TEFL interviews - what to expect and how to succeed

TEFL interviews - what to expect and how to succeed

A TEFL interview by phone/Skype may be the only time an employer can 'meet' you so it's important to make the right impression. An employer will be asking themselves some questions about the people they are interviewing, such as:

"Will my students like this person?"
"Will they be able to conduct a class effectively?" 
"Can I trust them to see the contract out?"

So, to help you shine at interview, we've got together some typical TEFL interview questions with suggestions on how you can impress in your response.

Question: Tell me about yourself...
Answer: they do not want your life history. Be brief and end with your current status/intention. This is just an example:

"I am a 29 year old former engineer. I decided on a change of direction some time ago. I have done some voluntary work with young people in my area, and now armed with this experience, my TESOL Certificate, good communication skills and lots of enthusiasm, I am looking for my first teaching role in (country)."

Q. Why would you like to work with us?
A. Here the interviewer may just want some reassurance. Their worst fear is that you will disappear mid-contract due to homesickness, loneliness or failure to adapt to the new culture. You can reassure them by mentioning any travelling you have done or languages you speak. Tell them if you have started learning their language as this will demonstrate your commitment.

Q. What course books are you familiar with?
A. The most popular course book in Europe is Headway. Cutting Edge is also well known but there are several course books and it is possible that the school where you will be teaching uses different ones. Just mention the books you have come across and try to say something about them (i.e. colourful, well-presented, easy to use etc.) If you have completed a Global English TESOL course, you could refer back to your course review and mention this here. Our website has a bookshop if you want to refresh your memory for titles.

Q. Do you think it is always necessary to correct spoken mistakes in the classroom?
A. I suggest no. It is important that students get it right when introducing a new structure but to keep correcting would impede fluency, so in communicative activities it might be an idea to keep a note of mistakes and correct afterwards.

Q. What is your attitude to drilling for pronunciation? (i.e. repetition of words or phrases - a bit like school)
A. You may get asked your opinion on a range of classroom techniques. They may not mind about your attitude towards them - rather, they want to check you know what they are. So, there may be no right or wrong here. Just pick a line and defend it. In this case, 'drilling' is useful when introducing a new structure or difficult phrases.

Q. How would you teach the difference between the Past Simple and Present Perfect? or What are the 3 uses of the Present Perfect Simple?
A. Brush up on the Present Perfect and other basic grammar points before the interview. Global English TESOL courses cover the present perfect in depth. Failing to answer this perfectly may not result in immediate rejection. Instead the interviewer may just want to know how you react 'thinking on your feet', so it is important to stay calm and not to panic. You don't need lots of detail. Give an overview of your approach for the classroom.

Q. Have you got any experience of teaching, leading a class etc?
A. If you have none, say so but try and explain that you have qualities that are ideal for a teacher. Here is an example. '

"Not directly, but I am really patient and in my job I have to explain things to new people in a way they can understand, until they understand. I really enjoy this aspect of my role." 

Explain how your course has prepared you for leading and teaching and that although new to teaching, you feel confident in applying these to the classroom. If the job you are applying for includes teaching business English, think about the following...

Q. In what way does teaching business 1-1 differ from teaching in groups?
A. With 1-1 you might be looking to tailor a course to specific needs. Expect some of the input material to come from the individual in order to ensure relevancy. With a group the teacher needs to ensure that all students ' needs are met.

Q. What sort of things would you expect to have to teach in a business lesson?
A. Functional language needed for meetings, presentations, socialising, telephoning, the productive and receptive skills with a business slant. However, it's always important to know what students need to do in English in order to best meet those needs.

Q. In the 1st lesson with a businessman 1-1, what would you do?
A. Mention needs analysis, 'getting to know you' tasks to break the ice, information exchange to find out about the company, the student's motivation and level of English.


What to ask them

Ask plenty of questions about your prospective employer's school and environment to show then that you seem interested. Here are some great example question areas:

1) About the school, typical students ages and levels and their business backgrounds (if relevant), student levels and things students typically struggle with. Also, books and resources available and what they look for in a teacher etc.

2) About the country. If you are not in the country but having a telephone interview, then ask about the town or city the school is situated in.

3) Ask about them before moving on to contractual terms. Never make your first questions about money, holidays or sick pay. It won't be possible to go into all terms and conditions fully over the phone so feel free to ask whether any offer of employment made will be accompanied by a detailed contract for both parties to sign. Make sure that you get a copy of the contract sent to you (in English) first, before you travel. Treat any vague promises not backed up with this commitment as suspicious.

4) Finally, tell them that you are interested in the position and ask about the next step.


This is just a selection of typical questions. Of course, you may be asked a range of different ones. Remember, they may be more interested in how professional, quick thinking and friendly you appear, than on hearing all the right answers.

What is important is that you appear confident and positive, so take your time, being clear in your responses.


What questions have you been asked at TEFL interview?
Ask me your questions about TEFL interviews and jobs below.

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Updated October 2018

  • Author: Louisa Walsh
  • Date: 12/06/2015

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TEFL interviews - what to expect and how to succeed