ve taught both zero beginners and advanced English and specialise in teaching English for legal professionals.
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The central paragraphs should focus on your main achievements and areas of interest. If you’ve made a habit of successfully integrating technology into your courses, or you specialise in working with young learners, shout about it here. The main trap to avoid is filling out your 500 words with meaningless platitudes. Don’t write, “colleagues say I’m an excellent teacher with a gift for working with young people.” Do write about a particular achievement which illustrates this. For example, if you created a project which engaged a class of unruly ten year-olds for a whole month, that speaks volumes about your creativity, your ability to work with young learners, and your ability to respond appropriately to the needs of your learners.
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Finish off with a line which connects your experience and current, professional goals to the job specification you are applying for. Respond to the information from the Role Profile and Vacancy Information documents where the job and the teaching centre are described, particularly the ‘Job Overview’ section in the Vacancy Information. Does it offer opportunities to line manage – is this the next step that you’re looking for? Is there a possibility of IELTS examiner training which will take your specialist skills as an IELTS teacher to the next level? Does the teaching centre proudly proclaim a well-stocked resource library that welcomes staff contributions where you can share your tailor-made teens materials? What can you offer them, and how will their offer benefit you?
The British Council’s jobs page: https://jobs.britishcouncil.org/. Click on the link for their external vacancies (unless you’re already working for them) and at the bottom of the page you can also set up an alert to get all their latest vacancies as they are posted.
British Council generic behaviours and teaching skills: BC Behaviours AND teaching skills 2016
WikiJob – British Council Interview Questions and Application Process: https://www.wikijob.co.uk/company/british-council/interview-questions. This is a useful and accurate help page for the process including information for teaching jobs and other roles at the BC, including a breakdown of what the ‘Behaviours’ mean in practice.