Common TEFL Interview Questions

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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.

Interview Tips for the ESL Teacher

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, 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.

tefl interview questions

Read more: Tips to Write a Sensational CV for Getting Hired to Teach English Abroad

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 common TEFL interview questions and think about how you could answer them.

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.

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  • 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.

Even if you have only worked in a totally unrelated field, you can highlight the transferrable skills you acuqired on the job. For example, if you work in customer service, this will have taught you how to deal with different kinds of people and probably how to have oodles of patience too, which are very good skills and traits you can use when dealing with students. 

  • 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.

  • Take me through an activity that you have done with a class that has worked well.

Obviously if you haven’t taught a class, this can be difficult. But you may have had some classroom training on your TEFL course with classmates or students and this is just as valid. Think of an activity or game which is relatively easy to explain and go through the procedure step by step. What the employer is looking for here is evidence that you understand the purpose of an activity – to present/practice/revise adjectives of personality/the present perfect/compound nouns – and know how to execute it.

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  • Take me though an activity that you have done with a class that hasn’t worked well. How would you do it differently?

Again, if you haven’t had any classroom experience you may need to be a bit creative. Consider an activity that you came across during your TEFL course and think about how it might not work with a particular class. For example, a very interactive game may not work with a class that is very shy or low-energy, or a certain activity may not work because the abilities and knowledge of the class were over/underestimated. Be honest about the fact that this is a hypothetical situation and your employer will appreciate the fact that you can predict tricky situations and come up with solutions to anticipated problems.

  • How would you teach the present perfect/personality adjectives/the /Ɵ/ sound?

Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for this and you’ll need to rely on your TEFL training for a good answer. Whichever language point or structure they ask you about you will need to have a few ideas up your sleeve as to how you could teach it. A good way to prepare for this is to come up a few activities for grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Then, to answer the question all you have to do is choose which activities would suit the language point.

If, however, you find you are not familiar with the language point and have no ideas, simply say that you would need to do your homework before the lesson to make sure you knew what you were teaching and to have some ideas about how to teach it. We’re not expected to know everything all the time but we are expected to be proactive and take steps to deal with any shortcomings in our knowledge.

  • Why do you want to teach in Bangkok/Madrid/Cape Town?

This is your chance to show that you have done your research. Just as it would for any other job, doing your research into your employer shows that you are serious about the job opportunity and for TEFL this means the location. The location of your teaching position is part and parcel of the job so it is a necessary aspect to consider. Of course, you don’t want to make it seem like you are taking the job for the free flights but understanding the country and the culture you are moving to will help the employers believe that you are ready for the position and will be able to cope with any issues arising from relocation.

Become an ESL Teacher and see the world

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!

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