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What Are Some Great Tips to Help me Impress My Potential Employer During My Interview?

Eric Vargas

You are fresh out of your teacher training, you are now living in your new country, and as luck would have it you have also gotten called for your first interview. As a new teacher you will realize that interviews for teaching jobs will be very unpredictable. You may go to an interview where the only thing asked of you is “do you enjoy teaching?” and “when can you start?” Some will even take an entirely different approach and ask you everything from the year and month you finished your TEFL/TESOL course to the reason why you chose to be a teacher. Sometimes teaching interviews can really surprise you and it is a smart idea to be completely prepared.

The best way to handle teaching interviews is to have a clear idea of what you will say and how you will present yourself. Remember that during interviews it is OK to brag, this is the moment where you are free to highlight your strengths and positive points in order to show your potential employer that you are perfect for the teaching position. In order to brain storm some ideas here are some commonly asked questions and a few answers which can inspire you to give an impressive response during your interviews:

1) “What is your biggest weakness?” This is one of those questions which makes many teachers, or people in general, feel somewhat awkward. The way you answer this question can either hurt you or help you, but remember that this question should not be answered in a literal sense. We do not want to tell our potential employer that we are sometimes procrastinators or that we tend to arrive late once or twice a week. Try to give an honest and realistic response; many times listing a weakness that is not directly related to teaching can serve as a response. You can say “I have a lot of trouble focusing in a cubicle or office setting which is why I enjoy interacting with others in a class.” You can even talk about past weaknesses and how you conquered them, saying something along the lines of “Right now it is hard to say since I’m always trying to improve myself, last year I did have a very big weakness and I dealt with it by…” By doing this you are showing your potential employer that you are willing to grow and learn from your mistakes. Another great option is simply turning a positive aspect of yourself into a negative one, you could say something like “Sometimes I can be a workaholic and it takes a while to disconnect myself from work.” If you choose to give a response like this, be prepared to elaborate on why you think this is a weakness.

2) “What made you want to be become a teacher?” This question is also a bit difficult to answer because it can be a bit personal. Many times interviewers really want to know why for example, your CV states that you left your well-paying job at a bank in order to work as a teacher and get paid a much lower salary. I feel that when this question is asked the best response can be told through a story. Share a brief personal story which explains why you decided to take this path. You can talk about a teacher in high school who was a role model to you or perhaps a family member who teaches who inspired you to follow them in their footsteps. Make sure to be creative and avoid giving a response like “I want to teach for 6 months and gain some teaching experience before I go back home.” Or even “I always wanted to experiment with teaching and I decided that now is the time to try it for some time.” You do not want to give the impression that you will not be in it for the long run or that this is just a passing interest. If you are going to be living in a country for a short period of time feel free to say it, but do not use it as your main reason for why you have decided to teach.

Many times interviewers really want to know why for example, your CV states that you left your well-paying job at a bank in order to work as a teacher and get paid a much lower salary.

3) “What did you learn from your TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course?”
Many of us have completely forgotten what we learned in our teaching course or perhaps we finished the course feeling like it was a basic review of grammar and a vague “how to” guide on giving a class. Many experienced teachers will agree that most of their skills were acquired through work experience, but if you feel your teaching course did not provide you with enough useful information try to hold back on saying this. From personal experience I would recommend mentioning the more technical things that you may have learned during this course. Talk about how you learned to construct great lesson plans, manage a large class, or how to explain certain grammar structures.

4) How do you deal with students who misbehave?
This question is often asked in order to see if you have a proper teaching methodology or if you have the necessary classroom management skills. For obvious reasons you do not want to say that you will yell at the student or give them a slap on the hand with a ruler. What would make a perfect answer is listing some classroom management techniques such as giving warnings, removing privileges from the student, and taking follow up action. Something along the lines of “I would call attention to the student and tell them that they are breaking one of my class rules and issue them a warning. If the behavior continues I will take action and issue a time out or not allow them to participate in the class activity/game for that day.”

Aside from the common questions many teachers are asked during an interview, there are other things that teachers should consider doing before meeting with their potential employer. Make sure to go to your interview with a copy of your CV, your teaching certificate, letters of recommendation, and any degrees or awards that you may have. If you have some experience or if you have taken part in any teaching internships make sure to bring proof of that as well; sample lessons plans, graded assignments, or pictures of you with former students (if you have experience) are also great things to bring along. Although these things are not completely necessary, they do make you look good and it can give the impression that you are well organized and enjoy what you do.

For obvious reasons it is also recommended that you dress appropriately. I will not go into much detail here since dress codes can vary from country to country. Nonetheless I believe that dressing in “business casual” clothing is always the best option.

As with any job interview, go about it in the same way that you would in your home country, but be open to some slight differences. Expect to give a sample class on the spot but also expect to simply be asked one or two questions and be hired. Remember to give positive information about yourself and be strong and believable with your answers. Since you are basically selling yourself be sure to give details and do not be afraid to brag.

About the author

Eric is an American expat currently living in Buenos Aires Argentina. When he isn’t working on his upcoming book or giving classes to his ESL students he enjoys listening to Spanish Alternative rock, painting, and exploring the Buenos Aires nightlife.