A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What are TEFL Job interviews like?

Can you give me some tips?  What about telephone interviews?

TEFL interviews are like interviews for just about any other type of job, except they aren't! 

Particularly if you are a beginning teacher, don't expect trick grammar questions - or really difficult questions of any sort. 

Usually, the employer is just trying to get a feel if you are a friendly and pleasant person.  Both of these issues are important to the employer, who is typically a business person, running a school where it would be nice if the customers (students) like their teachers enough to keep signing up for more classes and earning him/her a profit.

Professional Interviews

It would be unusual to have what you might consider a really professional interview.  I've had precisely two - in fifteen years. And I have interviewed a lot as I like to "fish" for jobs - and often apply for something if it sounds interesting to me even if I don't have any interest in taking it.

The notions, mentioned above, of friendliness and pleasantness, are generally what interviewers are looking for.  If you are applying for a job that requires some experience or training, then you might expect a simple grammar question - or a question about your teaching philosophy, teaching methods - or how to deal with a discipline problem.  Of course, think about these things before the interview.

The Usual Interview

A typical interview almost doesn't exist.  So really, you probably can't do much to prepare, except to put yourself in a good mood, smile a lot, dress appropriately - and go for it.

Odd Questions

Most teachers, at one time or another, have been asked such oddities as, "Do you like kimchee?" or "How do you feel about hitting your students?"  Answer honestly - you might as well hit the issues before you get there!

Speak Clearly

One thing almost all interviews are looking for, is your ability to speak clearly and understandably.  Do that purposefully during the interview.  Don't try to "WoW" them with your use of the language.  You are probably already light years ahead of their English language skills. That's why they want and need a teacher.  They want to know that you can communicate well with their students.

Telephone Interviews

These type interviews are fairly common, for obvious reasons.  Try to speak clearly - some connections won't be good.  Be polite if you can't understand what is being asked (which will sometimes be the case!).

The Role of the Teacher in Society

Know that in many cultures the teacher is considered a surrogate parent - and that even experienced teachers in some countries will tell you the most important thing about any teacher is that they "Love their students."  While this would seem an odd thing in the West - it is a bit refreshing really.  There is a nice old-fashionedness about such thinking.  From times before pedophilia became such a fear.  Before a teacher needed two witnesses before talking to a student about a problem. 

It's okay to tell an interviewer that you enjoy teaching, enjoy students, and have a strong interest in their success.  And, I hope you do!

Try to avoid this:

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