Top 10 Interview Questions for ESL Teachers to Ask

You've thought long and hard about what your answers will be to all of the typical interview questions. Now it's time to think about your questions. Whether you're facing an interview panel or the manager of a school, it is important that you arrive prepared with a few concerns of your own. Your confidence and genuine interest in the position could separate you from the other candidates.

Before you ask the questions, you should also think about what answers you want to hear. This is especially important if you are interviewing for more than one job at a time. Keep in mind that you don't have to save all of your questions until the end of the interview. In fact, if you wait until the end you may feel uncomfortable asking more than one or two. Let the flow of the interview guide you, and try to ask questions as they arise.

Remembering your questions

Interviews make many people nervous, and nerves make it difficult to remember things. It is a good idea to prepare an index card ahead of time with your list of questions. Refer to it only at the end of an interview when you are asked if you have any more questions.

How to order your questions

While the interview should guide your questions, don't forget the golden rule about first impressions. If you ask about pay or prep time first, the employer may feel that teaching is merely a job and not a passion for you. The following questions are presented in random order. Choose the ones that are important to you. Prioritize ahead of time, by placing a star beside questions you feel are the most important. Even if you are asking questions as they come up, ten may be too many questions to ask in a short interview. When deciding which questions are appropriate, don't forget that your main role is interviewee. This is especially important for teachers to keep in mind, since asking lots of questions comes naturally.

Question 1: What is the student demographic at your school?

Before you accept a job, you will want to consider your own strengths. Are you more comfortable teaching adults, teens, or children? Do you have the appropriate skills and personality to deal with disadvantaged youth or business students?

Question 2: What administrative/other tasks are required outside of teaching hours?

Some schools require that teachers submit detailed lesson plans ahead of time. Others require monthly report cards, parent interviews, and cleaning or lunchroom duties. Some schools pay for work outside of the classroom and others do not.

Question 3: Can you describe the teacher turnover at this school?

Watch for an honest answer when you ask this question. If the interviewer's answer isn't specific enough, you may want to rephrase your question. For example, you could say: "May I ask why the last two teachers left?" If the interviewer avoids the question, or changes the subject, this may not be a school you want to work for. Find out if there are any long-term teachers at the school. Again, you can be more specific: "How long have your senior staff been in place?" If there are senior staff who have been on the faculty for a few years then there is good reason to believe that the teachers are treated with respect and that the working environment is healthy. This may also be a sign that the school offers regular raises. Good reasons for teacher turnover include moving to another city or country, changing careers, visa expiry, illness, or paternity leave.

Question 4: What is the average class size?

There are challenges and advantages to teaching small and large classes. However, schools that are willing to keep their class sizes down often have steady enrolment. Students in smaller classes generally improve at a faster rate and are therefore more satisfied with their learning. Teaching a larger class may require more work of you, and it is important that you feel that you are being compensated fairly. Your personality may also be more suited to teaching smaller classes, or vice versa.

Question 5: Do your teachers participate in extra-curricular activities?

Some teachers enjoy taking their students on field trips and strapping on snowboards or ice skates, even if they aren't getting paid. Others prefer not to do any socializing with the students outside of school. If extra-curricular activities are important to you, make sure to ask about them.

Question 6: Does the school hold regular staff meetings?

A first interview may not be the time to ask if you get paid for staff meetings. On the other hand, if quality education is important to you, and you want to have a voice at the school you work at, you'll want to work for a school where teacher input is valued and meetings are held regularly with administrators and management.

Question 7: Is there a set curriculum?

If you're wondering how much time you will be preparing for your classes, but don't want to sound lazy to a potential employer, ask about the current curriculum. If this leads naturally to a question about how much prep time is compensated for, even better! Most administrators anticipate questions about prep time, and they may tell you the answer without your direct question.

Question 8: What types of resources and teaching aids are available?

Does the school have a computer lab with free Internet and printers? A photocopier? What about a VCR or DVD player? Do the classrooms have whiteboards or will you have an overhead projector? Is there a teaching room where staff gather before and after class?

Question 9: What is the payment schedule?

Sometimes it is awkward to bring up the subject of payment. If the interview is coming to a close, and no discussion of payment has come up, you may have to be the one to ask. You can ease into your question by asking if there is a starting salary for all new teachers, or if salary is based on experience. Also, you will want to know how often payments are made, and if you are paid for any hours outside of classroom time. If you don't ask, you may end up wasting everyone's time when you find out in a second interview that the pay is too low or that the contract is only for three months.

Question 10: May I have a tour of the school?

To avoid interrupting the interview, this is one question you may want to hold until the end. If a manager is unwilling to show you a classroom or the facilities, consider this a warning. Offer to come back at a more appropriate time (such as at lunch hour) and see if the answer changes. If you are taken on the tour, keep your eye out for smiling teachers and students, resource shelves, and evidence of a comfortable learning environment. If you don't see a photocopier or two, ask to make sure there is one!