So, you’ve applied and got the interview. How do you prepare, and what do you do on the day?
Here are ten tips to help you get that job.
- Be on time.
About ten minutes early is about right. Turning up half an hour early or more can be too much.
- Do your homework.
Have a look at the school’s website and brochure. What kind of courses are offered? Are the students mostly teens or adults, and are they studying towards particular exams? How long do they tend to be here for? Answering these questions will give you a clearer idea of the kind of teacher the school is looking for. If the info isn’t on the website or in the brochure, ask in the interview – otherwise you might end up presenting yourself very differently to what the school is looking for.
Similarly (and this applies when you send your CV in as well), make sure you get the name right of the person who will be interviewing you !
- Dress appropriately.
You might not need a full-on suit but be smart.
- Consider how your wider experience is relevant.
Many teachers come to EFL from other industries and a wide range of backgrounds. Think about how this can be relevant. For example, you may be able to offer tourism or hospitality as a specialism, or your time in retail may mean you have a good understanding of customer service and resolving problems with students.
- Be ready to explain gaps in your CV.
British Council safeguarding policy means you may well be asked about gaps in your CV where these exist. This doesn’t mean you are no longer a good candidate – you just need to explain what you did with that time. If you spent a year travelling, how did that affect your worldview or appreciation of different cultures? Did you start to learn a new language? As with the previous point, think about how these experiences have changed the person you are, and what you can bring to the classroom as a result.
- Keep in mind previous lessons that you have taught.
In particular, be ready to describe in detail a lesson that went well, and another that did not go so well. Be ready to explain why; and for the not-so-well lesson, how you would improve it next time.
- Be prepared for a task or hypothetical situation.
You may be asked to explain how you would respond to a particular situation in class e.g. one student asking for more grammar and another asking for more speaking, or where one student is behaving incorrectly.
Or you may be asked to give a short presentation, or given a hypothetical class and asked how you might teach them.
- Know your strengths and areas for development.
What can you offer to the school? Be more specific than ‘good rapport’ – how are you with technology (and have you taught using e.g. interactive whiteboards before)? Do you create your own materials? Do you have particular areas of expertise (which, as in point 5, relate to your experiences, interests or previous work)?
Similarly, be aware of the areas in which you need to develop. DoSes aren’t usually looking for the finished package! A teacher who is no longer developing or improving is probably stagnating. If you have e.g. watched webinars or attended training sessions recently, mention those, especially if they are in relevant areas for you.
- Be flexible.
A DoS will be often be looking for teachers who are willing and able to teach a variety of classes – closed groups, young learners, low and high level as well as preferably being available for morning and afternoon classes. This doesn’t contradict the previous point – a good all-rounder with a number of specialisms is a strong candidate.
- Decide whether you will accept a small amount of work initially.
In EFL, with numbers often fluctuating, getting a foot in the door is a useful thing. It’s a risk: sometimes you’ll be offered a small amount of work and that will be it. But more than once I’ve only had a few days’ work for someone, but then another teacher has gone off sick or more work has suddenly come up, and that new recruit has worked for us for months.
by David Spillman