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Interviewing tips to help you land that TEFL job!


By obtaining a TEFL certificate, you may feel that the hard work of becoming a qualified TEFL teacher is over - especially with the thousands of jobs TEFL UK offers upon your course completion. However, when applying for a TEFL job, the next hurdle in your quest to teach English abroad or online is to efficiently sell yourself as a TEFL teacher when you are interviewed by future employers. Due to the strong possibility of employers not being in the same country as you, your interview will mostly likely take place over a virtual platform. Regardless, you’ll still need to treat this like any other interview - and for you to become the most outstanding candidate for the role you can be, you’ll need to follow a number of interview techniques to make sure that attaining your TEFL certificate wasn’t for nothing!

Job interview tips

To start with, a simple yet effective technique for any interview is to display a kind and genuine smile. It’s this authentic smile that can help make a great first impression to employers and convey a sense of professional confidence on your part. Your interviewers will also be putting themselves in the position of their (and potentially your) students, and by presenting them with a warm, friendly smile, they’ll know that you’ll have the ability to make people feel at ease. Bear in mind that you should regularly look straight into the camera and not just at the employer’s face on the computer screen – as all they’ll see is you looking down, which could mistakenly give them the first impression that you’re a timid/anxious individual. So, remember: just like a real in-person interview, eye contact is also key!

Aside from a winning smile, it’s also important to present yourself well during your interview. Therefore, avoid wearing casual tops, t-shirts or vests and instead dress professionally from head to toe – dress for success as they say and put your best foot forward! Also, whilst it’s tempting to check yourself out on the camera to see if your hair is in place etc, employers will be able to tell you’re doing this by lack of eye contact! You wouldn’t constantly look at yourself in the mirror at a regular interview, so why do it in a virtual one? To an employer, this can make you appear vain or disinterested. The other thing to remember is to ensure your surroundings are neat and tidy. Wherever you sit to take the interview, ensure the area around you looks tidy and organised. Show employers that you are an  organised person and will be an organised person in the classroom! 

Talk up your skills during your TEFL job interview

Another great thing about interviewing is that you’ll get to talk a lot about yourself – and who doesn’t like that! The employer/recruiter will be looking to see whether you’d be a good attribute to their team and will therefore ask a variety of professional questions (such as qualifications and experience) and more personal questions about you and your skills, reliability, adaptability. They want to know if you are likely to see out a full contract thousands of miles from home or will you disappear after your first pay-check?! Therefore, you need to make sure you get across clearly the reasons why you're the most suitable candidate to teach with the school. The same applies for online roles, demonstrate to the interviewer that you are tech savvy and able to communicate well through a virtual medium. To practice for this, you could compile a list of questions likely to be asked and rehearse your responses.

One commonly asked question is 'tell me a little about any teaching experience you've had', which gives employers a clearer idea about what classroom work you've done and how your teaching experience has been. Another will likely ask why you want to teach English? Keep in mind employers will look for answers that will demonstrate a passion for teaching and working with people. You might reply that your goal is to contribute to English education while earning an income or that you love working with young people – however, bringing up specific experiences and authentic answers will help present yourself as an out-the-box candidate!

Highlight any past experience as a TEFL teacher

If you have past TEFL teaching experience, the interviewer may ask you to talk more about that - in particular, how you helped learners progress and how that experience influenced you. This isn’t only to find out more about your TEFL teaching skills, but also to make sure you truly enjoy helping learners and are able to connect with students. You should take advantage of this question by sharing past moments that shine above all others and that reflect your skills as a qualified and dedicated English teacher.

Although you may not have any past TEFL experience, no need to worry! A different question may instead ask what related experience you have to TEFL, having never taught before. Does your life experience make you the ideal candidate for the position? Therefore, to answer this curveball of a question, especially if you’ve never set foot in a TEFL classroom, you’ll have to mention whatever life experiences you can recall that can apply to teaching English. You may even like to include examples from what you’ve learned from your TEFL course - especially, if for example, you’re required to explain the difference between the past simple and the present perfect etc. It can never hurt to demonstrate your mastery of English grammar during an interview!

Remember, as a newly-qualified teacher, you won’t be expected to know everything. If you’re unable answer a question, it will be better if you instead demonstrate how you would try to handle such situations than make up an answer. Good teachers are able to think on the spot and adapt when things don’t go to plan in the classroom, so your interviewer will appreciate you being able to demonstrate this skill. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself, as this will show future employers your keen interest in the role. There are plenty of things for you to ask about, but remember not to go overboard, as you don’t want to steal the interviewer's job! Some things to ask could be how big is the school, the number of teachers or students, or about the local region / community.

Speaking slowly and clearly is also important in a TEFL interview; and as it’s likely that English will be your interviewer’s second language; you’ll need to make sure they understand what you’re saying. By speaking clear, understandable English you will also show employers how suited you are to getting your points across to non native English speakers – as although many people can speak English well, someone with a strong command of the language, with natural fluency and awareness of how they're heard by others, is destined to become a brilliant TEFL teacher!

Do your homework and research the TEFL job, then share your knowledge

If it’s an online role you’re being interviewed for, but you’re unfamiliar with the platform that the interview will take place on, you should make sure to familiarise yourself with this beforehand. You may try video calling a friend before your interview to adjust any necessary settings and to further familiarize yourself with the platform and how it works. A reliable internet connection is also key, as nobody likes a connection dropping every few seconds, 'hello', 'hello, can you hear me?', 'hello' - definitely a no-no!

Another way to make a good first impression in the interview is to have some prior knowledge about the job and country you’re applying for. You may know plenty about this country already – for instance, if applying for a teaching job in Japan, you might be familiar with certain cultural aspects like Japan's anime, food, formal and elegant culture. Showing the interviewer that you have clear reasons for wanting to live and teach in the country will give them the confidence they need to go ahead with a positive decision on hiring you.

The day after the interview, it's always worth sending your interviewer an email, thanking them for their time and letting them know you enjoyed the meeting. However, you’ll want to do this more as a 'thank you check in' rather than hounding them for feedback.

These are just a handful of the many interview tips out there, but having some of these ideas in mind could prove to be decisive for landing that dream TEFL job. So, to sum up: remember to smile, dress well, do your research, feel prepared for any questions, familiarize yourself with the interview platform, speak slowly and clearly... and the best of luck!