How to Sit a Successful TEFL Job Interview

By Rachel Rowland
successful job interview

If you asked a room full of TEFL teachers about their experiences of interviewing for various TEFL jobs, one thing you can guarantee is that none of them would be the same! TEFL job interviews might be held over the phone, over Skype, not at all(!), with a panel of people, with or without a practical element, and so on. This can make it quite a challenge to know how best to prepare. However, there are some key areas that it will definitely pay to consider before your TEFL interview.

Do your homework

As with most job interviews, it’s important to research the school or company you are interviewing with. Schools and organizations can vary a lot so it’s important to find out as much as you can. This is not only useful for your interview but also helps to make sure that the school is the right fit for you.

For instance, you might want to find out what kinds of courses they offer. They could offer only General English courses, or they could offer more specialized courses such as Business English, exam preparation classes, or English for Academic Purposes. It is also important to know whether you are more likely to be teaching adults or young learners as this will not only affect the kinds of courses you might be teaching but also the way you answer any teaching-related questions you are asked at an interview. How you approach teaching a class of 20 eight-year-olds will be very different from how you approach teaching a small group of Business English students.

Where in the world

If you are applying for a teaching job in another country, it is important to show that you know something about that country and you have done your research. This helps to demonstrate that you are interested in that country and there is a reason you have chosen to work and live there.

There might also be important cultural or religious traditions that you should be aware of that will affect how or what you teach, and it’s good to show that you have considered this and are culturally aware and sensitive. If you have traveled a lot or spent time living abroad before, it can sometimes be an advantage to point this out.

Employers are potentially going to be investing money in training you or paying for flights and visas, so they want to know that you will not leave after a couple of months because you are suffering from culture shock!

Ask the right questions

Again, this is something that stands with all job interviews, but what are the right questions to ask at a TEFL interview? As well as preparing some questions that will help you decide if the job is the right fit for you, it’s also good to ask some relevant teaching-related questions to show that you are a responsible, professional teacher and not just there for the beach and Bahama Mamas (well only at weekends anyway!).

Asking about things such as what kinds of courses you would be teaching, what curriculum the school follows, what teaching materials you would be using, and if the school provides any training or professional development will help to show that you are focused on the job.

Relevant experience

If you are a new teacher, this might be your first teaching job and so you might not feel you have any relevant experience you can talk about. However, this is not necessarily the case.

First of all, think about any previous work where you helped someone to learn. You might have trained or mentored someone in a previous job, or perhaps you have experience as a martial arts instructor or a guitar tutor.

Don’t overlook the valuable experience gained while completing a TEFL certificate. If the course contained a practical element, be prepared to talk about the different kinds of lessons you taught, the materials or activities you used, how you planned the lesson, and the feedback you received.

You may also have had the opportunity to observe experienced teachers, so think about what you learned from that. Be prepared to talk about a particular lesson or activity that worked well and be able to explain what made it effective. Teaching involves lots of different skills, and therefore, even if you have absolutely zero education-related experience, there are lots of other skills and attributes that will be valued.

Think about all those times you were organized, responsible, caring, explained something clearly, worked well in a team, worked with children or people of different backgrounds, learned a language yourself – have some good examples up your sleeve!

Challenging situations

Some employers might want to know how you will deal with some of the challenges that teaching can sometimes present. This can particularly be the case when working with young learners where there may be behavior issues to manage or it could be more generally how you might deal with issues with colleagues or parents.

These types of questions often come in the form of ‘Tell me about a time when….’ or ‘What would you do if…?’ A common question that you should be prepared for, especially if you’re going to be teaching a lot of young learners is: ‘What would you do if one of your students was not engaging in the lesson?’ Preparing for this kind of question is also a good way to think about ways that you keep your learners engaged more generally.

The right attitude

One of the most important points for a successful TEFL interview is to show that you have a positive attitude. Academic managers and school owners want to feel confident that you are going to work hard to do your best for your students, even if it doesn’t always go to plan.

They also want to know that they’ll be able to rely on you to do all those extra tasks that teachers often need to do, be it completing registers, keeping student progress records up to date or attending meetings. Good communication and effective working relationships between teachers are key to the smooth running of a school or educational establishment, so managers and owners will also want to know that you will work well with the rest of the team.

If you can show that you have the right attitude, many managers will see this as being just as crucial, if not more so, than any initial teaching experience that you may have.

Written by Rachel Rowland for May 2020
Rachel Rowland has been teaching English since 2003, which has taken her all over the world to Jakarta, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, Puglia, and Erfurt.

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