Help with TEFL interviews

Help with TEFL interviews

Getting a first TEFL job or position

A phone interview is a common option for jobs and placements overseas. If you are in the UK and looking for a teaching position in Nigeria or Mexico, for example, you can expect a Skype or phone interview.

We all get nervous but your potential employer will be looking for certain things from you. Try to prepare for the following kind of questions:

Tell me about yourself...

Answer: they do not want your life history, or whether you prefer chips or a jacket potato. Be brief and conclude with your current status/intention. This is just an example:

'I am a 25 year old graduate from London. I trained as a nurse initially but I find my passion is in teaching. I have done some voluntary work with young people in my area, and I served overseas on a mission placement for 12 months with CMS. I am now TEFL qualified, have good communication skills and lots of enthusiasm, and I am looking for my first teaching role in (country).'


Why would you like to work with us?

Answer: They would like some reasuurance that this is not just a whim and that you are mature enough to handle a different environment and work place.  Mention any travelling you have done or languages you speak and do your homework on their organisation if possible. Mention any difficulties you have overcome in a service placement. Tell them if you have started learning their language as this will demonstrate your commitment.


What course books are you familiar with?

The most popular course book in Europe is Headway. Cutting Edge is also well known but there are several course books and it is possible that the school where you will be teaching uses different ones. Just mention the books you have come across and try to say something about them (i.e. colourful, well-presented, easy to use etc.). You could refer back to your Course Book review in Module 1 and mention this here. Our website has a bookshop if you want to refresh your memory for titles.


Do you think it is always necessary to correct spoken mistakes in the classroom?

Answer: I suggest no. It is important that students get it right when introducing a new structure but to keep correcting would impede fluency, so in communicative activities it might be an idea to keep a note of mistakes and correct afterwards.


What is your attitude to drilling for pronunciation? (i.e. repetition of words or phrases - a bit like school)

Answer: No right or wrong here usually. Just pick a line and stick to it. Often drilling is useful with a new structure.


How would you teach the difference between the Past Simple and Present Perfect?' or 'What are the 3 uses of the Present Perfect Simple?'

Answer: Brush up on the Present Perfect and other basic grammar points before the interview. The Christian TEFL course covers this in Module 4. Failing to answer this perfectly may not result in immediate rejection. Instead the interviewer may just want to know how you react 'thinking on your feet', so it is important to stay calm and not to panic. Explain what you might do in a classroom.


If the job you are applying for includes teaching business English, think about the following.

In what way does teaching 1-1 differ from teaching in groups?

Answer: With 1-1 you might be looking to tailor a course to specific needs. Expect some of the input material to come from the individual in order to ensure relevancy. With a group the teacher needs to ensure that all students ' needs are met.


What sort of things would you expect to have to teach in a business lesson?

Answer: Functional language needed for meetings, presentations, socialising, telephoning, the productive and receptive skills with a business slant. However, it's always important to know what students need to do in English in order to best meet those needs.


In the 1st lesson with a business man 1-1, what would you do?

Answer: Mention needs analysis, 'getting to know you' tasks to break the ice, information exchange to find out about the company and the student's motivation and level of English.


These are just a selection of questions and please remember that a potential employer may not ask any of the above. Also, they may be more interested in how professional, quick thinking and friendly you appear, rather than hearing all the right answers. But it is important that you appear clear, confident and friendly, so take your time in giving your responses. Remember, it is not so important what you say as how you say it.

If it is a face-to-face interview, dress for business but retain a friendly, approachable and flexible attitude.

What to ask them

Ask plenty of questions about your prospective employer's school and environment to show then that you seem interested.

About the school:
Ask them about typical students ages and levels and their business backgrounds (if relevant), student levels and things students typically struggle with. Also, books and resources available and what they look for in a teacher etc.

Do this before moving on to details pertaining to contractual terms. Never make your first questions about money, holidays or sick pay.

About the country:
If you are not in the country but having a telephone interview, then ask about the town or city the school is situated in. You may ask about the contract terms. These will be too lengthy to detail fully over the phone so feel free to ask whether any offer of employment made will be accompanied by a detailed contract for both parties to sign. Make sure that you get a copy of the contract faxed to you (in English) first, before you travel. Treat any vague promises not backed up with this commitment as suspicious.

Finally, tell them that you are interested in the position and ask what the next step is.

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What next?

If you would like further help with interviews, please email Louisa with your question - she is our TEFL expert when it comes to helping with CVs and interviews!

For further reading on TEFL interviews and finding jobs, try Teaching English Abroad, by Susan Griffith, published by Vacation work. Visit our bookshop page to buy this book.

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If you haven’t joined our community on Facebook, you’re missing out on half the fun!  Our Facebook page is the perfect place to ask your TEFL questions and get answers directly from Louisa. Join now

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