After you make the decision to teach abroad, the next step in the process is to land a job at a school that meets your life and career goals. To that end, you might opt for applying for jobs online with a recruiter like Teach Away or decide to attend a teacher job fair or some in-person interview sessions.
Regardless of which path you take, however, one thing is certain:
You will be interviewed at some point in the hiring process - whether it’s over phone, Skype or in person.
Congratulations, your teaching credentials and experience landed you an interview and now it's time to seal the deal.
Depending on your level of experience, you may have attended many, many interviews in your time. Or maybe your last interview was your first. No matter which bucket you happen to fall into, I wanted to share my first-hand experience and advice for anyone interviewing for a job teaching abroad. Hopefully, this will give you some idea of what to prep for when interviewing for what (hopefully) will turn out to be your very own dream job teaching abroad.
I’m not going to give you a laundry list as there are so many resources out there already. For example, as I was preparing for the job fair, Teach Away hosted a webinar that gave advice and tips for job fair interviews (just an FYI that the job fair experience can be very different if you have never attended one). I also found these three posts helpful, so I recommend checking those out if you’ve got time:
- 6 interview tips that will get you the job - straight from a teach abroad recruiter
- Preparing for an international teaching job interview
- 11 tips for a successful teacher phone interview
Below, I’ve listed some of the things that I felt really helped me make a strong impression throughout the interview process:
1. Do due diligence on the school you’re interviewing with.
Hopefully, you have already done a lot of research before the interview process to decide on where you want to teach and live. If you haven’t, I recommend you do so.
Each country and region has their own unique culture, and it is important to have an idea which fits you and/or your family’s lifestyle.
Next, you need to do the research to familiarize yourself with the prospective school’s vision, mission and curriculum philosophy. Research on the school can be beneficial in two areas.
First, it gives you an opportunity to see if you would be a good fit for the school.
Second, it will give you valuable information you can use and reference when answering questions in the interview.
Teach Away will usually have a page on their site with key school information If not, you can also google and find the school’s official website.
At the Teach Away job fair, I was also lucky enough to get the chance to sit in on info sessions held by the hiring schools in attendance. I made sure to take notes on key areas, such as the school’s philosophy, to ascertain how it matches my own strengths and values as an educator.
2. Don’t be afraid to self-reflect and sell yourself.
After doing your research, take a look back at your past teacher evaluations and your career as an educator.
For some that might be a long career, others very short. Either way, it is important to self-reflect in order to truly understand your strengths and areas where you can improve as an educator. After all, we all have room to grow.
Many of the schools that I interviewed with during my job hunt were interested in me teaching Advanced Placement (AP) classes or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. If you are a secondary content teacher and have AP or IB experience that will increase your stock.
I, however, do not have AP/IB experience, but many schools pay for professional development. I was open and honest in interviews about my lack of AP/IB experience. However, I made it clear that I was willing to attend PD sessions and continue to grow professionally in those areas.
Being honest about the areas that you can improve when asked in an interview is really important, especially if those areas are bound to be brought up as the school is doing reference checks.
Although you want to be honest about the areas that you can improve, it is also important to sell yourself. Two of the most common questions you will get in a teacher job interview are (although asked in different ways) are:
- Why do you want to work at our school?
- What would we see if we were to walk into your classroom?
These are two unmissable opportunities to sell yourself as an educator.
The first question is where your research on the school is crucial. As you’re answering, you have the chance to get across just good a fit for their school you are by conveying how your philosophies and strengths align with the school’s mission, vision, and curricular programs.
The second question is where your self-reflection can help you sell yourself as a classroom instructor. Be prepared to give specific examples of teaching strategies you use in the classroom. You are good enough for this job, so don’t be afraid to tell the school why.
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3. Practice makes perfect.
Like anything else, interviewing is a skill that can be mastered with practice. Of course, just like most other things, interviewing comes easier to some than to others.
Whether you feel like you’re a natural or you’ve come to dread the interview process, practicing before a real interview will not only help prepare you for the possible questions that could be asked, it will also go a long way in helping battle those pesky nerves that tend to sneak up as the interview date looms.
The questions I shared above are a great place to start. Have a friend, spouse or colleague ask you questions specific to the teaching job you’re in the running for and practice responding to them. You don’t have to memorize your answers verbatim but it’s a good idea to jot down your responses so you can work on refining them as you do your interview preparation.
It’s also worth practicing for an interview with a formal administrative colleague that can share some valuable insight into the common questions they like to ask during the interview process. You can either review these questions or conduct a mock interview with them.
I’m very fortunate to have a father who is a former administrator who is always happy to help me run through my interview responses.
During past interviews, I have foundIdo have either a tendency to get caught in those annoying ummm...uhhhhh...pauses when questions catch me off guard, or I. Oy to avoid any awkward silence so I s at allstart speaking before I’ve really thought my answer through. With enough practice, however, I was I can start tonate my awkanyrd pauses and keep my cool if I happened to momentarily thrown by a tricky question.
4. Practice getting comfortable in front of the camera.
Video interviews are common practice when recruiting teachers from overseas, largely due to convenience, flexibility and the money-saving benefits for schools. As a result, practicing interviewing in an online setting is important.
Interviews online or over Skype have a completely different feel from in-person interviews. For example, depending on how reliable your internet connection is, the video quality might be spotty and you might find it difficult not to talk over each other in the interview.
Due to financial and family constraints, my wife and I were unable to attend the teacher job fair together. Instead, I flew out to the fair while Grace stayed home with our two boys.
However, Grace was able to interview with the same schools I did - just over Skype. We even interviewed as a team in some instances - I was physically in the room and while Grace was sat next to me on a laptop (which was a unique experience for everyone involved!)
Grace and I also had multiple Skype interviews following the fair. She’s an elementary teacher and I’m a secondary teacher, so it stood to reason that both principals wanted to meet with us. I think it’s safe to say we’re old hands at Skype interviews by now! So here are some of our basic tips when interviewing over Skype:
- Dress professionally, just as you would for an in-person interview.
- Make sure your technology is up to scratch.
- Test your interview location and camera angle by calling a friend. (The last thing you want is something embarrassing being visible in the background.)
- Be on time.
- Make sure you know who’s calling who.
- Take care to articulate your words clearly and speak a touch louder than you normally would in an in-person interview.
- Be sure to look right into the camera as much as you can. (This is the Skype version of making eye contact, however unnatural it might feel!)
If you’re currently gearing up for an interview to teach abroad, remember that preparation is key for a successful interview, whether it’s face-to-face or via Skype. Hopefully, the tips and tricks provided above will help you land your dream job teaching abroad this year.
And if you’ve already had a call saying you’ve gotten the job offer, that’s awesome! I know first hand that accepting a new job teaching abroad is a life-changing decision, so be sure to read this blog about what should be included in your teach abroad contract before you sign on the dotted line!
In the meantime, if you’re not preparing for an interview to teach abroad, I recommend you continue to self-reflect and build your instructional knowledge by incorporating best practices into your current classroom. That way, when you do start to prepare for your very first teach abroad interview, you’ll be able to draw on those instructional strengths in your interviews as well as your future classroom.