What do TEFL teachers wear?

Attire expectations vary widely based on the school's policies:

  • Formal Attire: Some institutions may mandate a more formal dress code, with men in suits and ties, and women in pantsuits, skirts, or dress shirts with jackets.
  • Casual Wear: Contrarily, some schools are relaxed, permitting attire like t-shirts and jeans.
  • Middle Ground: The majority of schools gravitate towards a smart-casual approach, balancing professionalism with comfort.

Pro Tip: To avoid confusion, inquire about the dress code during the job interview. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to err on the side of professionalism on your first day, adjusting as you gauge the school's culture.

Table of Contents

What should I wear for a TEFL job interview?

What about tattoos and piercings?

What about facial hair?

Which countries have specific expectations when it comes to appearance?

What should I wear for a TEFL job interview?

When preparing for a TEFL job interview, attire plays a pivotal role in making a strong first impression:

  • General Approach: Treat a TEFL interview with the gravitas of any professional job interview, irrespective of its virtual or in-person format. Aim to convey dedication and professionalism.
  • Professionalism Over Casualness: Your attire should communicate your commitment to education, differentiating you from someone transiently exploring teaching. It is always advisable to lean towards formality. Being overdressed is preferable to appearing too casual.
  • Virtual Interviews: Even if you are interviewing online, uphold the same professional attire standards. Employers anticipate consistency in professionalism, regardless of the interview medium.
  • Photographs in Applications: Many TEFL applications request a photograph. Opt for a professionally taken image where you are dressed appropriately. Casual or vacation photos might detract from the seriousness of your application.

In essence, prioritize a professional appearance throughout the TEFL job application and interview process to boost your prospects.

Also read: What questions should I ask a TEFL employer?

What about tattoos and piercings?

Although tattoos and piercings have become more mainstream in recent years they are still seen as taboo in many countries and by many individuals, especially when working in a business environment or when teaching young children. Many schools expect their foreign teachers to act as role models or as the public face of the establishment and this can have an impact on the local attitude to tattoos and piercings. Piercings and tattoos are even banned in some schools, but in most cases simply covering up and/or removing initially is the best approach until you are sure of the school's policy.

Of course, some teachers will be unwilling to cover up their tattoos or remove piercings, and some might not be able to due to the sheer number they have. In this case you will just have to take your chances and see what happens, but just be aware that some schools will be unlikely to give you the job.

What about facial hair?

In many cases schools will not care one bit whether you have a beard, whatever shape or size it is. However, if you want the best chance of landing the right job a clean cut look is likely to be the best policy. If you are too attached to your facial hair to remove it, you should seriously consider giving it a good grooming before an interview to give yourself the best chance. The same applies to the hair on your head. If you have long hair just ensure it is clean and tied back to maintain the professional look that most employers are looking for.

Which countries have specific expectations when it comes to appearance?

If you are heading to East Asia to take advantage of the largest TEFL job markets in the world, there are a few things to consider. In Japan there are clear cultural associations between tattoos and the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime gangs), which means that many schools will not take on teachers with visible tattoos. In many other East Asian cultures such as China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan a clean-cut appearance is often expected and certainly preferred.

If the high salaries on offer in the Middle East are turning your head then you need to be aware of the cultural norms you might come across. In conservative Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia for example, it is common for female teachers to have to cover their hair, as well as their arms and legs. These rules may not apply in an international school setting where the pupils are also expats. Other countries in the region may or may not have similar rules and regulations, so it is important to get as much detail as possible during the recruitment process.

Finally, it is not a major problem if you arrive in a country for interviews to find that your bags don't contain the right clothing for the situation. Wherever you are located you should have little trouble finding the clothes you need to satisfy employers in local shops and markets.

Also read: Is there discrimination in TEFL?