Everyone has to go through it at some point; the inevitable moment in the application process where you sit down with your potential future employers and sell yourself as best you can. This can be a daunting prospect for the ill-prepared and inexperienced. It’s no different in the TEFL world. So, how do you make sure you come out on top? The simple answer is: be prepared and get some practice!
Here are a few tips on how to plan your interview to a tee.
1. Research the school/employer
You should already have an idea of who the school/employer is since you did apply to their job. It’s a good idea, however, to research deeper; learn about their mission statement, who they are, and random snippets of information. Showing off your knowledge of the company (when appropriate) will impress your interviewers and illustrate you’re not afraid to put in a little extra for good results.
2. Analyse the job role and prepare answers
Again, you should have a basic idea of the job you applied to do – otherwise, you may be in a bit of trouble. Yet, it doesn’t hurt to further read into what the job requires. Look at the advertisement and the application you sent in. What do both mention? Highlight key skills, experiences etc. to mold your answers to fit the sort of character your interviewers are looking for.
3. Expect the unexpected
TEFL is an unpredictable, fluid industry where the norms are always changing. That’s why you should prepare for anything in the interview. Your interviewers may request a mock lesson on the spot. More likely, they’ll ask for a recording of you pretending to teach. Either way, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to form some sort of lesson plan and record yourself acting said plan. If they don’t ask for it you could even offer to show-off your teaching abilities to strengthen your interview performance.
In reality, anything could happen: you might become stuck in traffic, your clothes may get stained, you might even lose your way there. Give yourself time and a plan B; leave your house earlier to beat rush-hour; bring a spare change of clothes; sort out directions before heading, or at least take along a map or sat-nav.
4. Dress appropriately
This should be common sense. Don’t wear your comfy Sunday dressing gown, but also don’t overdo it – a tuxedo is not needed. Aim for something along the lines of smart shoes/low heeled pumps, a well-ironed white shirt and tie, black trousers/skirt, and a suit jacket (although that last bit’s not totally necessary). First impressions count and you want to look like you care about this job.
5. Confirm time and date
As soon as you get your interview confirmation, you should make a mental note the time and place. If you haven’t done that and you somehow forget all these very crucial details, it’s best to phone back and ask. Mark on a calendar, real or digital, once you’ve made certain. Contact the interviewees ahead of time to double-check, if they haven’t already done so.
6. Practice makes perfect
It may seem a little bit cliché, but it still holds true. If you practise and practise some more, you will, believe it or not, become better at something. So, when preparing for your interview it’s vital you go over it a few times in the mirror, to a friend, to a voice recorder – anything. Obviously, you don’t want to sound like you’re reading off a script, but just as long as you sound comfortable and confident with what you’re saying then you’ll be fine.
Think about what the interviewers are likely to ask. To jog your imagination, here are some examples of you should expect in an interview, question-wise.
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” – here, honesty is key. You don’t want to come across as super-cocky, nor a liar, and state you have no weaknesses whatsoever. Employers appreciate honesty and admitting you have a weakness shows you have the ability to accept criticism which is a strength in itself.
- “Tell us a little bit about yourself” – keep it brief and don’t ramble. Highlight your main personality traits (the positive ones anyway), some hobbies, how you can apply relevant skills to the job, and any other achievements that may be useful.
- “Have you any questions for us?” – this will usually be the final question asked in the interview. It’s also a fairly important one as it gives you the opportunity to both find out more about the job but also convey interest in the position and the people you might be working with. Asking a question makes you appear attentive, confident, and eager .
- “What sort of teaching experience do you have?” – teaching experience is understandably important in the TEFL world. You should have mentioned you have such experience on your CV but they may want you to expand upon your information. If you don’t have any experience teaching in a job, you can describe your time completing a TEFL course – one which involves practical training that is.
- “Can you give us a demo lesson?”/Lesson plan – As mentioned, this is a possibility. Just in case, always have a revised lesson plan in the back of your mind ready.
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