When I first began applying for lectrice positions two years ago, It was NOT possible for English assistants to renew their assistant contracts. Knowing that becoming a lectrice was basically my only option for staying in France, I spent countless hours networking, working on my CV and cover letters, and sending applications to nearly twenty universities. And I am thankful to this day that my hard work paid off.
Let’s fast forward two years: It is 2016, I am at the end of my two-year non-renewable contract, which means that there will be a new lecteur/lectrice taking over my position next year. So, during the past couple of weeks, I had the chance to be on the other side of the hiring process, and help my colleagues sort through CVs and interview candidates for my position.
And you guys, competition is fiercer than ever. For my position, in the middle-of-nowhere Northern France, we received over 65 applications. (I can’t even imagine how intense and competitive the hiring process is in Paris.) These positions have become super competitive and super popular over the past few years. I’m not sure if the popularity has to do with the increased awareness about the fact that they exist (i.e. the Internet, blogs, Facebook pages, etc.), or if it’s just because people are desperate now more than ever to work in France and stay abroad, and a lecteur position is one of the best and easiest ways to do that. Perhaps it is a combination of both.
I am now someone who has been both sides of the lecteur/lectrice interview/hiring process; I also train and prepare my French students for interviews and internship hiring. So, I have created a few tips for those aspiring lecteur/lectrice candidates whom are applying for positions in hoping to get an interview, or whom have successfully gotten interviews. But first, if you haven’t yet, please read my previous post regarding general tips on how to become a Lecteur/Lectrice here.
Specific Tips for Landing an Interview
1. Send your CV and cover letter in French. As I stated above, we received over 65 applications from aspiring candidates. CVs take a lot of time to sort through, and cover letters even longer. Our job posting (as did almost every other posting I came across) asked candidates to send their CV and cover letters in French. Nonetheless, several applicants (including several whom were otherwise very qualified) sent some or all of their documents in English. I must persist, if you currently work in France or aspire to work in France, send your application materials in French, unless the post asks specifically for them in English. This is the first opportunity you have to demonstrate your skills and ability to follow directions. Candidates who failed to send all French documents were eliminated; if you can’t follow simple directions, how is a company supposed to trust you to be competent enough to do the job?
2. Don’t list “TAPIF” on your French CV. No one outside of the United States will know what “TAPIF” is. We saw this a thousand times and it was only because I was an American that I knew what it meant. Say something along the lines of “Assistant(e) de Langue à Lycée/College/Ecole Primaire xxx- Education Nationale.”
3. Read All of The Directions. If the advertisement asks for your documents to be sent in French, you must send them in French. If the job advertisement asks you to address your cover letter to a specific person or people, address your cover letter to that specific person or those specific people. If the application asks you to also submit this or that, be sure to submit this or that. Again, attention to detail says a lot! Recruiters will not have time track down applicants and ask for x additional document– they will simply eliminate the applicant.
4. Network. I landed an interview for my current position because I networked and spoke to the right people (on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging World nonetheless). Although I got the job on my own merit, by networking, I got my name to stand out in a large pile of applicants. Tip: People (including myself) pay it forward.
5. Get your French M1 (one year of post-graduate studies): Unfortunately, the 2013 rule of lecteurs needing a Bac +4 to qualify for the position (one year of post graduate studies, even though an American Bachelor’s Degree takes four years) isn’t going away– it’s just becoming more and more enforced. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and Teacher’s Certification from Wisconsin with no Master’s Credits. I was fortunate enough to slip through the cracks, and have my teacher’s certification count as a year of post-graduate studies; I was extremely lucky. However, if your aspirations are to stay in France and become a lecteur, I recommend either having Master’s credits / a Master’s Degree before applying, or enrolling in a Master’s program before applying (perhaps if you do two years as an assistant, enroll in French university during your second year, even if it is only just to get an M1 and qualify for a lecteur position.) This is a rule that I (and my colleagues) absolutely disagree with, but unfortunately France prefers paper qualifications over experience. It is heartbreaking having to say “No” to otherwise very qualified individuals because a Bachelor’s Degree is no longer enough. And while it MAY still be possible to slip through the cracks at some universities, this is what is going to increase your chances now.
6. Gain Teaching Experience: Remember, this is a teaching position. Even if France is obsessed with pieces of paper over competencies, we still want candidates with teaching experience. If you don’t have any, get some. Enroll in a CELTA or TEFL course, seek other opportunities outside the assistantship; take classes online. Nowadays, the majority of successful candidates have teaching experience (in addition to the assistant program).
7. Make Your CV and Cover Letter Appealing: The average recruiter glances at a CV or resume for an average of seven seconds before deciding “Yes” or “No.” If the CV is difficult to read, or is unorganized, it’s going to be a no. If there are typos, or things are unclear, it’s going to be a no. Additionally- be sure to research the layout of a French CV. It is not the same as an American resume translated into French.
As for cover letters, be sure to also remember that a layout for a French cover letter is different than a layout for an American and for a British cover letter. In France, the sender goes on the top left, and the person to whom you’re sending the letter goes underneath, but on the right side, along with the date and the city below that. Finally, your signature is also on the right side of the cover letter in French. This didn’t make a difference in the selection process, but having the correct format for the correct country makes a huge difference, and shows you pay attention to detail. This information may be useful especially if you’re applying to more competitive regions (ie: Paris). Finally, make sure your cover letter demonstrates your motivations for the job– remember, it’s about the university, not you. What are YOU going to bring to the school and the students?
8. If you have a Master’s Degree, consider Maître de Langue positions. They are paid more, plus there are fewer applicants. You’ve got less competition.
9. Follow up with the applications you submitted. As I said, competition is fierce. Applications get lost in the shuffle; people get buried at the bottom. Follow up to remind people you exist. I promise it helps.
10. Apply to universities even if they haven’t listed an opening. You never know.
You’ve Gotten an Interview- CONGRATULATIONS! Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Lecteur/Lectrice Interview:
- Research the school. Research the department. Research the curriculum. Research your colleagues. Find out whatever you can! Where is it located, how many students are there? What are the subjects you can study at this university? We eliminated candidates immediately if they had done zero research on our establishment. And believe me, it was obvious and it shows. Doing so demonstrates interest, commitment, and professionalism. Don’t make this easily avoidable mistake!
- Find out if your Interview is in English or French. If it’s in French, brush up on your French interviewing skills and business/education-related vocabulary. You’ll thank me later!
- Dress Up for the Interview, even if it’s over Skype. It shows your professionalism!
- Research interview questions asked during teaching-based interviews: Do you know a teacher, or fellow lecteur/lectrice? Get your hands on some example questions, or do a quick Google search. If you’ve never had an interview for teaching before, it’s easy to be thrown off guard with the questions. Go into your interview feeling prepared!
- If your interview is over the phone, be sure you are interviewing in a quiet place. I cannot begin to tell you the impression you give off if you answer your phone for an interview in the middle of a busy street.
- Make Sure Your Motivations for the Position are Sincere. Do you want to work as a lecteur/lectrice at x university, or do you simply want to do whatever it takes to stay in France, and at any cost? Recruiters can see the difference.
- Ask questions at the end of the interview. Doing so shows you’re prepared, interested, and motivated. Ask questions regarding the school, the students, responsibilities, etc. Again, it’s about the school and their needs, not yours!
- Send a Thank-you card or Email. This is VERY American, but it’s appreciated all the same (I promise!)
Fellow and past lecteurs/lectrices (or Maître de Langues), do you have any tips to add?