TEFL Interview Tips – Interviewing for Teaching English Abroad

This post is one of several on the topic of TEFL interviews from the ESL EFL Road Show hosted this month over at TEFL Tips.

Fortunately, interviewing for TEFL positions is usually a much more friendly and positive event than the typical demeaning and degrading interview in the Western world.

This isn’t going to be the typical list of questions and suggested generic responses that you will read elsewhere and that employers know are canned and don’t mean anything anyway, so . . . if that is what you are looking for, it ain’t here.  We have something MUCH more helpful for you here.  Some insight and understanding about what a school is looking for in a new teacher and how you might honestly fit into that without memorizing answers that just aren’t real for you.

WHY this Approach to a TEFL Interview?

I did a Google search this morning for “TEFL Interview Tips” and found lots of great information about meaningful and insightful questions your interviewers will ask you and how you might give back certain meaningful and insightful answers.  The problem is/was . . . of the 40-50-60-100+ questions I saw, only five or six had ever shown up in an interview with me when I was looking for a job.  And I have done a lot of interviewing over the  last twenty years as I enjoy “fishing” for jobs and checking to see if something might be different or special.

Here’s the Problem

Most people approach TEFL Interviews the same way they would an interview back in their home country.    Two problems with that.  First, many of us are hoping to escape that uncomfortable and degrading process in a new world overseas.  Second, more often than not your interviewer is not from that Western world and has distinctly different ideas about who they want to hire and why (and that’s a GOOD thing for you and me!).

Here’s the Solution

Take a deep breath and relax a moment and realize that the working world (yes, TEFL is work) overseas is significantly different from that in your home country.   Many cultures put great emphasis on harmony in the workplace.  Essentially: Can we all get along together?  And that is the #1 thing they want to know about you.  If we can’t get along – no need to hire you – even in the Western world, no?  Of course, they want to know you meet all the minimum qualifications for the job, but you wouldn’t land the interview if you didn’t.

So the first thing on your potential employer’s mind is if you will fit in.   Will you work well with her other employees.   The best way you can demonstrate that is with a good friendly attitude and a smile.  Those two things are far better than memorizing 40-50 good answers to tough interview questions.   Easier too.  I promise!  Smile even if it is a telephone interview – it does come across the line.

The second issue in your interviewer’s thinking is if their students will like you and if your interaction with them – in and out of the classroom – will be a positive experience for them.  These days even in the developing world and even in university and college settings, not to mention private language schools . . . students are seen as consumers/customers.   As drivers of the business.  Yes, even colleges and universities are businesses and need to please their customers.   And, doesn’t it just make sense that if your students like and enjoy you – they will be more motivated in your classroom?  I think so.

So what your interviewer wants to figure out in this case is if you are friendly and outgoing.  If you aren’t, you probably won’t be much of a good teacher anyway.  Believe it or not, you will actually see unfriendly teachers out in the TEFL world!  How do you address that issue?  Put on a big smile and a friendly attitude in your interview.

Big Smile and Friendly works for TEFL Interviews

I am not suggesting that you BS your way through an interview with a big friendly smile.  I am saying be genuinely friendly and it will likely take you where you want to go.  Most of the other stuff will take care of itself.

There is excellent research in the Business Management field that demonstrates that 80% of people fired from their jobs are fired for reasons NOT related to their skill level.  In other words, personal and social skills.

Can’t get along with others.  Is rude to customers.  Doesn’t bathe.  Comes to work smelling of booze.  It’s not just do you have the technical skills, but such research raises the question about if can you get along in the work place.

One more thing about TEFL Interviews

Yeah, don’t forget your appearance.

Koreans have a great saying: First impressions are everything.  They don’t say they are important – they say they are everything!

Much of the non-Western world puts great stock in grooming and appearance.  Arrive at your interview clean and sharp, well groomed and well dressed.  If sending a photo, make sure you are well groomed and look sharp in it.

Many newbies to TEFL view it as something of an informal occupation.  Some even show up for interviews in shorts and flip-flops!  Those are the ones you read about on the internet that just couldn’t find a job and often write how bad the TEFL world is . . .

TED’s Tips™ #1: There you have it: Be friendly, put on a big smile and dress and groom yourself immaculately.   Do those three simple and very easy things and you are already 90% of the way to being hired.  Yeah!  Isn’t that great!

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