There a great deal of websites giving endless lists of typical questions and best vs worst answers to them, so I don’t want to spend time going through these.

Let me mention only a few mistakes that should occur rarely to never:

  1. Be longwinded with strengths but mention no weaknesses.

You need to know yourself and this means that you know what you need or would like to improve on. This can be related to the language (‘I’d like to brush up on my grammar knowledge’) or your job moral (‘I sometimes fall behind with the reports’) or your personality (‘I should express criticism more directly, I often don’t get through to my students’). We all have weaknesses, the thing is that you need to be aware of them.

The secret is that if you mention the same weaknesses as your reference person does, your weakness might get you the job. It shows that you are able to assess yourself and also your students.

2. If you don’t know, be at least sorry about it

What does it mean?

  • How many conditionals are there in English?
  • I can’t recall it now.
  • What are phrasal verbs.
  • Well, they sound familiar, but I pass.
  • What do you do if a student falls behind the class?
  • I’ve never had this problem.

Well, this candidate communicates complete incompetence. The worst is if you say: ‘I was never asked this question before.’ or ‘In my previous school we didn’t have to know grammar’. Being devastated is not better either. Keep cool.

Even the most experienced teacher gets hard questions daily, but they take the chance to improve.

If you don’t know the answer, apologize and promise to find out more about the black holes in your knowledge. Unexperienced teachers might get a chance if they write an email to the interviewer afterwards, giving answers to the questions they couldn’t answer at the interview. It shows devotion and the willingness to learn about the job.

3. ‘I am a native speaker, I don’t know grammar.’

This is the world-famous slogan of all native-speaker-but-no-teacher colleagues. You don’t need to be a grammar lexicon, but even if you have been following the communicative methodology, you must be aware of basic grammar terms (what is a verb, what does the English tense system look like, how to form an adverb of manner, what is the difference between first and second conditional, etc.). If not this, what would be then a difference between an English teacher and an English-speaking mechanic?

So even before the interview, start studying the grammar of your native language. Michael Swan has written great books for native English teachers, but you can also start from the student side and open up Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use or just browse through the Grammar Bank/Reference of any widely used course book (New Headway, New English File, etc.).

4. Do you know who you are talking to?

Before any job interview, there is must: type in the school’s name into Google and find out something about the place where you would like to go to. Familiarize a bit about the country, read other teacher colleagues’ blogs about the place. Have it clear what type courses the school you are applying to offers. It might be essential later. Take notes, if the amount of new information is overwhelming, but try not to mix two concurrent language schools or show absolute ignorance about the place. It might be disadvantageous since some places welcome new teachers with a real culture shock if you are unprepared (50 students in a classroom, schools without a white- or blackboard, staff with very poor English, etc.).

Be also clear about what you expect from the school:

  • how many hours are you able and willing to teach per day?
  • do you fancy working late in the evening or at weekends?
  • would you like to live alone or share accommodation?
  • are you ok with travelling to companies and schools?
  • do you want to teach young learners?
  • can you handle a country whose language you don’t speak?
  • etc.

All these are once more of relevance at the end of the interview, when the interviewer is going to ask you if you have any questions. One of the things they evaluate afterwards is whether the candidate could ask useful and relevant questions.

Finally, should you ask about the pay?

We are educated not to touch the delicate topic of financial issues. Nevertheless, you are applying for a job which pays your bills. So this is the situation, where you should ask about the pay, unless the recruiter has already explained it. I would seriously mistrust institutes that don’t want to talk about money. In addition to your net pay, ask for the costs of living (a dinner in a restaurant, rent, bills, internet costs) and about the possibility of making extra hours (and their payment). Ask about holidays, extra-curriculum duties, means of transport, potential difficulties, etc.

All these questions make your interviewer understand that you want to know what you are letting yourself in and that you prepare. Both valuable in a teacher.


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