This article (written based on language school interview input) helps you prepare for an online TEFL interview.
Your TEFL / TESOL teaching job interviews are not that different from any other job interview. The only difference is the way the interview will be done. For example, if you are not in the country where you want to work, your interview will likely use Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facetime, etc.
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but they are unavoidable in the hiring process. If you do good research, homework and preparation, your job interview will be easier. It will not be scary and is just one of the steps for getting you a TEFL / TESOL teaching job.
With insight from the worldwide language schools that employ our EBC Trinity CertTESOL graduates, this article helps you prepare and ace your online TEFL / TESOL job interview. As part of the EBC Lifetime, Worldwide Job Placement included in our Trinity College CertTESOL courses; we work closely with hundreds of worldwide partner language schools. This article, with all its tips and advice, came directly from these schools that may well offer you a job.
This advice is, as we say, “straight from the horse’s mouth!”
Read on, make use of our tips (or should I say your employing language schools’ tips) and welcome to the exciting world of TEFL.
Research and do your homework
Even experienced EFL / ESL teachers prepare for teaching job interviews, so why shouldn’t you? As we will always tell you as one of our trainees, “come prepared so if you need to improvise, you will be fine, no problem”. All is explained in our Job Workshops on the last week of your Trinity College CertTESOL course. If you do your homework, prepare your answers, rehearse your demo classes and brush up on your grammar, the TEFL job interview will be a breeze.
You should always be prepared because you can ever be certain about any job interview. If you feel prepared, you will confidently walk into the interview, and your interviewer will see this. Your interviewer will see you as a winner. You will come across as a teacher who will be a great addition to the school’s teaching team. Remember that you may need to improvise at the interview, but you will not have a problem if you know your stuff.
Research the language school where you want to work
Many interviewers could start by asking you why you want to work for their school. Your interviewer will expect to see that you know about the school, its core services, how long it has been in the market, the company vision, ethos, etc. The school will be like most other language schools in the market. However, your interviewer will want to hear that you want to work for the school because it is different from other schools. Everyone enjoys a compliment, so dropping a non-effusive, non-gushing compliment could help your case.
Research the city and the country where you wish to work
You should expect the interviewer to ask you why you want to live and work in the city or country. Be clear and say what attracts you to the city or country. If you are interested in improving or learning the country’s language, say so. If you had had memorable trips to the country when you were young or have friends or family in the city or country, say it.
You should also research some of the distinct and unique customs of the country. A young graduate of our recent online Trinity College CertTESOL course was asked this question: “How would you react when someone gives you the ‘2 besos’ (2 kisses) after you meet them for the first time?”. In many countries, you offer a handshake to someone you just met. You are more than likely to get the “2 besos” in Spain rather than the handshake. This custom is rare in this time of COVID, but it will almost certainly return post-COVID. Frankly, it can feel odd the first few times. You should get used after you realise that it is just like a handshake to the Spanish, so no harm, no foul.
It is always good to know certain countries’ customs because 2021 will probably see the return of EFL teaching in classrooms as much as teaching online. In addition, 2022 should see the return of face-to-face teaching.
Keep your EBC course manuals, lesson plans and teaching material you made during your Trinity CertTESOL course!
You will get asked about grammar at a TESOL or TEFL interview. A classic example is: “How would you teach the Present Perfect?”
In a recent job interview, one of our Trinity CertTESOL graduates was asked to make a grammar lesson plan for a Beginner (A2) class. She was given 20 minutes to develop the lesson plan and deliver it to the Director of Studies! Some interviewers will grill you on teaching methodologies, theories, phonetics. It seems over the top, excessive? Not really. They ask job-related questions, and they need to know how well you will teach their students. Go over your EBC Trinity CertTESOL course manual, the e-Books we give you, plus the material, lesson plans, etc., you created during the course. These will be invaluable for preparing you well for questions and teaching demands that may come up during the interview.
Will I Zoom or will I not? Get comfy with the technology
COVID has had an impact on interviews. This means that when you interview for both online and face-to-face (Onsite) TEFL teaching jobs, the interview is more likely to be done over the internet. Typical applications used to do your interview are ZOOM, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype or WeChat. As COVID goes away, face-to-face interviews will return.
If you are not already, start getting used to communication technologies like ZOOM, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, etc.
You should receive instructions from the school before the interview. You should be given instructions to know which platform will be used for your interview. If you are not comfortable with the platform, make sure you crash learn and familiarise yourself with it. Ask your friends or family to practice the online interview with you. Make sure you note down all the interviewer’s functions during the interview. For example, in ZOOM, your interviewer might ask you to file-share a lesson plan or some teaching material you made.
NO DISTRACTIONS! Set yourself up to succeed
Make sure you have a good WIFI connection that is stable and capable of handling an audiovisual call without crashing and cutting out. Test your WIFI connection reliability by having a video call with a friend or relative using ZOOM, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.
Disruption free space
Choose a space where you can control access. The last thing you need is people walking in and out while having a job interview. If there are other people where you live, make sure that they know about your interview. You may want to put a DO NOT DISTURB, DO NOT ENTER, SILENCE PLEASE sign on the door to your interview room.
Quiet and distraction-free place
Try to choose a room away from roads and other sources of noisy distractions. For example, you do not want to be interrupted by emergency service vehicle sirens, your neighbour’s barking dog or a crying baby in an adjacent room.
A pet and child-free zone
If there are pets and children where you live, make sure that they are looked after by someone else while you are being interviewed. Cats and dogs won’t understand why you are ignoring them. They may start scratching on the door if they are unsupervised. Likewise, small children may not understand your absence. If left unsupervised, be prepared for an “I need to go to the toilet” or “I am thirsty” interruption.
Practice before the interview
These are the main things to organise before the interview so make sure you practice first. Doing this means that you will perfect your performance and interview environment. It also means that people living with you also get to see what they need to do when you interview.
Some frequently asked interview questions
You can never be sure of the questions to be asked but based on insight from our hiring partner language schools worldwide, here are some of the most common ones you might get asked:
- Tell me why we should hire you?
- Why do you want to teach EFL/ESL?
- What do you like and enjoy the most about teaching? Do you prefer teaching adults, young learners, ESP?
- Why do you want to work for our language school?
- Why do you want to live and work in this city/country?
- How would you handle a challenging class?
- How would you motivate an unmotivated group of ELLs?
- What are your strengths that would help you do your job well?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would you tell a student that he will fail if he does not change his study habits?
- How would you handle a disruptive student who also happens to be the best in the class?
- Have you lived outside of your home country before?
Do not forget that you can and must ask your own questions
Before your job interview, you may have been told about the financial package, salary, etc. If these things have not been mentioned at the pre-interview stage, keep your pay and benefits questions to the last. If the interview is winding down and there is still no mention of money, say something like this: “How is the salary range or package for individual or group classes?” This is a question that the interviewer should be able to answer. Most schools have standard pay grades, and your interviewer will want to clarify this straight away. Most schools are upfront about the salaries. Sometimes (believe it or not), they forget about this ever so important matter. If they do, you should diplomatically remind them.
If you are interviewing with an international educational organisation, ask them about their other locations. Tell them that you are an ambitious and knowledgeable teacher. Tell them that sharing your skills, know-how and experience with the other locations is something that interests you. Do not ask them what’s in it for you, but rather tell them what you can do for them.
Online TEFL demo classes are not to be feared
Some tips on what you need to do
Giving a demo lesson is becoming more and more popular in online TEFL / TESOL job interviews. You must be prepared for the demo lesson when interviewing for online teaching jobs. Language schools want to see how you teach, your personality and your know-how. Remember, private schools are businesses, and state schools are monitored, so you represent the school as a teacher. If your ELLs are happy with you, the school will be pleased with you as well. Well, a teacher’s performance is not entirely based on the ELLs’ satisfaction, but it does play a big part. Therefore, you must do a good demo class to determine whether you are the right fit for the job. Demo classes are also used to determine the pay rate and salary package.
The EBC Trinity College CertTESOL course has trained you to plan, design and implement effective lessons to a wide range of language levels and ages. Remember your teaching practice classes where you taught 1-hour classes to ELLs with levels from A2 – C1? Remember those grammar classes you taught and how you saw that visuals were far more effective than words? Finally, you have your Trinity CertTESOL that demonstrates the high quality of your TESOL certification. You only need to show your interviewer(s) how good you are.
If you have to give a demo lesson at the job interview, most language schools will provide you with the details before the interview. They should have done a student needs analysis, and they should have given you what to plan for. The details should include the level of the class, ages, if professionals, their jobs, and if it is an in-depth analysis, they will also give you the objectives of the ELLs. They should give you a lesson topic and how long you should teach. Usually, it will be between 30 to 45 minutes. If they did not give you any details, the least they could give you is the level of the class and the topic they want you to teach. Is it a grammar class on the Past Simple vs the Past Continuous? Is it a Beginner (A2) or an Intermediate (B1/2) class?
To whom are you teaching the demo class?
If the demo class is presented to the interviewer, but the lesson was planned, and designed for a class of young learners, do not change your teaching style to fit the interviewer’s age and profile. You will tell the interviewer that your lesson was designed for young learners and that your class will be composed of 14 to 16-year-old ELLs. You will be observed and assessed on your TEYL skills, so make sure you use the corresponding vocabulary and terminology. Do not make changes to your lesson plan to fit the age and profile of your interviewer. Teach your demo class as if you were teaching a class of 14 to 16-year-old ELLs.
Were you given the topic for the lesson?
If you were given the topic, stick to it! Plan, design and deliver your class based on the topic. For example, if you were given an advanced-level class (C1) and had to teach the phrasal verbs used when ordering in a restaurant, make sure you stick to the topic. Limit yourself to using 2-word phrasal verbs. Try to avoid the three-word phrasal verbs. If you know the grammar point and are clear on how you will teach it, stick to it! Do not be tempted to show off because your well-planned grammar lesson might get confusing. Even worse, it could ruin your demo class altogether. Make things easy on yourself. Do not be too ambitious. You can be ambitious later after getting the job and start teaching for the school.
Remember STT vs TTT and manage your talking time
Remember TTT (Teacher Talking Time) versus STT (Student Talking Time) taught on the EBC Trinity College CertTESOL course? During your teaching practise classes, do precisely what you did to engage your learners. Your classes had a good balance of STT and TTT. Sometimes you acted as a facilitator more than an instructor. Demo lessons done on your interviews are just like your teaching practice classes. Think ESA (Engage, Study, Activate), and you will be fine.
Rehearse teaching your demo class
These days it is common practice that you are asked to do a demo class as part of the interview process for face-to-face and online TEFL / TESOL teaching jobs. As I mentioned earlier in this article, a recent EBC graduate was asked to prepare and present a grammar lesson for an A2 (Beginner) level during her interview. She was given a whole 20 minutes to do it! Demo lessons can be challenging and nerve-wracking for those just starting their TEFL career. Most employers are looking at how much grammar you know and getting an idea of how you teach, your personality, how you come across and if you are calm, professional and knowledgeable.
You will be given a time limit for your lesson. Stick to it. Do not under-plan but do not over-plan. Do not insist that your lesson is finished exactly on time. Be flexible! On the EBC Trinity CertTESOL course, you learned about backup activities. Make some to help you out if you are running short of material or your lesson turned out to be too easy for your students. Time management is a skill that all teachers must have. Here is an excellent tip from experienced teachers, if you have gone through all your lesson material your backup activities, and you still have 10 to 20 minutes to go, do not despair. What you do is this – become the facilitator. Think Oprah Winfrey! Make your students talk, contribute, and give their opinions on what was taught in class. For example, if you had a lesson on climate change and the environment, use your last 10 to 20 minutes for a mini-debate. Ask your students for ways to prevent the greenhouse effect. Ask them to give examples of how people in their towns or cities affect the environment. Before you know it, your time is up, and you have just had a great demo class. Just like a real class, you are paid to teach!
Space and props for your demo class
The key to success is no distractions. Choose a quiet place where there are no kids pets and where there is good WIFI. If you are doing a Business English lesson, use props relevant to a business setting. For example, have books on a bookshelf as your props, pictures of financial capitals behind you, etc. If your lesson is for young learners, use colourful, fun backgrounds that appeal to kids.
If you are talking about food, kitchen items, cooking or even colours, do your demo using items that best fit, just like the guy in the photo (above) is doing by using food items in his demo.
Practice makes perfect
Practice with friends or family. Get their feedback but do not change your lesson plan if you are not happy with their feedback. This is because you are practising with them to deliver your lesson plan, not its content. You are also checking with them your time management and your overall confidence. Practising with friends and family is a great way to get feedback.
Final tips for your demo class
Look professional, organised, and tidy. Dress accordingly. Stick to a toned-down, conservative style of dressing. Smart casual is an excellent way to describe how you should be dressed. After the demo class, you can go back to your dressing style.
Lights, camera, action!
Good lighting is essential for anything done over the internet. Use a well-lit area. If you have lighting equipment or a circle lamp, use them. Your lessons, demo lessons and interviews will look more professional with good lighting. Also, invest in an HD audio/video camera.
Use your EBC Trinity College CertTESOL course manual and material
Your EBC manuals and material are there for your reference. Demo lessons and future classes are when these manuals come in handy. Your lesson plans, material, e-Books, work done on your Trinity CertTESOL Units 1 to 5 are all great sources of reference material. They will enable you to keep growing as an English teacher and help your career blossom.
The wonderful YOU!
All job interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking. However, your interviewer is speaking to you, a Trinity College CertTESOL graduate, and they know who they are up against. You are well-trained, well-prepared, competent and knowledgeable. You are confident, adaptable, and friendly. All that is missing is seeing you for what YOU are. Be assured, be friendly and relaxed.
On behalf of all of us at EBC Trinity College CertTESOL – go for your dream!
All the best and welcome to the exciting world of TEFL!