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teach on an interview answering most common interview questions for teaching abroad

Interviews can be stressful, but they are not unpredictable. 

Most teaching abroad interviews have a similar structure, with interviewers asking a set of common questions. 

This is great news, because it means that you can prepare for your meeting ahead of time! 

Feeling confident in your answers is incredibly important, as it also leaves a lasting impression on the interviewer. 

Above all, everyone wants to leave their interview feeling proud and professional in the way they presented themselves. 

If you master these 11 common interview questions for teachers, you will feel more than ready going into your interview.

  1. Why are you interested in teaching here?
  2. What is an example of a time when you had to think on your feet?
  3. How have you handled conflicts at work in the past?
  4. Have you lived in this country before? Do you speak the language?
  5. Where would you be willing to work?
  6. Do you have any questions for us?
  7. Do you have teaching experience/certification?
  8. What jobs have you done that might prepare you for teaching?
  9. How would you deal with situation X?
  10. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  11. How would you describe your teaching style?

1. Why are you interested in teaching here?

If you are teaching abroad, you practically have the whole world to choose from. So, why did you choose this country? Or this city?

You don’t always need an in-depth or specific reason to answer this. 

Perhaps you are drawn to the culture, the language or the local cuisine. 

No matter your reasoning, have an answer ready when the question comes up, signaling to your interviewer that you didn’t just pick a random dot on the map.

2. What is an example of a time when you had to think on your feet?

Teaching is an active profession. 

You teach in real time, so if anything goes wrong, you have to improvise a solution at that moment. 

And remember, it’s not a question of if so much as a question of when something goes wrong.

Sometimes equipment will be faulty. A whiteboard might break, or the computer could fail to connect to the internet. Your flashcards might be wrong or out of order.

Other times, something unexpected will happen in the classroom. A student could faint, or throw a fit.

In any case, you have to be able to think on your feet and come up with a makeshift solution, fast. 

Interviewers like to get a sense that you are comfortable with these situations, handling them with grace and ease. 

Thankfully, it’s a very general skill that you have likely used many times in previous jobs or social roles. 

Try to come up with at least one example before your interview!

3. How have you handled conflicts at work in the past?

Work-related conflict is not always present, but it is inevitable. 

You could become involved with a dispute without even provoking it. Or, you could help mediate disputes between co-workers.

Your interviewer will like to see evidence that you have good social skills and are competent at managing your relationships with your coworkers. 

If you have never been involved with a work conflict in the past, that’s great! 

You can tell your interviewer that you’ve never had to handle a conflict. 

You can also tell them how you might expect to handle such a conflict, for example, asking a manager to mediate.

4. Have you lived in this country before? Do you speak the language?

In most cases, the answers to these questions will be “no,” and that’s perfectly ok. 

Many teachers want to teach abroad because they want to experience a new country or culture.

But if you do have some experience, that’s a great plus. It means you will be able to engage with your students on a deeper level, right from the beginning.

For some more elite schools, this question could be a dealbreaker. They might strongly prefer to have teachers that speak the language. 

But for a lot of entry-level teaching positions, it doesn’t matter much if you’ve never visited the country or don’t speak the language.

5. Where would you be willing to work?

This kind of question can come up at the early stages of an interview process, before you interview with an individual school. 

A large franchise, such as EF, might ask you this in an interview to see if you would be willing to teach in a less popular location.

Most foreign teachers in China, for example, choose Shanghai or Beijing by default. So an early-stage interviewer might ask if you would be willing to work in a smaller city, like Wuhan or Xi’an.

6. Do you have any questions for us?

There are always a number of questions you can ask the interviewer, showing your interest and dedication to this role. 

 It shows that you are curious to learn more!

You can ask questions about the work culture, the city and country you will be living in, money, medical, housing assistance, and so much more. 

Two specific question could be: 

  • Why are you looking to hire a teacher at this time?
  • What kind of opportunities for advancement are there?

7. Do you have teaching experience/certification?

If the answer is “no,” that’s usually still ok. 

Except for some elite schools, most entry level positions don’t require you to have certifications or experience to be hired.

In most cases, however, you will need at least a TEFL certificate before you start teaching. 

Many schools will even help you get one, once you are hired.

But, be mindful that having completed the TEFL is a huge bonus on your resume application.

So, be sure to let your interviewer know if you have the certification or related experience.

8. What jobs have you done that might prepare you for teaching?

Despite not having any experience as a teacher, your past career and skill sets can still transfer over as relevant experience. 

Some examples of specific skills that are needed includes: 

  • Social skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Writing skills

Almost any job in the world will require some of these skills! 

And even if you haven’t held a job before, you may have been involved in a relevant role as a leader of a club or volunteer work. 

9. How would you deal with situation X?

A wide array of questions could fall under this umbrella. 

The interviewer will likely describe a hypothetical situation, and ask you how you would handle it.

Some possibilities include:

  • An out of control classroom
  • A student fainting
  • Faulty equipment, like a broken computer
  • Poor test grades from every student

Since these questions are hypothetical, you don’t need to have perfect answers curated. 

Your interviewer will just want to see that you pause, reflect for a moment, and come up with something that makes sense.

This is also a great way for you to ask more questions, and get a better sense of what the classroom environment can be like. 

For example, you could ask if there is a TA in the room. 

If so, then you could ask the TA to fetch the IT person, or call the fainting student’s parents.

10. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

This is a classic interview question, and one you will encounter on practically every interview of your entire career. 

That means you only need to come up with a good answer once, and change it every few years, if necessary.

You don’t need to have a long answer! Offering one to three strengths and one to two weaknesses is enough. 

As another tip, mentioning more strengths than weaknesses is probably a smart decision.

Your weaknesses can have built-in strengths, too. 

For example:

  • I am a very slow worker, but this means I am very detail-oriented.
  • I don’t work well under pressure, which is why I start assignments early.
  • I  get bored easily, which is why my lessons are so much fun.

11. How would you describe your teaching style?

If you don’t have teaching experience, you can describe what teaching style you would like to have. 

You could even describe your favorite teacher’s teaching style.

Be mindful of the fact that lecturing or teaching in a rigid manner is becoming less popular in many places, especially for younger students. 

Many principals will prefer to see that you have a more hands on approach, getting your students engaged in interactive lessons.

Succeeding in your interview 

Questions are the main focus of an interview, but they are not the only part that matters. 

Interviewers will also want to see that you maintain good interview etiquette, and present yourself with a positive attitude.

The bottom line is, they want to see that you are someone they will want to work with.

So be yourself and let your personality shine. Answer the questions as best you can, and you will have a great shot at landing the job.
You can learn about additional interview tips that will help you get the job, here.

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