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English teacher interview tips

Looking for a new teaching job in China can be a full time job in itself so once you have secured an interview with a good school you will definitely want to make sure you are fully prepared and present yourself in the best possible light. The interview is a vitally important part of the recruitment process and there are a number of things you need to know in order to make sure everything goes smoothly.

I’ve interviewed over a hundred people for teaching jobs over the years and have a good idea of what schools are looking for in a candidate, the kind of questions asked in an interview and advice on what to avoid doing during the interview process. This article will provide plenty of interview tips for ESL teachers which will help you structure your interview answers.

For a good insight into the day to day life of an English teacher in China, have a read through these interviews with current teachers and also a look through our FAQ section.

Before the job interview

Obviously it is wise to read up about the company and find out all you can about their schools, teaching methods, course material, requirements and any other details you can. Not only does it show initiative and that you are genuinely interested in job you are interviewing for but having a good understanding of the company allows you to make a more informed decision on whether that particular school is right for you. If you are planning on flying halfway across the world to teach somewhere for a year, you want to make sure it’s with a school you will enjoy being at.

Write down all the questions you want to ask before the interview and have them ready. The interviewer will be expecting you to have plenty to ask so make it as long as you want!

Getting ready for a Skype interview

Most interviews are done via Skype and are usually video calls so make sure you have tested your microphone and headphones, have a webcam ready and a fast internet connection. With Skype you can set your profile picture too so make sure you have a professional one for the interview. Make sure you have added the schools Skype ID well ahead of time. Often there will be a time difference between the interviewer and candidate so make sure you have double checked that you have the right time, is a good site to use.

Skype Interview

It’s definitely worth finding a quiet, well lit place for the interview. Not long ago I interviewed someone who was in a noisy, outdoor internet café with his baby son on his lap and a beer in his hand. The baby was climbing all over him and I couldn’t hear half of what he was saying, not the best way to go after a new job.

Dress professionally, as you would for a face to face interview, so a shirt and tie for men and smart clothes for women.

Tips for during the interview

Most interviews with schools will last from 45 – 90 minutes and usually start with some small talk. The interview will usually be spilt into three sections, beginning with the interviewer asking you questions, then moving on to telling you about the job, school and city and finally answering any questions you have.

Generally the interviewer will be asking questions related to your previous teaching experience (or if you don’t have any yet, then about your TEFL course), your views on teaching, how you would teach specific language or grammar points, classroom management techniques, dealing with discipline issues (especially if you are interviewing for a young learner job), teaching materials you have made, lesson planning as well as questions not related to teaching such as how you work with a team and cultural sensitivity perhaps.

Teacher job interview

English First interviews are generally conducted by the Director of Studies (DoS) of the school that you are interviewing for and typically will be just one interview. Typical questions asked in a teaching interview are listed below.

Disney English will typically have one interview going into detail on the topics mentioned above but with an added emphasis on any previous drama, singing and performance experience. The interviewer will not necessarily be someone working in the school that you are interviewing for.

Questions asked in an English teacher job interview

Sample interview questions for recent TEFL course graduates

  • What did the course cover?
  • What did you find most interesting?
  • What did you find most challenging?
  • What was the most useful feedback you got from your tutor?
  • Did you make any of your own materials?
  • Which areas do you still need to improve on?

Sample interview questions for experienced teachers

  • Can you tell me more about your experience at (previous schools)?
  • What further training have you received? (workshops, seminars etc)
  • How do you deal with difficult students?
  • Are there any specific areas of your teaching you have been working on?
  • How do you motivate students?
  • What courses books have you used? Any preferences?
  • What is a good activity you have used recently?
  • What kind of feedback have you got from observed lessons?
  • Talk me through a lesson that went well
  • How would you teach the present perfect?
  • What are your goals for the future for your teaching?
  • How do you teach large group sizes?
  • Have you used interactive white boards before?
  • How do you feel about having an “English only” rule in the classrooms?
  • Language schools often use the ‘communicative approach’, what do you understand by that?
  • What are the main differences in the approach needed to teach young learners versus adults?
  • What are the main roles of a teacher?
  • What are the keys to effective learning?
  • What classroom management techniques do you use ensure your classes run smoothly?
  • What makes a good lesson plan?

Teacher job interview notes

Ideal qualities the school is looking for in a candidate

Don’t expect the interview to be overly formal, the school will be looking to get to know you and find out whether you would be a good fit at the school. Schools in China generally have a tight-knit teaching team and it is important that everyone gets along. The kind of qualities they will be looking for are of course a genuine enthusiasm and passion for the job and plenty of energy especially if the job is for teaching young learners.

Be clear about your reasons for wanting to live and teach abroad and make sure you can show that you will be able to cope with the challenges. Reliability and professionalism are important as is the ability to be flexible, open minded and culturally aware. The school will have Chinese as well as Western management, Chinese teaching assistants as well as a teachers room with teachers from all over the world, so it’s vital that you understand that different people have different ways of doing things.

The chance for you to ask questions in the interview

The interview is of course a chance for you to ask all the questions that you have and to really find out if it’s the right school for you. These will be both teaching and non teaching related questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about the contract, compensation package as well as general questions about the city and way of life. Some of the common questions to ask in a teacher interview are listed below:

Interview questions to ask about the job and school

  • What are the teaching resources like?
  • How many classes are taught per week?
  • How long are the classes and how many students in each class?
  • Are teaching assistants available?
  • What’s the technology like? Does your school have interactive white boards?
  • How much flexibility are teachers given on how they teach?
  • Are there any off-site classes or are they all taught in the school?

Interview questions to ask about the teachers accommodation

  • Is accommodation provided?
  • Is it furnished?
  • Am I responsible for paying the bills?
  • Will I be sharing with another teacher? Do I have the option of getting my own housing?
  • How far is it from the school?

Interview questions to ask about the city

  • What is the population?
  • What is there to do in the city?
  • Are there sports facilities / gym / supermarket near the school?
  • What kind of entertainment is there?
  • What are my options for learning Chinese?
  • What is the cost of living like?
  • Are there any products not available that I should bring with me?

Teaching in China - Interview Questions

You might also want to ask about flight allowances, bonuses, appraisals, training, admin duties, promotion opportunities and the visa application process.

It is also often a good idea to ask for the email address or Skype ID of one or two current teachers at the school to ask them about the day to day life of a teacher there. Most schools will have no problem arranging for you to speak with them and it is an excellent way to get an insight into the work life.

After the job interview

After the interview you can expect to hear from the school with a final result within 4 working days. The school may well be talking to a few other candidates but usually like to get a job offer out quickly to candidates they want to hire. A job offer will be sent via email and sometimes you will be given a deadline on when they expect an answer. Schools will usually send a sample contract along with the attachments (disciplinary procedure, accommodation policy, insurance policy etc) for you to have a read over however it is common in China for the teacher to not actually sign the contract until they arrive at the school and begin work. Sometimes schools will ask you to sign a “Letter of Intent” (LOI) which is in place of a contract and states that you have accepted the job and intend to teach at their school.

Once a job has been offered and accepted the school will begin the visa application process, which can take between three and five weeks. Once the visa is in your passport, the adventure begins and you can enter China where you will be met at the airport, taken to your apartment and then given a training and orientation course lasting around five days. To read some interviews with current teachers about their life inside and outside the classroom in China have a look at our Talking To Teachers and Articles section.

Teaching in China - Interview Tips

So for the interview, remember to be well prepared and relaxed. It is a chance for you to really show why you are the right person for the job, let your personality shine through and ask plenty of questions. If all goes well you will have a handful of offers and be in the position to pick and choose the very best job. To take the first step, put in an application here.

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