Published 14th October 2020
No matter what kind of job you’re looking for, the prospect of a job interview can be daunting. There are very few people in this world who enjoy job interviews (if any!) and all they do for us is make us feel anxious and nervous and sweaty. Applying for TEFL jobs is no different, but even if you have had other job interviews you might not know exactly what to expect from a TEFL interview. Let’s break down the whole interview process and look at the most common questions in a TEFL interview, so that you can be prepared for your next one. So today, we are going to look at some common TEFL interview questions.
But first let’s look at what the TEFL job application process entails.
Applying for a TEFL job
These days the majority of jobs teaching English as a Foreign Language are found online. There are loads of different jobs boards, such as TEFL.com, that you can look on to find jobs that you want to apply for. Then you simply send a good cover letter along with your CV to the email supplied and wait to be contacted. If you make it through the first round, you will be contacted for an interview over Zoom or Skype. If you are successful in the interview then it is likely that you will be offered the job.
If, however, you don’t apply for a job online, that means you are already in the country where you want to teach. Instead of looking for jobs online, it’s possible for you to pound the pavements and drop off your CV at any schools you know are looking for teachers, or even prospectively at schools you want to work at. The same interview process will apply though: if they like your CV and cover letter they will contact you for an interview.
A TEFL interview
A few different things may happen in a TEFL interview. The first step of course will be introducing yourself and the interviewer will ask you about your past experience. They might have asked you to prepare a dummy lesson (for example, prepare a lesson to teach the present perfect to a class of 12 25-year olds in Turkey). If they have, they will then ask you to run them through what you have planned.
They might also ask you to do a demo lesson on video. Again they should give you lesson aims and you would record this beforehand, send it to them and they will ask you questions based on the demo during the interview.
Read more: Top Tips to Ace Your Demo Lesson
Then there are the interview questions. As in any job interview, these questions can relate to anything. (Some stinkers we’ve heard are: What colour is your aura? Which superhero are you most like? And If you were an animal what would you be?). However, there are a number of questions which seem to come up again and again in TEFL interviews. Knowing these questions and thinking about possible answers is important if you want to have a good interview. It’s difficult to think on your feet when you are already nervous so rather come up with possible answers which you could draw on if necessary.
Note: we are NOT saying you should prepare answers word for word and learn them off by heart. This will make you come off as unnatural and wooden. But before your interview, consider these questions and think about how you could answer them.
5 common TEFL interview questions
- Why do you want to teach English?
This is not the time to explain how teaching English is your ticket to travelling the world. Focus on the reasons you want to teach English that relate more to interacting with people on a daily basis, and your passion for the English language (and other languages). If it is a job interview for Young Learners, then you could throw in something about your love for kids too.
- Why do you want to teach English abroad?
Similar to the previous question but slightly different, this is a tricky one. It is tempting to wax lyrical about all the countries that you want to visit and cultures you want to explore, but that actually can make you come across as a flight risk. It’s also not a good idea to let them know if you are running away from a relationship or just want to move out of your parents’ home! Rather focus on the teaching aspect and talk about how much you want to teach and explain that there are better teaching opportunities abroad than in your city, or you’d like to teach in an immersion context.
- What teaching experience do you have?
This one shouldn’t really be a surprise. If this is not your first teaching job, then you’re golden. If, however, you have never taught before, don’t let that worry you. First of all, if you did any practical teaching on your TEFL course – teaching EFL students or your fellow TEFL trainees or online – that counts as teaching experience. If you have taught but not in an EFL context, you should definitely mention that. If you done any tutoring, au pairing, sports coaching, or anything which involves taking care of children (for positions teaching Young Learners), tell the interviewer about it and explain how it has helped you prepare to teach English as a Foreign Language.
- What makes a good TEFL teacher?
This is similar to another question you might get asked, What are your strengths and weaknesses? When you answer this question, the interviewer will be able to understand your theories around teaching and learning, as well as the characteristics of your own teaching style. When you answer this question, make sure you consider the different responsibilities of a TEFL teacher besides teaching, such as classroom management, discipline style, rapport and communication.
Read more: Four Roles of TEFL Teachers
- What is your discipline style?
This question is especially relevant for teaching Young Learners. And it’s not only a good interview question but it’s something you should think about anyway. The interviewer may ask you what you would do in a certain situation – for example, if a student refuses to stop speaking in their first language, or never does their homework – or they might ask you to speak about how you would discipline your students in a general sense. Either way, you should think about different tricky scenarios you could find yourself in and how you would react.
Finally, there is one more question you are likely to be asked, and that is: Do you have any questions for us? While it might be tempting to answer a quick No so you can finish the interview, this is a chance for you to show off. Show that you are serious about the position by asking questions about the job specifications. Good questions to ask are:
- How many hours will I teach in a week?
- How big are the classes?
- Do I have an assistant?
- Is there suitable accommodation near the school?
- How many other foreign teachers are in the school?
Remember, no matter what they may throw at you, remaining cool, calm and collected is your best bet for acing a job interview. Good luck!