7 questions NOT to ask in a TEFL interview

A smart shirt, a swish tie, a nice balance between businessperson and adventurous traveller, an arsenal of incisive queries about the job at hand, a smile, and a passion for teaching: all these things are obvious and indispensable when it’s time to finally head for that TEFL interview. But what are the things you shouldn’t take along with you? And more specifically what are the questions that shouldn’t be asked when it comes to that all-important and dreaded section: “So, do you have any questions for us?”

TEFL interview
Bic Pens | © Sean MacEntee/Flickr

Can I borrow a pen?

You can talk the talk and walk the walk, but if you ain’t got no pen then the game’s over. Granted, not every TEFL interview will be this harsh, but it’s certainly not the best first impression if you rock up to a school without the necessary equipment to finish the job. You could just end up looking more like one of those ditzy students, forever mooching writing implements, than the organised teacher you’re supposed to be.

How much vacation time will I get?

It’s no sin to want to know how much time off you’ll get, and we know you’re clearly going to be pining for some adventure in the new destination you’ve picked, whether that’s hiking through the jungle-dressed Taroko Gorge of Taiwan, taking on the great Fitz Roy of Argentina, or simply hopping between the beaches of the Thai Gulf. Still, these are details that should have been outlined in the contract, or at least will be if you’re successful. They might be mentioned by your interlocutors during the TEFL interview, but if they aren’t then don’t go pushing the holiday vibe – you’re there to discuss work!

TEFL interview
Mount Fitz Roy Sunrise | © Geoff Livingston/Flickr

Do I need to prepare lessons?

Yes, yes and just a little more yes is always going to be the answer to this less-than-professional question. Most all schools across the globe will require their teachers to prep elements of lessons, and anyway, what exactly was it you were learning on that quality myTEFL course if not pro planning techniques for all types of classes?

Can you recommend anywhere for me to live?

Whoa…hold those proverbial horses folks! A TEFL interview isn’t really the place to go flat hunting for your new chosen city. Yep, we know that searching for a place to bed down in spots like Hong Kong, Bangkok, Taipei and Seoul will be one of the most important aspects of relocating, but that’s not what your beady-eyed interlocutors across the table are for. They are there to pry your knowledge of language, of grammar, of class management, planning and professionalism. What’s more, whoever said you already had the job? Assuming the position is yours and jumping the gun to property sales can come across a whole load of arrogant!

TEFL interview
Seoul Downtown | © Mario Sánchez Prada/Flickr

So what’s the nightlife like in this city?

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but TEFL teachers often indulge pretty darn heavily in the nightlife of their adopted destination. Whether it’s flitting between the rooftop bars of Bangkok or guzzling vodka amidst the onion domes of Russia, there’s oodles of cliques of language professionals around the globe who seriously know how to party. Newsflash though: your interviewers might not want to know this valuable little titbit. And, need we say that revealing your penchant for a weekend karaoke session might just distract from the matter at hand: your prowess as a language tutor…

Can I take on private students on top of this work?

The idea that you’re going to be piling on the extra hours before even finding out what your hours are, and the thought of you flitting around your new city collecting English students unrelated to the school you’re sat in, is something that might not sit well with a whole host of potential employers. Just think, they might need you to fill a full time position, take on extra curriculum planning responsibilities, or something similar. What’s more, taking private students is downright illegal in some countries, meaning this question could leave a bitter taste to say the least.

TEFL interview
Interview | © Alan Cleaver

So, did I get it?

Ah, the bane of every interviewer’s life. Don’t dust off that decent chat about past participles and dealing with unruly toddlers with such a curt concluding question guys! It’s simply not the done thing. This is how interviews work: You answer questions, you ask some (good ones), and then the employer will let you know the result later on. That TEFL interview is no different.

Think you’re ready to delve into that TEFL interview and nail your dream job abroad? Or, have you got some tips to add for would-be interviewees this year? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below…


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