We’ve seen it all when it comes to interviews for online English teachers. The good, the bad and the just plain ridiculous. We feel it’s our moral duty to help a fellow teacher out. Some of these hints and tips might seem obvious and others will give you pause for thought. But we assure you - a teacher interviewing out there, right now, needs each and every one.
We’re going to start with general tips and then break out into an exhaustive list of potential interview questions that we know have been asked before, and will be asked again. It’s up to you what you do with this information, but with great amounts of behind-the-scenes information, you can be sure you will nail those interviews and land the online English teaching job of your choice.
The absolutely dos!
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Find out what kind of questions could be asked and prepare professional answers. It’s easy to see who has put thought into their responses and who hasn’t and a poorly prepared teacher is VERY obvious.
Don’t just trust in your ability to wing it. That will be cringe-inducing for everyone involved.
If you’re here, that’s a good sign… and we’ve compiled a list of both typical and not so typical questions that have been asked in online English teaching interviews before.
2. Make sure your demo is tried and tested.
The likelihood is you’re going to have to perform a demo lesson and they will send you details for this in advance. Don’t wing it (bit of a theme there, but some things cannot be unseen!).
Sure the content is easy, but you’re competing against a globe full of English teachers. Make sure you’ve planned and know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to explain things if the student doesn’t understand. Maybe get a friend to listen or practice in the mirror or even just deliver it to your dog. Don’t let the first time you deliver the lesson be in the interview.
3. Dress professionally and look presentable.
As much as working from home is a roll-out-of-bed situation, it is with great sadness we have to say - try not to look like you just rolled out of bed.
Put your best foot forward and pay attention to the details, wash your hair (maybe even style it!), and wear nice professional clothing (that would be deemed nice and professional in any country or context - shirts and blazers are a safe bet).
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4. Go above and beyond.
If you’re asked for a teaching demo - make some props or visual aids. Don’t just do the basics. You’d probably going to have to critique your own performance, i.e. someone will ask you - how do you think that went?
You want to be able to answer that you gave it your best and highlight some of the methods you used. E.g. So, I used the appropriate language, I was clear, I think my props worked in this particular situation…
You do not want to have to say: well, it was all a bit rough around the edges, wasn’t it?
5. Read the instructions for your interview very carefully.
Often times the pre-interview email can be lengthy. This is because the company wants you to be a good teacher and have given you all the information you could possibly need to prove that to them.
Don’t just skim read. Make sure you hone in on any demo tips, etc. We’ve interviewed teachers who’ve paid so little attention to the email that they haven’t even prepared a demo .
6. Know your tech specs.
They will ask and they might ask in a strange way, so find out things like your ISP (internet service provider), LAN speed (huh!? How fast your computer works, basically), device specs (laptops come in all shapes, sizes and capabilities - be specific), and the Windows operating system you’re using.
7. Power off your cell phone or put it in another room.
Do we need to explain?! We hope not. Parting with your beloved device for half an hour will make you less distracted and prevent you doing something silly like...answering a text in an interview or taking another call.
Yes, it has happened. And no, we haven’t gotten over the horror.
8. Find a quiet place to conduct the interview.
No distractions and a closed door are essential to nailing an online interview of any sort.
You don’t want your roommate wandering on screen and screaming “who ate my cheese?” while you’re trying to impress a recruiter.
9. Having proper lighting/framing for your interview.
Spend a little time experimenting with your video mode. Make sure you’re looking well! The interviewer does not want a close up of your nose pores or any other miscellaneous body part .
We have had some good teachers get denied because of poor video quality or dodgy lighting.
Don’t sit in the shadows, make sure there’s plenty of natural light, or a lamp nearby so they can clearly see you and you don’t look like you’re auditioning for a starring role in The Godfather.
10. Use the device you plan to teach on
As basic as this might seem, you want to use the device you will be teaching on because this gives them a good idea of what the student will see.
When they start asking about device specs - you can also elaborate on the functionality of your chosen device by saying, “as you can see, I’m using it right now and the quality is great”.
Note: do not say this if you’re suffering from technical issues - just try and reschedule.
11. Troubleshoot in advance and make sure all your equipment is working.
Call some friends/relatives on Skype (or whatever video conferencing tool is being used) and get them to rate your call quality. They will easily be able to tell you if your connection is dodgy.
You also want to have practiced using the software in advance, so you don’t have to ask for tips on how to start the call.
Nothing says “pretending-to-be-tech-savvy” like not knowing how to answer a Skype call. You also don’t want their first impression of you to be - flapping arms, confused face and mouthing “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
12. Use proper headphones and a microphone.
Pop on a good pair of headphones at the very least. This will eliminate background noise and make you look serious about getting a role. Also, they’re not that expensive in this day and age and will make sure your sound quality is top notch.
13. Be prepared to teach an ESL student in your demo.
Whether you’re delivering the class to an English speaker or not, you need to act as if they are your target audience. So ham it up if you’re teaching a 5 year old how to say the English names for fruit.
Also, try to remember that they won’t understand simple phrases like “Do you understand?” and make sure your lesson reflects an understanding of their abilities, i.e. grade your language!
14. Use visuals, hand gestures and TPR methods in your demo.
Basically, you’re an ESL teacher - so prove it! Don’t be shy and think about your demo in terms of your training. Get out those TEFL notes and make sure you use a little spark of creativity to get the lesson across.
15. Beware the backward whiteboard!
This is an easy mistake to make! If you’re going to pedal out the whiteboard, check what it looks like in advance. Make sure that your camera is flipped the right way, so the letters aren't backward.
16. Show you care!
There are times in life when nonchalance is required, this is not one of them. Most online interviewers will be on the look for animated, engaged, smiley and passionate teachers.
Make sure your desire to teach is clear and to really show you care, prepare some of your own thoughtful questions in advance. Maybe ask about their current teachers, the types of students, sorts of lessons delivered, room for growth, etc. If you care, it won’t be hard to think of a bazillion things you’d like to know.
The absolutely don’ts !
Note: All examples are here for a reason. This shizzle happens in real life. So if you really want to nail that interview, take a long hard look at these mistakes and make sure you’re not making them!
Do not do the interview on your smartphone.
Do not hold the camera under your chin giving everyone a front-seat view of your nostrils.
Don't drive a car while conducting the interview.
Do not have screaming kids, barking dogs, annoyed roommates, other occupants of a café in the background.
Do not be in bed, on top of a bed, lying down, sprawled on a sofa.
Do not make the call from under the bed covers…
Do not blame the interview if you have technical issues. Just request a reschedule.
Do not conduct the interview outdoors, in a shopping mall or a dark creepy corridor.
Do not act reluctant, angry or just like the interview is an inconvenience.
Do not have music playing in the background. Keep your Daft Punk obsession to yourself, Martha!
And finally, the type of interview questions you can expect for teaching English online jobs
Our top tip for preparing for an interview is to prepare the questions below so that you’re ready no matter what is thrown at you. Then get a friend to ask you them and practice answering them out loud in the presence of another human.
If you’ve sat down and prepared, you are going to come across as a candidate who cares. The questions are pretty standard and you don’t need complicated answered. Honest, straightforward answers that reflect your passion for teaching English online will fit the bill.
Try to stick to relevant work experience, specific rather than vague sentences and try to smile when you’re answering. They’re going to be looking to make sure you come across as friendly and personable.
(Note: you most likely won’t get asked all of these questions, but you will most likely cover similar ground in any good interview for an online ESL teacher.)
- Can you Introduce yourself?
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- Where are you from?
- Can you tell us about your previous work experience?
- Why should we hire you?
- Do you have a day job?
- Do you work for any other online teaching companies right now?
- Where did you gain your proficiency in the English language?
- Do you have any experience working with children?
Teaching demo follow-up questions
- How do you think you did?
- What would you improve about your teaching demo?
- What certifications or degrees do you have?
- Tell me about your most recent education?
- Do you have a degree?
- Do you have a TEFL certificate?
- Have you passed an IELTS or TOEFL exam?
- Do you have any questions about the company?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How did you head about the job?
- Why do you think you’d be a good choice for this position?
Teaching online specific questions
- What do you think about teaching online?
- Do you have any questions about teaching online?
- How would you help a shy child in an online classroom?
- How would you deal with a difficult student in an online group class?
- Are you comfortable being silly on camera?
- Can you handle teaching both children and adults?
- Are you willing to attend training via Skype?
General teaching experience questions
- Why do you want to become an English teacher?
- What’s your teaching experience?
- How many years of teaching experience do you have? With what age groups?
- Can you tell us a bit about your background in education?
- What is your greatest strength as a teacher?
- What is the most important thing a teacher must do?
- Can you describe your teaching style?
- What are the differences between teaching children and adults?
- How much experience do you have teaching ESL?
- Have you ever taught Chinese/Korean/Spanish students before?
- What time would you prefer to teach (morning, afternoon, evening)?
- How many hours can you commit to a month?
Random questions that might trip you up
- Can you explain the difference between Good and Excellent?
- What do you consider as your greatest achievement?
- How would you present differently for age 5 and say age 12?
- What makes a good teacher?
- How do you explain something to a kid who is a beginning English learner and might not understand most of what you say?
- Do you have a LAN connection?
- What type of internet connection do you have?
- What is the name of your ISP?
- What Windows OS are you using?
- Can you tell us about your current internet plan?
- What type of computer do you have?