All told, I have conducted around one thousand different TEFL interviews over the last few years. It was one of the major duties of my role to find the right people for the teaching positions that we had on offer. This proved to be difficult at first, sorting out who was a professional and who was just trying to support a prolonged holiday, but eventually, I became very good at it.
Beyond that, I myself have successfully interviewed for TEFL employment in many cities around the world. Let me share with you what I’ve learned from being on both sides of the table. Let’s take a look at the steps Â to get an interview, what should take place at the interview itself and a few other tips to help you get the job you want–and to ensure that it really is the job that you want.
Getting the Interview
There are seemingly countless TEFL jobs on offer all over the world. One of the most difficult things to do when job hunting is to find the right one for you. There are a number of good websites that post TEFL jobs: TEFL Express Jobs (https://www.teflexpress.co.uk/tefl-jobs/tefl-jobs-board), tefl.com, eslcafe.com, esljobfeed.com.
These are good, but it’s usually better to find a job site that is centered around the city or country where you want to teach. Not only that, but using social media outlets like Facebook is also a good way to find a job. Find a community based where you want to teach, and look for job postings on the feed or try and find good local sites through that community. Every city is slightly different with the job hunt; ask those who are already in the game.
Another successful approach is to contact the company directly. If you do a minimal amount of research, you’ll be able to find out who the major TEFL providers are in the city where you want to teach. Visit their site and try to find a “recruitment” tab. If the site isn’t in English, do your best to find a contact and email them a short query letter stating your interest in working for their company. Then, try working with the HR department or representative directly.
If you are more eager than that, and you are already in the city where you’d like to find employment, you could certainly try the Lone Ranger approach. This is the term that an associate, who worked for the HR department in my last company, came up with to describe the people who would just show up in his office with a CV. I’d recommend calling first, but this approach does show that 1) you’re eager 2) you’re there 3) you’ll obviously be able to get to work (more of a problem for some people than you may realize).
I’m not going to go into great detail about how to write a good TEFL CV in this post, but suffice it to say that you should keep both your CV and your cover letter professional and relevant. I can’t stress the importance of the second point enough. If you have ANY experience related to teaching or that would give you an advantage in the field of teaching that you are applying for list it clearly on the CV and talk about how it is relevant in the cover letter. For example, if you want to teach young learners, list any experience that you have working with children regardless of the context. If you want to teach business English, list your own business experience (it is extremely useful to have professional experience when dealing with corporate clients).
At the Interview
Dress the part. I have made instant decisions based on someone showing up in cargo shorts and a t-shirt. You should dress for the interview, at least, in the same fashion as you would for a class. The bare minimum, for men, is to wear close toed shoes (not trainers), slacks and a button down collared shirt. A tie wouldn’t hurt and in some cases is required when working for certain companies. Better to be safe than to miss out on an opportunity.
For women, the rules are a bit more lax, but you should still look professional. Wear what you might wear before meeting a romantic partner’s parents for the first time.
Come into the room prepared. They should already have your CV at this point and have at least taken a cursory look at it. Still, the first question will almost definitely be about your teaching experience or your qualifications. If you don’t have a lot or any experience, talk about your course and how you’ve been preparing yourself for the classroom.
You’re also likely to be asked a series of teaching questions. It’s a good idea to be prepared with answers before this happens. Click on the box below to download questions that I would always ask applicants and what I was looking for from each answer.
Try to keep a calm and friendly demeanor throughout the interview. Of course, you’re going to be nervous, but remember that you are being hired to talk to people as the primary part of your job description. If you can’t engage those interviewing you with a bit of chit chat, it won’t look good. If you have good answers prepared, it will help you to feel more at ease.
The interview is also a good chance for you to get questions answered about the teaching post. Ask about the types of classes you’ll be teaching and the size of the classes. Ask about the resources available to you and what kind of professional development they offer. These are the sort of questions that will not only let you know if you’re a good fit for the position but will also indicate that you intend to take the job seriously. Don’t ask about money. It’s not always a problem, but it is tacky. You should, based on information from the job post already have a guess about this anyway. If you do feel the need to ask, do so after you’ve asked questions about the teaching conditions. Avoid appearing like someone who is only there to make a quick buck with a minimal amount of effort.
The Online Interview
These happen a lot in the TEFL industry for obvious reasons. I remember having to do a Skype call in Santiago, Chile at a sleazy internet cafe where people were literally having a brawl outside. The sound of breaking glass was quite audible. Though I did get the position, don’t make the same mistake I did. Find a reliable internet connection at a quiet location. Obviously, if it’s possible, your home would be ideal.
Sometimes, those conducting online interviews want will want to use video, other times it will simply be like a phone call. Be prepared by dressing as if it were going to be an in-person interview. Remember also that it is just as awkward for the person interviewing you to be conducting the interview online. Another tip, which helps a lot in these scenarios, is to be patient. Leave a pause after their question so that you are sure they are finished talking. Make even more of an effort to speak clearly and loudly.
After the Interview
Once the interview is complete, there is nothing left to do but sit and wait…or is there. Either later that day or the next day, a nice touch is to send a quick email to the interviewers thanking them for their time and consideration. This is also a good time to include some information that you may have left out during the interview itself. It also reminds these busy individuals that you exist. Don’t just sit around waiting. Look for other jobs. It’s good to have a couple of offers to consider and there’s no harm in getting more interview experience.
That said, when you receive an actual job offer, don’t wait too long. Just as there are many TEFL jobs out there, there are also many TEFL teachers. If you sit on an offer too long, you may find that it no longer exists. After receiving an offer, if you still need time to think, let the employers know that you will give them an answer by the end of the week. This will give you a little leeway to make sure this is what you want to do.
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to nail the interview is preparation. Click on the button below for a free list of interview questions that I would always ask, and the types of responses that I was looking for.