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How Do I Prepare for a TEFL/TESOL Interview? 

Prepare for a job interview image

Many of you have decided to take that leap and become an online English teacher, or you may even be thinking about applying for teaching jobs abroad in the not-so-distant future. We understand how nerve-wracking it can be to prepare for a TEFL/TESOL interview, especially if you’re new to teaching! So, we’ll outline what to expect and share tips to help you excel at this important step ahead of you.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

What is the purpose of a TEFL/TESOL interview?

Whether it’s for an online teaching job or an in-person job, the purpose of the interview is essentially the same. The interviewer is observing your body language, analyzing how you speak and present yourself, and asking you questions – all in an effort to determine if you have the qualities they’re looking for in a teacher and if you’re a good fit for their school or company culture.

Read an article by Lorena, a tutoring business owner in Mexico, who describes the qualities she looks for when hiring teachers.

If hiring for an online teaching job, the organization also wants to assess factors such as your comfort level in front of the camera and how well you use technology. In fact, most online teaching companies will utilize their own platforms for the interview to give you an idea of what to expect as a teacher with them, and to give them a preview of whether you’re a good fit within their context.

What can I expect in a TEFL/TESOL interview?

Online teaching jobs

A few of the interview components unique to the hiring process for online teaching jobs are the interview demo, your virtual classroom background set-up, and a trial class via the company platform.

  • Pro Tip: If you’re new to teaching, consider taking a Practicum in Teaching English Online prior to your interview. This will give you confidence, train you how to teach in the virtual classroom, and set you apart from other applicants. You’ll be all set for your teaching demo and trial class!
Teaching Demo

Many online English companies will require a teaching demo to be submitted as a preliminary measure prior to an actual interview. This helps them have a visual of the skills that the teacher already possesses to determine if there is teaching potential. They’ll provide the instructions to create the demo, so follow them closely. Some of the requirements might be:

  • Introducing yourself
  • Having an inviting classroom background
  • Reading a book for two minutes
  • Sharing some of your props

When creating your demo, speak clearly, be energetic, and have a clean or bright background that would appeal to the students. Taking your time with the demo could mean being invited to the next step: the interview. Practice several times first, then record your best demo!

Creating a self intro video to teach English online

Teaching Background

When preparing for an online TEFL/TESOL interview, your online teaching background should be appealing to the age groups that you intend to teach. For instance, if you are applying to teach younger students (elementary/middle school age), it would be beneficial to have a colorful and fun background with plenty of props. Younger students LOVE color, characters, and props that encourage them to participate in class.

Get some ideas for online teaching props.

Trial class

Additionally, English companies may want to conduct a small trial class, with or without students, to have a visual of your teaching methodology. However, this is nothing to panic about! Again, speak clearly, be energetic, and be yourself! You’ve already been chosen for the interview, so they see something in you, and not all teachers are the same, which is what will make you stand out. Show what you know and give it your best shot.

In-person teaching jobs

The interview components unique to in-person interviews include more questions focused on your background to determine your adaptability and teaching philosophy and a more formal trial class.

Questions to gauge your adaptability

To prepare for an in-person TEFL/TESOL interview, especially for a job abroad, it’s important to share your interest not only in the school and the position but the host country. You should also be prepared to demonstrate how you have adapted to new situations in the past so that the employer can imagine you adapting there as well. Be ready for questions such as:

  • Tell me about a time you had to adapt to a new culture. What techniques did you use and how effective were they?
  • How would you handle the situation if you were suddenly asked to substitute for a class for which you were not prepared?
  • Why do you want to teach in (country)? What do you think will be the biggest adjustment?

Adaptability is extremely important, especially when teaching abroad. Teaching contracts usually require a 6- to 12-month commitment, and schools are seeking teachers who will embrace the local culture, complete the full teaching term, and possibly stay longer.

Questions about your teaching philosophy

A teaching philosophy covers your teaching style and core beliefs. Some related questions an interviewer might ask include:

Get advice from an expert: Lorena Siegel shares the TEFL interview questions she asks when hiring teachers for her tutoring business in Mexico.

Formal trial class

You may be asked to give an in-person trial class (either part of a lesson or an entire class) at the language school or center. You’ll be observed by another teacher and/or the head of the school or company’s hiring manager to see if you’re a good fit for their students.

What should I do to prepare for a TEFL/TESOL interview?

You’ve thought about answers to common interview questions and practiced possible answers. What else can you do to prepare?

Do your research

Next, research the school or online tutoring company you want to work for. Read about their history and what their work model is and pay close attention to their academic or corporate mission. This will give you a pretty good idea of what they are looking for in an English teacher. Likewise, think about how you can tie your own life experience to their goals by looking for concepts you can identify with. Write these ideas down and practice them either by yourself or with a friend. If you are able to match your thoughts and answers to the school’s or company’s core values, you will more than likely stand out over other candidates who are applying for the same job.

Practice speaking with confidence and conviction

The ability to speak English fluently is the first box to be checked off, and though accent-free English is no longer as important as it was 20 years ago, proper spoken and written grammar remains a significant characteristic that interviewers will be paying close attention to. Also, try to be clear and calm in your speech, but don’t fall into a monotonous drone. Finally, avoid over-using filler words and phrases, such as like, totally, awesome, and you know what I mean?

Refresh your memory with common ESL terms and acronyms prior to your interview.

For a meaningful lesson on self-awareness and speaking with confidence, especially the use of “like”  when speaking, watch the following video featuring the inspiring teacher and poet, Taylor Mali:

Prepare to present yourself in a professional manner

Just because the interview is via Zoom, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it just the same as an in-person interview.

  • Test your technology well ahead of time. This includes familiarizing yourself with the platform (Skype, Zoom, company platform).
  • Dress professionally, in a dress shirt and nice pants, for example. Keep distracting jewelry to a minimum and you may even want to cover any tattoos that are visible (some schools have policies on body art).
  • Set your computer up for the interview and then analyze the lighting and the background the employer will see. Keep it as clean as possible, avoiding distractions such as a cluttered background, ceiling fan, or pet dog who might run by during your interview.
  • Double-check your interview time, especially if you are interviewing online and there’s a significant time difference between where you and your interviewer are located.

What are the top questions to ask an interviewer in a TEFL/TESOL interview?

Not only is it important to be prepared for the interviewer’s questions but also to be prepared to ask some questions of your own! Do some research on the company to be fully aware of what they do and how they operate. You are helping the company reach its goals by providing a valuable service. However, you will want them to help you reach your professional goals as well. By doing your research and asking quality questions of your own, you can determine if the company is the best fit for you.

Here some possible questions to ask in an online or in-person TEFL/TESOL interview:

  • What are the students’ and parents’ typical goals?
  • Is there a requirement for how many classes I teach or how long I teach?
  • What strategies or policies does the school have in place for classroom management?
  • Are there professional development opportunities for teachers?

Need more inspiration? Read this next: Questions to Ask Before You Take a TEFL Job.   

When preparing for a TEFL/TESOL interview, do your research, be enthusiastic and professional, and wear your brightest smile. Once you get to the interview, you’re halfway there!

Get the inside scoop: We asked top online English teaching companies what qualities they look for (beyond the basics) when hiring new teachers.

Jalena Johnson, AKA "Lena," lives in South Carolina. She's a military veteran completing her doctorate in business administration. Lena has been teaching, homeschooling, and working with children for over 10 years. She's TEFL certified and currently teaching English online to students abroad. She enjoys traveling, writing, music, great food, and having tons of laughs! Her motto and life approach is "Teach from the heart."