No one loves interviews. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary part of the recruitment process, but with preparation and an idea of what to expect they don’t have to be too scary!
TEFL interviews aren’t all that different from any other type of interview, but there can be a few differences. Unless you’re already in a country and applying for jobs then it’s likely your interview will be held over a video call. And, given the huge number of entry-level opportunities, you might be in a situation where you have no previous teaching experience. Preparing for an interview when you’ve just completed your TEFL course and haven’t yet taught can understandably feel a bit daunting.
With insight from employers, we’ve put together this guide about how to prepare for a TEFL interview. We cover the common questions, what employers look for, and some top tips to help you ace any interview.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Preparation is key. Don’t ever think you can wing an interview, it will almost certainly backfire!
Research the company
You can bet on being asked why you want to work for the company you’re interviewing with. You need to understand who they are, their students, their ethos, what makes them distinct from other companies/schools, and how long they’ve been operating for. Not understanding the company is going to make it very difficult to adequately prepare for an interview and increase the chance of making a serious faux pas.
Research the country
If you’re applying for a job abroad then employers are going to want to understand your motivations for moving to that country. Don’t be vague and talk about how you want to travel and see the world. Talk about what specifically draws you to that country.
Review your course material
A TEFL interview is unlikely to consist of a thorough grilling of your knowledge of English grammar and teaching methodologies – it’s not an exam. But there will be some questions related to the job at hand, of course. Going over your course material will help keep everything fresh and you’ll be able to pull out examples from it during the interview.
Get to grips with the tech
Interviews for TEFL positions – both abroad and online – are likely to take place over video conferencing platforms, such as Skype, WhatsApp, and WeChat.
If you’re unfamiliar with the platform that an employer requests you to use, make sure to set some time aside prior to your interview to familiarise yourself with it. Try video calling a friend before your interview. This way you can adjust your settings and get a good feel for the platform at the same time.
What employers want to know
Marlene from Click China told us what she looks to find out from each applicant:
- Why do you want to live and work in the country?
- What is your career objective?
- What is your understanding of teaching?
Compile a list of probable questions and write up responses for them. The point of this isn’t to learn them by heart and recite them during the interview, just to ensure you’ve thought through the likely topics so you’re not scrambling for answers.
You can’t prepare for every question imaginable, but you can cover the broad areas that are likely to come up. Like your experience, your teaching style, and those related to the company and country.
Mark over at Crossroads Languages told us that they tend to ask candidates about TEFL methodology, English grammar and vocabulary in interviews. While these kinds of questions can seem daunting try not to worry, interviewers don’t deliberately try to catch you out! Going over your TEFL course material will help prepare you for them.
Remember, as a newly-qualified EFL teacher you won’t know it all. If you don’t know the answer to a question it’s better to admit it and demonstrate how you handle such situations (which are likely to happen in the classroom!) than make something up. Good teachers need to be able to think on the spot and adapt when things get tough or don’t go as planned, so your interviewer will appreciate you being able to demonstrate this.
Common TEFL interview questions
Some common questions that come up in TEFL interviews are:
- What previous teaching experience do you have?
- Why do you want to be an EFL teacher?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Why do you want to work in this country?
- Do you have experience living abroad?
- What do you enjoy most about teaching English?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you handle a badly behaved student?
- What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far as a teacher?
- What type of learners do you most enjoy teaching?
Ask your own questions
At the end of your TEFL interview you are almost certainly going to be asked: “do you have any questions for us?” The last thing you want to do is simply say “no”. Asking questions shows your interest in the role, but it’s also a great opportunity to impress.
For example, you could ask a simple question like: “How many schools do you run?” or you could show off your knowledge and interest with something like: “I understand you run 12 different schools in the country, are there plans for expansion?”
If there’s a selling-point you haven’t found a way of bringing up already then asking your own questions can be a way of giving yourself the opportunity to get it in.
Demo lessons are a common component of the hiring process for online teaching jobs, but some employers recruiting for jobs abroad will also ask you to prepare one.
An employer will typically give you clear instructions for what your lesson should include. You’ll need to know the topic, the learner, and the time limit.
For newly-qualified EFL teachers it can a particularly nerve-racking part of the interview process, but with preparation and plenty of practice you needn’t worry. A lot of employers are, first and foremost, looking to get an insight into your personality and teaching style during the demo lesson.
We have a whole article about how to create a TEFL demo lesson, which provides much more insight.
Top tips for TEFL interviews
Remember it’s got to be a right fit for you too
An interview isn’t a one-way street. Just as employers are looking for the right fit, so are you. Reminding yourself of this can help calm your nerves, as it takes a little pressure off – you’re interviewing them too, in a sense!
Prepare a stand-out “tell me about yourself” response
This question – or some variation of it – is very likely to come up in an interview. It might sound simple but it’s actually very easy to answer this question badly. Don’t fall into the trap of simply reeling off what’s already there in front of them on your CV. Tell them your story, be engaging, and give the interviewers an opportunity to get to know you. Nailing this question can really help to set you up for a successful interview. Check out this article from The Muse for tips.
You’re not going to get bonus points for the speed you give answers. Consider your responses and slow down – a lot of people have the habit of talking too quickly when they’re nervous.
Be focused in your responses
When you’re asked a question remember that the interviewer is trying to understand something specific. Keep to the topic and don’t go off on tangents – another thing that’s easy to do if you’re nervous is ramble!
Do a social media audit
Before you even start applying for jobs you should do a social media audit. Many employers will look up applicants online and the last thing you want is them finding something silly you wrote on Twitter a decade ago that casts you in a bad light. Search yourself on Google, see what comes up, and make any personal accounts you’d rather an employer didn’t see private.
Send an email after
The day after the interview send an email to thank the interviewer and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. You can also give them an opportunity to ask further questions if there’s anything they might want some clarification on.
Scour the internet for tips
There are so many articles and videos full of interview tips. Hopefully, you’ve found this article useful, but different things click with different people. If you find nerves a problem in interviews then research techniques to help with them. If you have very little interview experience then you can watch videos to get an idea of what they involve. There’s so much out there that can help build your interview skills and confidence – use it!