Having been a language teacher for over twelve years, I have been to many interviews and been asked a great array of questions. Did I nail all my interviews? I’m not sure. But one thing is for sure: I go to job interviews feeling super confident and comfortable these days, because I’ve learnt a lot from my hits and misses. Here are my tips.
1. APPEAR UNFLAPPABLE (but approachable)
If you’re flappable, students will flap you. Needless to say, your future employers want someone who’s in control. I know you have those butterflies in your stomach, but try to channel all that adrenalin building up in you into appearing upbeat and confident. Even witty. Be the person everybody would like to hang out with. Be the teacher every student would love to learn from.
There are some simple tricks that will help you appear more confident. Don’t fidget, don’t fiddle with your pen. Speak clearly and, please, never ever cover your mouth while speaking. Keep eye contact with the interviewer and don’t forget to smile. We all love teachers who smile. Not like an idiot, of course, but more like a patient mother when explaining something to her child.
The non-verbal signals you’re sending out will play a crucial role in the outcome of the interview. Have you seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language? If not, click here. Seriously. It’s a must.
2. THINK ON YOUR FEET
Can you think on your feet? It’s one of the key elements of our profession and you will certainly be tested on it throughout the whole interview. As a teacher, you can’t be thrown off by a question, however crazy it may be. You must be able to deliver answers that will leave your students satisfied on the spot. Quick thinkers have clear advantage here. Those of you who like giving well-thought-out answers might just have to speed things up a little.
Teaching, in great part, is about making quick decisions and improvising. The interviewer will most certainly not appreciate it if you avoid answering a question or take too long to come up with something to say.
Ask a friend to prepare a (very long!) list of totally random questions for you (check out this website for inspiration) and let him or her fire away at you. If you do this a couple of times before the interview, you will pick up the pace.
3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
You’ll be asked some not-so-random questions as well which is good news, because you have a chance to prepare for these beforehand. However, beware of one thing: you might end up sounding like a robot if you’re trying to remember the words to a fantastically well-prepared answer. I think it’s enough to familiarize yourself with the most common questions and outline how you would respond to them. You can do so by jotting down some keywords or just keeping your ideas in your head. Here are some of the most common questions for you:
- Why did you choose this profession?
- What motivates you as a teacher?
- What are your strengths/ weaknesses as a teacher?
- What can go wrong in a lesson?
- What do you do when a lesson doesn’t go according to plan?
- Can you give us an example of a mistake you’ve learnt from?
- Can you give us an example of a successful lesson you’ve given?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What’s your teaching philosophy?
- Describe your teaching style.
- What makes a good teacher?
- How can you deal with a mixed-level class?
- How can you deal with a disruptive student?
- How can you deal with an inactive student?
- How can you encourage group work among students?
- How do you evaluate your students’ progress?
- What are your views on giving students homework?
- How can you deal with a parent who’s questioning your teaching abilities?
- Can you take criticism?
- What would your students say about you?
- What would your colleagues say about you?
- How would you teach Present Perfect/ the Second Conditional/ Past Continuous etc. if you only had a whiteboard in the classroom?
- What course books have you used so far?
- How do you evaluate course books?
- How did you supplement the course books you’ve used?
- How have you used technology in the classroom so far? Are you open to using new technologies?
- Have you done or participated in any workshops?
- Do you follow educational trends? Are there any you dislike?
I’m afraid I cannot give you sample answers to these questions, as I believe that they have to come from you and only you. Genuine answers and opinions will make a much better impression on the interviewers than the usual, commonplace responses. However, feel free to share your ideas or ask questions in the comment area below. If you’d like to improve your understanding of teaching methods, I suggest you follow and participate in discussions on professional forums. This is my favourite place to hang out:
ELT Professionals Around The World
Also, here’s a list of general interview questions with answers for you:
Questions and Answers to Prepare You for a Job Interview in English and Knock Them Out
4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK, PART TWO
Find out as much information as you can about the school. What coursebooks do they use? If they use one you’re not familiar with, try to get hold of a copy in your local library or on the Internet.
What’s their teaching philosophy? Do they use a particular method? Are you familiar with it? It may also be the right time to ask yourself whether you can identify with their philosophy and would feel comfortable working with them.
I hope you will find the above tips useful; it’s not always easy to get everything right in an interview. Teachers have to meet so many requirements. Be knowledgeable, but don’t be a know-it-all. Be friendly and empathetic, but strict enough to manage your classroom effectively. And above all, be honest. Admit it if you don’t know the answer to a question. Good teachers never cease to learn.