ALL You Need to Know for a TEFL Job Interview – Part 2

TEFL Job Interview – Part 2

To get the most out of reading this article, read ALL You Need to Know for a TEFL Job Interview – Part 1 first.

Less is More!

Less is More!

When it comes to answering the interview questions, try to keep your responses succinct and precise to make it easy for the recruiter to process all the information. Talk about your qualifications (your Trinity CertTESOL stands out as a great teaching qualification!), teaching experience and skip the unnecessary details. Although, the main purpose of an interview is for the company to get to know you, you also need to prove yourself a good listener when it’s their turn to talk. Teachers have a bad reputation for talking too much but to be a good TEFL professional, you must also be an effective listener to increase STT (student talking time) and improve student engagement. In addition, when a person talks more than usual, it normally gives the impression that he is nervous, and you don’t want your interviewer to assume such things about you!

Ask Appropriate Questions

Less is More!

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Don’t be shy and ask appropriate questions. Do not wait to be prompted. This is the time to clarify anything unclear about the job, clear out any doubts and this will also show the interviewer how serious you are about the job. It will be best to prepare a list of questions before the interview, so you do not go rambling during the interview. Your list can include questions about career advancement, continuing professional development, extracurricular activities for the students, working hours, teaching locations and travel.

TEFL job interviews are no different to any other interview: Preparation is the key to success. It’s the one thing you can control. You can’t change the amount of experience you have, the countries you’ve taught in, the number of languages you speak, which TEFL course you took (although if you have the Trinity College CertTESOL certificate, your certificate would have already done a lot of walking for you!), but you can control how your global profile is seen by the interviewer. A one-year teaching experience can sound more than enough, inadequate, promising, depending on how you present it.

Having been in this wonderful profession for many years now, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants for a variety of roles ranging from a senior role of a TEFL trainer, DOS to more junior roles for starting EFL/ESL teachers. One thing is for sure: there is no sure way of predicting what you will be asked so memorising or having rigid, scripted answers won’t cut it. What you should do is think of different questions and prepare for the different ways you can answer them.

What follows is a list of some common TEFL interview questions. Prepare for these and you’ll give yourself the best chance of success in your interview.

Here are the three main areas recruiters want to know about:

  1. Your language awareness
  2. Your teaching and classroom management knowledge, skills and experience
  3. Your interests, expectations and aspirations

These are quite broad areas, so let’s look at some example questions and how to go about answering them.

TEFL interview questions about language awareness

  • How would you introduce the past perfect to a group of 10 adult students?
  • How would you explain why we should say “If I were the Queen of England” instead of saying “If I was the Queen of England” when I and the Queen are both singular?

There are many possible questions that could be asked at interview time. Interviewers are looking for concise answers which demonstrate your language awareness and competence to teach it. While you cannot prepare for every single language point, if you were an EBC graduate, you could go over the grammar part of your manual and prepare with examples that you can adapt for possible grammar questions at interview time.

You could get a grammar question like: “What’s the difference between the present simple and the present perfect?” / “What is the difference between the first conditional and the second conditional?” Piece of advice: Review your grammar theories, structures and examples before the interview.

TEFL interview questions about your teaching and classroom management

Less is More!

  • How would you go about a student’s needs analysis to help you design an effective plan of study?
  • What method will you use for a one to one class vs a group class?
  • How would you teach a class of students of mixed abilities?
  • What do you do when you have a disruptive, dominant student in class?
  • Give me an example of a difficult classroom situation and how did you handle it.
  • What will you do when you have a student that comes in late all the time and he is also one of the Directors of the company?
  • With these type of questions, the interviewer wants to know how you would approach and deal with different teaching and classroom management situations. The best way to answer is to give a specific example of how you’ve dealt with such a situation or if you have never experienced this, how would you deal with it if it happens. Describe what you would do hypothetically. Once again, you can’t prepare for every question of this type, but the more examples of different situations you can think of, the more prepared and confident you’ll be.

TEFL job interview questions about your interests, expectations and aspirations

Less is More!

  • What kinds of classes / levels / ages are you interested in teaching?
    Be honest! If you really don’t like teaching kids, then don’t say that you’d like to have a lot of kids’ classes. Say that your specialist areas are more to do with adult professionals and you would like to take this skill with you when you teach so it would be best to have classes with adults. You will have to show flexibility as well and say something like: “My preference is for adult professional classes however I am open to learning more and adding different specialist areas to my TEFL and TESOL career so I wouldn’t mind teaching general English and some TEYL (Teaching English to Young Learners) as well.

Other TEFL job interview questions

  • Why are you leaving your current job?
    Be honest but don’t talk badly about any of your former employers. Say something like: I really learned a lot from them, but I think now is the time for me to grow, to get experienced in other ways of TEFL and TESOL so I can become a more effective teacher.

Face to face and Skype TEFL interviews

  • If you have a Skype or in-person interview, you may be asked to give a teaching demonstration. This may involve coming up with a lesson beforehand, ready to deliver at the interview. If the interview is by Skype, then the interviewer may act as the student. If it’s in person this may also be the case, or you may teach one of the school staff and in some cases, they could also bring you in with the regular teacher and ask you teach her class.

TEFL interview lesson plans

Less is More!

If you are asked to give a teaching demonstration, use a lesson plan that you’ve successfully used in the past and are therefore confident with. Don’t try to over impress or show off when you are teaching this lesson you are familiar and comfortable with. Make it as natural as you can. If you can impress the interviewer, the better but what he is really looking for is how you plan, design and implement your lesson. Did you achieve your stated objectives? Were you able to deliver the class in the stated timelines? Did you have back up activities if the class moved faster than planned for?
Even if you’re not asked to prepare and deliver a lesson to someone acting as a student, you may still be asked to describe a recent lesson that you’ve prepared and successfully taught. So be prepared.

Looking for ESL lesson plans? Read our English teaching resources.

TEFL interview questions to ask

The interview is a two-way thing and you will come to the end of the interview when the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Use this opportunity to clarify anything but also to show him how serious you are about the job.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What are the working days and working hours? Do we work on weekends?
  • How many contact teaching hours will I be expected to do? (20 to 25 a week is common, 30 is doable but is a lot and 40 and above is not healthy!
  • Will I be paid overtime if I teach more than this number of hours? (when is it paid and is it compulsory?)
  • How many days of paid holiday are there? (and does this include public holidays?)
  • What are the expectations for non-teaching tasks, such as meetings, attending training, placement testing of students when outside normal working hours?
  • Is there a probationary period where either party can terminate the contract? (a period of up to 3 months is common where either you or the school can terminate the contract)
  • What is my salary? When and how is it paid?
  • Do you provide opportunities for continued professional development?
  • What kind of teaching resources do you have available for teachers?

If the job is not in your home country:

  • Is medical insurance provided? (particularly important in countries which do not have reciprocal agreements with your own)
  • Will the school pay for my flight ticket (and when?)
  • Is accommodation provided? (is it shared, how much does it cost, how far is it from the school, what are included?)
  • Does the school provide local language lessons for teachers?

After the interview

At the end of the interview, like in any other interview, thank the interviewer for his/her time and take note of what he/she says will happen next. Don’t contact the interviewer every day but do follow up after a reasonable time period. If you were told that you’d hear within a week and ten days have passed, you would be well within your rights to send a polite follow-up email to enquire about the status of your application.

Cynthia Gale, United States

Cynthia Gale, United States


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