In the world of employment interviews are part and parcel of the recruitment process, a necessary evil some might call them, but that doesn’t make them any the less scary for some people. The key to making it easier for yourself is thorough preparation, market research and thinking about what might be asked of you. A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) interview is no different to other industries – but that doesn’t mean that there are no differences. The following is a number of ways that you can adequately prepare for your TEFL interview.
- Especially in this Covid climate, interviews will probably take place over a video call platform, unless you are in the country and physically applying for jobs. It’s a good plan to make sure that you are familiar with online interviews and that you can present yourself well through this medium (worth noting that online TEFL courses are supremely popular at the moment)
- There are a huge amount of entry-level positions, even if you have no teaching experience. Preparation for the interview can be daunting if you’ve only just completed the TEFL course and you haven’t actually taught yet, but it’s vital that you don’t let this put you off.
Here are some tips on ideal interview preparation – what employers are looking for and common questions that you might be asked, for example.
- Prepare, prepare and then prepare again! Solid preparation is absolutely key and there are a number of resources to help you here. Never, ever turn up to an interview thinking that you can bluff your way through because you will almost certainly fail and rule yourself out of the running at the first hurdle.
- Do your due diligence. Make sure that you know all there is to know about the hiring company. Who are they, how did they come onto the market, who are their students, what is their ethos, what makes them different to other comparable companies in the market? Without specific knowledge it’s very difficult to prepare and the chances are that you’ll end up serious underwhelming your potential employer which is never going to go well.
- Be knowledgeable about the country that you’re aiming to teach in. It sounds obvious but it’s all too easy to place all the focus on teaching rather than the individual country and this won’t help your chances at all. Employers will want to know why you’ve chosen their country.
- Don’t talk about general travel and how you want to expand your horizons whilst teaching on the way to earn a few pennies. You need to demonstrate your passion and motivation for moving to their specific country.
- Make sure that you are prepared to be interviewed on one of several video conferencing platforms, e.g. Whatsapp, WeChat and Skype, for both online and abroad positions. Take the time to practise and familiarise yourself with this so that you look like a total pro with this sort of stuff.
- Go over any course materials and make extensive notes so that you have a list of what you are likely to be asked and, more importantly, you can have this knowledge to hand beside you and you can refer to your notes during the interview if the nerves take over and your mind goes blank. Might not happen but best to be prepared for if it does. There’s no shame in that, by the way, just feel lucky that you can have your prompt notes out of sight! That’s a definite bonus for online interviews.
There are some common TEFL interview questions that you’re likely to be asked. Read through thoroughly and have a concrete response waiting for each one. Even if you don’t get asked every one, it’s likely that there will be a bit of overlap between certain questions and you’ll need to cover that gap with sound knowledge. These common questions include:
- Why do you want to be a TEFL teacher?
- Why do you want to work in this specific country?
- Why do you want to work for this specific company?
- What previous teaching experience do you have and where did you gain this experience?
- Would you be prepared to gain further qualifications in relation to this role?
- What do you enjoy most about teaching English?
- What made you decide to teach English?
- What were your ambitions when you were young?
- What is your experience of living abroad?
- Would you be willing to sign a contract requiring you to live in this country for more than one year?
- Can you give examples of your strengths and weaknesses in general, not just relating to teaching?
- What is the most important thing that you have learned so far about taking on a TEFL role?
- Which type of learners do you most enjoy teaching so far?
- How would you handle a disruptive, badly behaved student?
- Would you be happy to teach one-to-one as well as with a full class if needed?
When you’re preparing answers to these questions, it’s best to be totally honest. For example, if you thought you’d be a lawyer growing up then say so. It’s important for your employer to see you as a whole person, not just as someone who is ostensibly perfect for the job role. Employers are, almost without exception, experts in interviewing and gaining an impression of someone very quickly. You aren’t going to harm your chances by saying that you didn’t enjoy teaching English at the start, but you’ve grown into loving it. Or that you only want to teach adults business English because you find a whole class of children too much to handle. By giving these responses you are giving the employer the best chance of matching you with a suitable position.
And one last tip is – always make sure that you have your own questions that you’re prepared to ask at the end of, or during, the interview if invited. This demonstrates interest and that you are showing attention to detail, it shows that your mind has stretched beyond the answers to the questions that they’ve asked you. It also shows that you’re really interested in that particular company and that particular role. And not only these, but it gives you a great chance to impress.