TEFL job interviews, whether by phone or in person, can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Here are some of the more common types of question you may be asked in an interview with a language school. Many of these questions relating to previous teaching may not be relevant if this is your first job, but you could be asked similar questions about the teaching practice from your training course.
Remember that interviewers often look for concrete examples of skills or behaviours. A question such as “Can you control disruptive students” is less likely than “Tell me about a time where you had a disruptive student or class and how you successfully dealt with the situation”.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your interests outside of work?
- Do you speak any foreign languages? Tell me about your experiences learning a foreign language.
About your training
- What was the most important thing you learned in your training?
- Why do you think you were awarded an A/B/Pass grade?
- Have you attended any additional training or seminars recently?
About your current and previous jobs
- Where are you working at the moment?
- What are your responsibilities in your current position?
- What have you learned from this job?
- Tell me about your previous jobs. Why did you leave?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
About the school and country
- What interests you about this school?
- What do you know about this school?
- Why do you want to live in this country?
About your teaching and experience
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
- How would you introduce the past simple tense to a group of 10 adult students?
- How would you explain “proud”?
- What would you want to know about a group if I told you I needed you to teach it in 30 minutes?
- What ages and levels of students have you taught in the past?
- Have you ever had to teach without materials? How would you feel about this?
- Tell me about your experience teaching children / business English / TOEFL.
- How would you feel about being asked to teach this type of class?
- What aspects of your teaching have changed with experience?
- How would your approach with a one-to-one student differ to that with a group?
- What course books do you have experience using? What do you think of them?
- Can you think of a time when you’ve successfully dealt with a difficult student or class?
- How would you deal with a class of students of mixed abilities?
- Tell me about a time when you felt rewarded or satisfied by something you did in a classroom.
- Have you used multimedia (video, DVD, CD-ROM) in the classroom?
About your expectations
- Have you lived or travelled abroad before? What cultural differences did you find difficult to get used to?
- Working in this country can be frustrating. The photocopier may break and go unrepaired for a week. Have you had to deal with situations like this before? How do you think you’d deal with them?
- We expect our teachers to be flexible and supportive of colleagues and other staff. Can you think of a time when you’ve been flexible or supportive?
- How much support do you expect from a school?
- How do you feel about working split shifts and weekends?
- Do you think it is important for the whole school to be an English speaking environment (not just the classrooms)?
About your future
- Where do you want to be in five years?
- How do you see your future in teaching?
What questions should I ask?
During your TEFL job interview, and at any stage before and after, you should be given the opportunity to ask any questions you have.
There are some things which you need to be clear about before signing a contract. If the school works on Saturdays and this is a problem for you, for example, or if you want the possibility of overtime but it is not on offer, you need this information to decide if the position is for you!
- What are the working days and working hours? (do you mind working Saturdays?)
- How many contact teaching hours will I be expected to do? (20 to 25 a week is common – 40 contact hours a week 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?)
- What non-teaching tasks am I required to do? (administration, creating materials, marking, placement testing of students)
- How many days of paid holiday are there? (and does this include public holidays?)
- 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 end things)
- What is my salary? When and how is it paid?
- Is there an end of contract bonus? (what are the conditions under which this is paid?)
If working abroad
- Is medical insurance provided? (particularly important in countries which do not have reciprocal agreements with your own)
- Is my flight ticket paid? (and when?)
- Is accommodation provided? (is it shared, how much does it cost, how far is it from the school, does it have a TV/fridge/bed?!)
- Does the school provide local language lessons for teachers?
In this post about finding your first TEFL job, we said that it is a good idea to talk to / email / chat online with one or more teachers currently working at the school. If the school is reputable they shouldn’t have any problem with you talking to one of their teachers. It is from them that you will get to know what the school is really like and if there are any problems there. You can of course ask any of the above questions to teachers as well, for a different perspective, as well as some of these:
- What’s the atmosphere in the school like?
- What teaching resources are provided?
- How do you get on with the Director of Studies and/or School Director?
- Do you get paid on time?
- Has the school fulfilled their side of the contract?
- Why are you leaving? (if he/she is leaving)
- What’s the city nightlife like?
- What’s the accommodation like?
- Is there internet access at the school?
- Does the photocopier work?
After the interview the school may check your references, and possibly even do a second interview. All going well, they will then offer you a contract. This will usually be for one year and renewable if both you and the school are happy.
Read the contract very carefully and don’t be afraid to ask if anything is not clear. A reputable employer will appreciate the fact that moving to another country to live and work is a big step (if you are dealing with the Director of Studies, he/she was probably in the same boat once) and should be forthcoming with help. Get as much information as you can from the school, other teachers, TEFL websites and forums, so that you can feel comfortable before making a decision.
There is no set format or content of a TEFL contract. However, it should at least be clear about:
- Working days and working hours (including contact teaching hours)
- Holidays (how many days?)
- Probationary / trial period if any (and how long?)
- Start and end dates of the contract
- Salary and overtime (including when it is paid)
- Flight reimbursement (if relevant, including when it is paid)
- Medical insurance (if relevant)
- Bonus (if any, including when it is paid)
Contracts may include some clauses which are required in all employment contracts in that particular country. It can be worthwhile researching some basic employment law for the country where you are planning to work, to make sure that your rights are respected and that your potential employer is doing things properly.