How to Prepare for Your Overseas Teaching Interview

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    Interviews for TEFL jobs do have some distinct and unique characteristics but in other aspects, they are very similar to interviews for other jobs.  The watchwords are, do your preparation.  For a smooth and ultimately successful interview, follow these steps.

    Learn about your target country  

    Taking an interest in and learning about the country you are aiming to work in is a very important way to demonstrate a commitment to this particular job.  If the prospective employer thinks that any sandy beach will do for you then they will not warm to your application.  Try and learn facts that are over and above the usual tourist information and one of the best ways to do this is to talk to ex-pats who are living there; this can give you a really good insight into what life might be like and should help you confidently answer that particular question, “Are you prepared for the new challenges of living in…?”  A good resource to use is Expat Forum.

    Take the type of school into account

    The type of school you are working in can hugely dictate the sort of experience you have, for example, if you are working in a public or state school system, you are likely to be teaching some form of national curriculum.  However, if you are in the private sector then you may have to devise all your own lessons and timetable and this could well form the basis of one of the interview questions. 

    Consider the age of your future students

    When you talk about how you behave in the classroom and the sort of experience your pupils will have, it is important to tailor your answers to the ages of your students.  If you are teaching kindergarten then play and fun will be a big part of your teaching toolbox but this would certainly not be appropriate if you are intending to teach teenagers – that age group might require a delve into social media or the latest trending app if you want to show you can be down there with the kids.

    Having done that preparation now test yourself on a selection of typical TEFL interview questions you might expect to be presented with.

    • Can you tell me a little about yourself?

    Have a succinct answer ready, the interviewer wants to know about you but doesn’t want the serialised version of your life story.  They actually want to hear things about you which are relevant to the job.  For example, if you are applying for a position teaching small children you could tell the interviewer that in your University holidays, you enjoyed volunteering for a school summer holiday club in your local town and that you were used to organising fun activities to keep children amused which were also educational

    • Why do you want to be an English language teacher?

    A common question and commonly a question which is quite badly answered.  As you answer this question, try and change the focus away from you and onto the job, never give answers that provide the impression that you just want a cheap holiday or are looking to go anywhere abroad and don’t care about the job.  Relate your skills, interests and passion directly to the job you are being interviewed for.

    • What’s the best way to teach English?

    There is, in reality, no best way to teach English, students learn differently and what works for one class or pupil just might not work for another.  Try not to get hung up on specific teaching methods when you answer this but mention a range of techniques to cater for different scenarios and learning abilities.

    • Name a challenge you have faced in the classroom?

    Choose your challenge carefully, best not to talk about out of control students or you might inadvertently give the impression that you cannot control your pupils.  Try and reference a general challenge like teaching with minimal facilities or using outdated books or not having any resources.  Make sure you turn the story around and turn it into a success.

    • What are some of your successful teaching methods?

    Have a range of techniques and activities ready at your fingertips to cover a variety of different scenarios, this showcases versatility as a good TEFL teacher needs to be able to adjust and adapt to be effective.  Some good illustrations would be in-class debates and presentations, role-play exercises and teaching with media so film and music.

    • How do you handle a problem student?

    There are always problem students and your interviewer will be more interested in knowing how you handle problems rather than the fact you have encountered some.  Take note, that as a non-native teacher in a foreign country, it will rarely be your role to act as a disciplinarian, that is likely to be hived off to someone else.  Try not to come across as punitive but approach the situation positively.

    • How do you make sure your students understand you?

    A good answer to this would be to stress that you use concept check questions (CCQs) and instruction check questions (ICQs).  A great fun way to to do this is to incorporate them into a quiz which can easily be adjusted depending on the pupils’ age.  

    • What are your qualifications?

    Be ready with your TEFL certificate and any other relevant qualifications like a degree or PGCE.  You will probably be on Skype or Zoom so have the documents to hand to show your interviewer and have scanned versions ready to send across at the click of a button.

    • Why do you think students need to learn English?

    Try not to trot out the usual statistics about English being spoken everywhere, focus instead on how English can empower them as a global language, make your answer relevant to the students you would like to teach and their futures.

    •  Have you ever lived in another country before?

    If you haven’t lived abroad before and remember holidaying is not the same thing, then give examples of how you have managed when stepping out of your comfort zone.

    Your interview is likely to be done via video conferencing so think carefully about your appearance and make sure the background where you are sitting is suitable and quiet.


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