The 15 Most Asked Questions in a TEFL Interview
Learning how to answer common questions in an ESL interview is easy if you’ve researched and prepared in advance, even if you’ve never had a formal job interview before.
Before we head into answering the top 15 most asked questions in a TEFL interview, there are a few things to check off your to-do list before interviewing:
- Find a quiet and well lit spot for your interview. Test your Skype connection, your earphones and your microphone before you start your interview.
- Be online 15 minutes before your interview starts.
- Make sure you dress to impress.
- Non-verbal communication is important: Smile, make eye contact, and remember that your body language says as much about you as your words do.
- Remember that you must communicate well. Answer your questions efficiently and effectively.
- Make sure you answer the questions you’re being asked and don’t stray off on other subjects.
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The 15 Most Common ESL Interview Questions
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
This is an icebreaker question that gives you the opportunity to sell yourself.
Be positive and tell the interviewer about your good points, especially the parts of your personality that make you a good teacher. Explain why you are interested in moving abroad to teach and focus on the care and attention you will give to your new job. You can also talk about previous travels, previous work experience, or talk about your personality and some of your favorite hobbies.
2. What do you know about the country you are moving to and why do you want to teach there?
Make sure you have done your homework in advance and you’ve researched the country you plan on teaching in.
Mention places you’d like to see, but don’t spend too much time talking about travel. You want to touch on what you know about the country you’re planning on teaching in, but never leave the interviewer with the overall impression that your number one reason for moving abroad is to travel.
If you’ve been sent information in advance, make sure you’ve read it.
3. What kind of teaching experience do you have?
This is the type of question that you can expand on, even if you don’t have teaching experience. Babysitting experience, summer camp experience, or any other kind of experience that has had you working with kids or adults can be useful in an ESL job interview. You can also talk about helping your siblings if you have nothing else to fall back on for teaching experience.
4. Have you ever lived abroad before or have you been exposed to different cultures through travel?
Obviously the best answer to this question is that you’ve lived abroad or studied abroad, but if you haven't and need to talk solely about travel, make sure you mention where you have traveled and some of the observations you made while traveling.
Your interviewer will want to know that you are somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of moving through another country.
5. Let’s say you’d like to order some food or buy train tickets, but you don’t speak the language yet. How would you tackle these tasks during your first months abroad?
Most interviewers will ask something like this to determine what you’re like in certain situations. This is your opportunity to be creative and talk about how you might accomplish tasks in a different language. Your answer will also illustrate that you understand what your own students might be going through in your own classroom.
6. What do you hope to learn from your year of teaching abroad?
This question depends on your goals for your year abroad. You’ll want to base your answer on your motivation to teach. Do not use this question as an opportunity to talk about traveling to other places or learning the local language. Talk about how you want to improve your teaching skills with a certain age group or how you want to develop your professional teaching skills.
7. What is your favorite age range to teach and why?
Be specific about which age groups you love to work with, whether they bolster your creativity as a teacher, and why you feel that the age group you are interested in would be fulfilling to teach.
You can always express that you’re interested in all age groups if you genuinely don’t mind who you teach, but be specific about any favorite age groups. If young learners make you happy because they give you an overall feeling of satisfaction by watching their learning skills develop, then say so.
8. What would you say are the most important qualities an ESL teacher needs to have?
There are many answers to choose from for this question, but most schools will want to hear a mix of the following: Good communication skills with a clear and concise voice, time management skills in class, creativity, passion for working with young learners or adults, patience for new language learners and a sense of humor are all important qualities to mention in your interview.
9. What is your greatest strength as a teacher? What can your new school expect of you?
This is important because your school will want to know what you excel at or what you think you do best. Whether it’s being creative or being adaptable or knowing how to manage your time in class, be ready to impress your recruiter or interviewer with at least one strength that highlights your strengths as a teacher.
10. How would you describe your teaching style?
Most teachers have a good idea of how to answer this question, especially because they are prepared for it in their TEFL course. The best way to answer this question is to review the advertisement for the job and focus on the qualities mentioned in the job description. If they ask for creative and positive teachers, mention you’re creative and positive and then give them personal examples.
11. How would you go about teaching a specific lesson to a group of young learners?
It’s not uncommon for interviewers to ask how you’d teach a specific lesson to a group of kids at a certain age level. For example, you might be asked how you’d go about teaching ‘professions’ or ‘going to the store’ to a group of five-year-olds. Try not to fall back on using flashcards in class to teach words or sentence patterns. Interviewers hear this all the time. It’s not an original idea and will not gain you any points in your interview.
Prepare a mini lesson in advance that you can adapt on the spot in your interview.
12. How do you maintain discipline and control in your classroom? How do you handle kids with behavioral issues?
In many ways, this question can be one of the most important parts of the interview because schools will want to know that you know how to handle a group of 15 to 20 five-year-olds in class.
There is bound to be one student in your class that acts out, and it’s impossible to keep an eye on all students at all times.
Draw on your experience and explain effective ways that you’ve used for classroom management in the past. From pairing students together to finding the root cause of their behavior, there are many ways to address this question.
Talk about your lesson plans and how they are designed to keep students busy, engaged, and focused on the lesson. Make sure to ask about the school’s policy for dealing with students that are behaving badly in class.
13. How do you deal with kids that learn at different rates to other students in class?
Schools will often create classes for students of the same age, but they don’t often take into consideration that the students can have a range of English speaking abilities.
Your TEFL course should prepare you for this question, but an easy way to answer it is to match students with poor English speaking abilities with a student who is more advanced. Your advanced student will love the opportunity to be a helper, and your student who is having challenges in the classroom will receive extra attention from a new friend.
14. How proficient are you with technology in your classroom?
It’s important to stress that you are proficient in technology in the classroom IF you have these skills. If you don’t, don’t try to sell yourself on a position that you might not be able to handle.
If you are technologically proficient, talk about the experiences you’ve had using audio and visual aids in your classroom and mention whether or not you are familiar with using a smart board.
Be sure to mention using hardware such as tablets and computers, specific software apps, and online education sites to strengthen your lesson plans. Use successful examples from past experience.
Ask your school what kind of technology they use in their classrooms so you can be prepared to teach there.
15. Do you have any questions?
The worst thing you can say to this question is that you have no questions.
Interviewers will cover a range of topics, but try to have at least one question to ask your interviewer to show your interest in this position. You can always ask about working environments, teaching resources, the kind of responsibilities you should prepare for, what managers are like in the country you’d like to teach in, or what to expect about a curriculum to follow. These sorts of questions generally aren’t covered in an interview, but it gives you a chance to stand out and let your interviewer know that you are the perfect teacher for their school.
Now you are ready for your adventure!
A little anxiety is normal when interviewing for an ESL position, but it’s all part of the journey. Being well prepared for your interview is key to landing your dream job.
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