It’s a fact that interviews are part of life and especially if you’re entering a competitive industry. TEFL is a great area to work in because there are a whole host of roles available – from those for the very newly-qualified, to those who want to travel the world and teach and those are ready to take the next step up on the career ladder. But all these positions have one thing in common – and that’s that you are probably going to have to pass an interview (or two!) to have a chance at the post. Now, we understand that interviews can be scary, but they don’t need to be. Relaxation techniques work, breathing exercises work, but you know what works best out of all of your options? Preparation. Preparation is key. It was Winston Churchill who said “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”, and that’s something which does hold true. So do your research, familiarise yourself with the market and think about what might be asked of you at interview. You already have your TEFL certificate tucked safely under your belt so you can take a little bit of reassurance from that, you’re not turning up totally empty-handed.
But first, think about your appearance. The Covid 19 pandemic means that if your interview is in the near future (and let’s hope it is!) it’s probably going to be done through Skype or similar. But this doesn’t mean that you can rock up to your laptop with greasy hair in a bun and an old, grubby pyjama top on. First impressions count, so brush your neat, clean hair and find a smart blouse or top to put on. You can keep your feet in your cosy slippers though. And find a place where you won’t be disturbed and preferably with a neutral background. You’re probably an expert at communicating online by now, but still make sure that you’re comfortable and confident to do it in an interview.
Remember -there are a huge amount of entry-level positions, even if you have no teaching experience so don’t feel that you’re automatically ruled out. Preparation for the interview can be daunting if you’ve only just completed the TEFL course and you haven’t actually taught yet, but take a deep breath, remember that you’re qualified now and go for it!
Here are some tips that you can use before the interview– what employers are looking for and common questions that you might be asked, for example.
- Prepare, prepare and then prepare again! Solid prep 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.
- Make sure that you know what you’re talking about. Research 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 seriously underwhelming your potential employer which is never going to go well.
- Also ensure that you are well versed in the history, culture and societal norms of the country that you want 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 and what you particularly like about it. Don’t talk about general travel and how much you’re looking forward to exploring the world if you’re applying for a position that comes with a fixed term contract for a year. They won’t appreciate your enthusiasm for globe-trotting instead of knuckling down and giving their students an excellent English education.
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 and that is just one positive of having an online interview!
These are some of the questions that you might be asked in interview so read through, commit to memory and have an answer sketched out in your mind (or on paper next to you) for each type of question:
Why do you want to be a TEFL teacher?
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- 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?
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 they’re asked for. This demonstrates interest and that you are showing attention to detail. It also shows that your mind has stretched beyond the answers to the questions that they’ve asked you and that you’re really interested in that particular company and that particular role. This is a great opportunity to impress and make sure that you leave them with a favourable view of you.