8 TEFL Interview Questions to Ask Before You Say Yes to the JobBy Jennifer Collis
April 26, 2021
When it comes to TEFL interview questions, it’s important to not only consider the questions interviewers may ask you but the questions that you want to ask them! The interview is your chance to get to know the language school or online company, and asking two or three good questions shows employers that you’re truly interested in the job and that you’re professional. Below are some ideas for useful questions that you can ask TEFL schools.
1. Tell me about your school’s curriculum.
This is one of the most important questions to ask because if a language center or online company doesn’t have a structured curriculum for you to follow or an appropriate textbook with varying levels for all students, you will spend hours after class creating English lessons from thin air.
For schools that do have a curriculum in place, some require strict adherence to it, which means teachers have little autonomy. Some teachers like this (less work for them!) while other teachers feel it stifles their creativity in class. If this is important to you, ask the school how much teachers are permitted to stray from the book or digital lesson, such as by using outside materials, playing educational games, or going to the computer lab to use learning software.
2. What teaching resources are available?
Depending on where you teach, your school may or may not have the types of teaching resources and equipment that are standard back home. Ideally, the school should have a library of teaching-related books, such as books of EFL games/lesson plans, grammar reference books, and books about teaching methodology. It’s also important to know if the school has photocopiers and a computer lab and if you’ll have access to audiovisual equipment like TVs/DVD players, projectors, or even smartboards.
If you’re teaching English online, you’ll want to know what sort of platform the company uses. Usually, major online English companies have their own teaching platform with tools like a digital whiteboard, chat box, and mic mute/camera off buttons. Others will require you to use an outside platform like Skype or Zoom. Ask about what features the chosen platform provides, like video graphics/filters, video drag and drop functions, etc.
3. How many students will I teach and what are their levels?
In K-12 schools, you will simply teach children by grade, but in language centers or online schools where students can be adults or children of all levels, students must be evaluated by the school and placed into appropriate classes (such as beginner, intermediate, or advanced). Most schools will do this by a combination of written and verbal evaluations. It’s a red flag if a school does not have an established placement system for students. Lack of a solid placement system also means your classes will be a mix of student levels, making teaching more challenging.
Knowing how many students you’ll have in each class is also important. Teaching one-on-one vs. group online English classes or teaching an in-person class of five students vs. 30 students poses different benefits and challenges. How many students you’ll have to manage is an important factor to consider when choosing a job.
4. How many English teachers are there at the school?
Finding out more about how many teachers you will work with will give you an idea of the amount of professional and social support you can expect. An online company managing thousands of teachers may not offer as much personalized support and feedback as, say, a small school with five teachers. If you’re teaching English abroad, you can also ask how many local vs. foreign teachers there are. Other foreign teachers means perhaps others in the same boat as you, learning the local language, etc. And mostly local teachers means a greater opportunity for cultural immersion.
5. Are there senior staff members/mentors to guide new teachers?
This is a good question for new teachers to ask. You’ll want to have more experienced senior teachers to whom you can go with questions as you get acquainted with the school and students. Most English teaching centers pair new teachers up with a mentor, or provide a “go-to” person, such as a department head or school coordinator, for your day-to-day questions.
Online English schools often assign new teachers a mentor who can answer questions or provide feedback on classes. Some online companies even have policies in place so that your classes are automatically reviewed ever so often and you’re told what you’re doing well and what you need to improve.
6. Are there professional development opportunities?
Most reputable schools, language centers, and online companies offer chances for teachers to share ideas and learn. This may include workshops on teaching skills like classroom management, using technology, or teaching grammar. Ask what some of their recent training sessions have focused on and how often these opportunities arise. Some schools also sponsor teachers to go to international TEFL/TESOL conferences or participate in TEFL/TESOL special interest groups.
Professional development for ESL teachers can also take the form of added responsibilities. Ask whether or not teachers can take on secondary roles later on. For example, many schools abroad and online offer teachers the opportunity to become mentors, teacher trainers, teacher or student recruiters, or social media managers on the side for extra pay once they’ve taught at the school for a while.
7. What additional duties will I have?
It’s a good idea to find out what other tasks, besides teaching, your job will entail. Are you required to attend regular staff meetings? Will you need to submit online student feedback after each lesson? Do you have to be the advisor of a student club? Find out exactly how much time you need to commit to the job outside of the classroom.
8. Can I renew my contract?
Contract lengths between schools vary. Many online ESL companies offer independent contractor agreements that last about six months whereas language schools abroad may offer contracts that last one to two years. It’s important to ask whether you can renew your contract once it ends and, if so, how many times. Most online schools allow an indefinite number of contract renewals, but language centers abroad may or may not offer renewals at all.