The TEFL Interview

Schools are often looking for lively, fun people who are genuinely interested in teaching. Interest in the local culture and your own social life is quite normal…and while schools want normal people who care about these things, it makes sense that they’d also like people who have at least a fair amount of interest in the work as well.

If only people whose sole motivation was to teach for pure love of the English language were hired, lots of job would go unfilled. It’s not uncommon at all in TEFL for teachers to teach as a means to the end of living and working abroad; schools know this and benefit from it. So don’t feel bad about it if you have a variety of reasons for teaching…but know that schools do want people who are willing to do more than just put in the hours and have fun in their free time.

In most cases it will be clear relatively early on if you misrepresent yourself, so don’t do that. But do give some thought to your motivation for teaching and how you will present it.

Typical interview advice – dress nicely, come on time, be polite – applies. Some schools will be more thorough than others, but the range of questions I’ve been asked includes:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Do you like teaching (what do you like about it)?
How would you describe your approach?
How would you manage a student who dominates the class/speaks in L1 often?
How would you teach the topic of … (families, travel, food) to beginners, intermediate, advanced levels?
What would be the most difficult part of living here for you?
What was most valuable from your course?

My experience, though, has been that the challenge is not so much getting a job offer, but sorting through which offers meet what you’re looking for. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have several questions to ask schools ready, like questions on resources, schedules, non-teaching responsibilities, and academic support.

For additional information, have a look at the ESL Base guide to interviewing, one director’s tales of disaster interviews, and a guide written for those who hold interviews themselves.