Six Tips on Getting To and Through your first TESOL Teacher Interview

Getting an interview set up for a TESOL teaching position can be difficult enough. Getting through the interview, on the other hand, can be either a delight or a disaster! I'd like to offer prospective TESOL teachers some basic tips on surviving the interview.

1. It's obvious: arrive on time!

Arriving on time or early to an interview is one of the first signs of whether a teacher is responsible or not. So always, always leave as much extra time as possible to get to your destination. Check the address before you leave, find it on a map, ask someone where it is. And always double check your answer.

If you are traveling in the city, it's easier to make connections but also easier to miss them as unexpected events can and DO happen. Allow extra hassle time, whether you are traveling across New York, Paris, or Tokyo. Why? Well, if you show that you can turn up on time to an interview, I'll likely believe that you can turn up on time to class and not keep students waiting.

Take a map of the area with you; or set up your phone with the route on Google Maps; write down the address in English and in the local language so if you get lost, you can at least show someone where you want to go; and ALWAYS take the telephone number and contact information of the company so you can get additional help or contact them if you really get stuck. (It does happen!).

2. Wear smart clothes: They make you look good and feel good!

Whatever the job actually involves, it's always a smart decision to turn up to your interview smartly dressed. Nothing signals disinterest, disrespect and disgust faster than a poorly dressed interviewee. And in some countries, this is a huge mistake. Fashion conscious countries will likely penalize you even more than more easy going countries.

So always research what is considered typical business or interview attire in your area of the world. And follow it. The hippy look may be okay in Islington or Idaho, but it won't get you far in Pusan, Beijing or Manila.

3. Be prepared: Do your research, Prepare your Pitch!

Be prepared to show and discuss your qualifications, experience, and motivation to teach English. Listen thoughtfully to the interviewers questions, give considered answers to questions, and always carry your basic information with you: resume (or CV), degree copies (or transcripts), additional qualifications, referees, teaching demo (if you have one), samples of any lessons you've done, etc.

An interview is both your chance to shine and your chance to show that you can do the work offered. There are standard questions that are asked in almost all interviews: prepare your answers to them and believe them!

4. Cultural differences: New York ain't Shanghai!

In some countries, it is illegal to ask interviewee's ages; in others, it is de rigeuer. Find out what business etiquette you are expected to follow when you go into the meeting room. Do you shake hands? Bow? Do you proffer your business card or not? Do you stand or sit?

Also, interviewers are likely more familiar meeting foreigners, and so may be more tolerant of cultural errors on your part. Do not however assume that this is license to do whatever you like. If you are in doubt about a particular cultural difference, ask a friendly local person to help you. Most will make the effort to help you understand local mores.

5. Money, Money, Money

In some countries, asking about money at the first interview will be considered acceptable.  In fact, it may be amongst one of the first things talked about. In other places, talking about money at the outset is likely to cause huge offense and you will not find yourself invited for a second level interview.

So do your research and find out the rates typical for a job with your experience, at what point it is okay to discuss salary requirements, and HOW to do it with embarrassing your interviewer, or worse, yourself.

6. Teaching Demos

In many cases, you will likely find that you have to do a teaching demo. Quite why this is, I'm not sure. In my own hiring, I've used demos to select teachers. It can be effective if you can get a 'real' class together for the meeting. If not, you will likely be doing just peer teaching which is lots less fun. You may even have time to prepare a demo before the actual day; in other cases, you may only have a short time.

Either way, it's a good idea to draft out some ideas for a couple of demos of teaching, so at least you have something to fall back on. Always find out what kind of students, age group, background, etc. they are likely to be BEFORE you prepare the demo.

These six tips are pretty helpful if you are looking for a TESOL position anywhere in the world.


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