By Ariane Campbell
You’ve likely had job interviews before, but the stakes are higher when you’re interviewing to teach abroad. You’re not only discussing a position, but an entirely different country, set of cultural expectations, and way of life. This interview could not only land you a new job, but also land you in an entirely new life. Below are four keys points to keep in mind when preparing for your interview to teach abroad.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Teaching abroad often involves moving to a country with vastly different customs and norms than what you’re used to. It is essential to do your research and understand what you are signing up for.
Nothing looks worse in an international interview than when a teacher doesn’t know the basics of the country he is applying for. Start with researching the country’s location, the language (or languages) spoken, and the major religion. From there, look into the cultural norms and customs and how they may affect your day-to-day life and school environment.
As in any job interview, you first have to research the organization to which you’re applying – their goals, their pedagogical approaches, their student base, and their curriculum. If this information is not available on the internet or from the job description, it is important to ask your interviewer about it so you have a thorough understanding of where you’ll be working from the outset.
In Western popular culture and media, we often see stereotypes of other cultures and peoples. The only way to dispel these myths, and understand which country really will be best for you, is by doing the research. A willingness to look past stereotypes shows open-mindedness, resourcefulness, and an eagerness to learn: three extremely desirable qualities in any applicant for teaching abroad.
2. BE HONEST
Teaching overseas is a huge commitment. You will sign a one-, two-, or three-year contract, pack up your belongings, move out of your home, resign from your job, and begin a very different life. If you have a family, you will be changing all of their lives as well. It is therefore vital to be 100% honest in your interview.
Your employer will be investing a huge amount in you initially, as most international teaching jobs cover your flight, housing, and visa costs. It is thus particularly important that they know exactly who they are hiring. Finding out that a teacher is not a good fit once he is already in country can be disastrous for the school and for the teacher.
Being honest means not only highlighting your real skills and experience, but being realistic about your challenges. In an international teaching interview, “What is your biggest weakness” is
not a trick question – it can often be essential to understanding if someone will sink or swim once they arrive. Certain weaknesses, such as inflexibility, can guarantee someone will not be successful in international teaching. However other weaknesses, depending on the country, culture, and school environment, may be insignificant or at least surmountable.
Remember that the interview is not a hoop to jump through. It is an important conversation to determine whether international teaching, or this specific job or country, is right for you.
3. REFLECT ON WHY YOU WANT TO TEACH OVERSEAS
One question you will come across in any international job interview is why you want to teach overseas. It is important to reflect carefully on what your real reasons are.
In the first few tumultuous weeks of moving abroad, you will be adjusting to new home, school, language, and way of living. Having a clear goal and understanding of why you are there can get you through this adjustment phase.
Those who are running away from something, or hoping that going abroad will be a panacea to their problems, are unlikely to maintain the motivation to become immersed in a new culture and successfully complete a contract. However, those with a passion for teaching and an eagerness to expand their cultural knowledge and have new experiences are more likely to adapt, persevere, and have an enjoyable and rewarding time abroad.
Money is a very common factor in the decision to teach overseas. This is understandable, but it cannot be the only factor your decision to move abroad. You still need to find a place that excites and inspires you. Without this internal motivation, it will be difficult to ultimately be successful and happy in international teaching.
4. BE PREPARED TO DISCUSS YOUR TEACHING PEDAGOGY
At the end of the day, an international teaching interview is still a teaching interview. Many wrongly assume that an ability to speak English qualifies you for the job, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Overseas teaching is more competitive than ever, and candidates are considered based on their credentials, experience, and expertise. Be prepared to talk in depth about your teaching pedagogy, and most importantly, to give specific examples.
Also, understand your audience. Every school will have different goals and methodology. A public bilingual school may be looking for someone with well-developed teaching strategies who can independently plan, whereas an ESL school may be looking for someone who is malleable and can adapt quickly to the school’s laid out curriculum and teaching methods. Again, do the research and listen to your interviewer carefully so you understand which skills to highlight.
Finally, remember that flexibility, passion, and a positive outlook are what separate a good candidate from a great candidate. We are excited about international teaching, and we hope to see that same enthusiasm from you!
Ariane Campbell is a Teach Away Program Coordinator.