These days it’s becoming increasingly popular to have phone interviews for ESL positions, however, there are still many schools and institutes that favour the traditional sit-down face-to-face interview. You’ve probably thought about the interview long and hard already. You’ve more than likely gone over possible questions and answers over and over again. There are of course your ‘typical’ ESL interview questions that your prospective employers may bombard you with, but you’ve also got to do a little better than that. Remember you’re just one of many ESL teachers applying for the position. Yes, in the perfect world it might just be you interviewing for a position, but this is not the reality. To stand out from the rest, you too need to ask questions! You also need to do a bit of homework into their company! Asking the ‘right’ questions will not only make you sound more enthused about the job it will make you stand out from the rest. Your confidence will impress and so will your genuine interest in the job.
Before you even begin to ask your questions in your job interview for an ESL teacher, you’ve got to consider what kind of answers you want back. This is really important to keep note of especially if you’ve got more than one job interview on the go. Traditionally you might think that you have to save up all your questions for one time at the end after they’ve finished with interviewing you, but it’s not necessary and it’s good, if appropriate of course that you ask your questions at the right time – in other words ask any burning questions that you have as they arise.
One of the most important things to remember is your questions. It’s natural that under the pressure of trying to make an impression in your interview you’ll forget some things. There’s nothing wrong with having your questions jotted down on an index card or a small piece of paper to refer to during the interview.
Usually the person interviewing you will have a specific order of the interview in mind, so as difficult as this may sound when you’re stressed, it’s better to go with the flow. The golden rule of interviews is – first impressions count. It’s not a cliché, it’s true. There are some things you can and can’t ask on a first interview. One of the number one things you should not ask about immediately is pay. While the amount of money you earn for your teaching is very important, you don’t want to give your future employer the impression that you’re not passionate about teaching.
Some people feel the need to practice their interview with a friend beforehand; however, if you do this too much, you’re in danger of sounding scripted. Be as natural as possible and don’t force your questions if they don’t fit or you don’t have enough time. Remember the old adage “Quality over quantity”? It bodes very true for job interviews too. Here are a few different questions that you could ask.
What is the student demographic?
Before accepting any teaching position for the sake of having a job, you’ve also got to take into consideration what your strengths are. Perhaps you feel more comfortable teaching adults or maybe you’ve only ever worked with young children who are beginners. Upon learning the demographics of the school, you’ll need to assess yourself and ask: Do I have the right skills and personality to teach these people? What can I offer the school and my potential students?
Would I be required to do any other administrative tasks or duties outside my standard teaching hours?
Different schools expect different things from their teachers and it’s always a good idea to clarify before you get any further, so there are no surprises. There are a few schools that require their ESL teaching staff to submit very detailed lessons plans to the DOS ahead of lessons. Other schools may want you to write detailed monthly report cards on student progress. Some might want you do meet with parents on a regular basis to keep them updated, and then there are some schools that even have their ESL teachers doing cleaning duties.
Is there an average class size?
There are pros and cons when it comes to teaching different class sizes. Sometimes you can read between lines with an employer’s answer for this question – those who are usually willing to have smaller classes in their school have a steady stream of enrolments which means they have a lot of work and students are satisfied. Additionally, if you have to teach larger classes or one-on-one classes, it may require more work from you, so it’s something you can think about.
Are teachers required to take part in any extra-curricular activities?
Some teaches love this! They enjoy taking their kids out on field trips even if they’re not getting paid to do so whereas other teachers prefer not to socialise with any of their teachers after school hours, which is also fine; it’s the teacher’s prerogative at the end of the day and if this is not something you’re comfortable with perhaps you’re more suited for a different job.
Are there regular staff or pedagogical meetings?
It’s important to have your voice as well and you want to know that your work and ideas are valued, which is why schools that d hold regular staff meetings or training sessions have happier staff.
Do I need to follow a set curriculum?
If you’re concerned about how much prep time you’ll be putting into your classes, but you’re afraid of sounding idle to your potential boss, you can ask them freely whether they’ve got a structured curriculum in place. Most employers of ESL teachers anticipate this question and more than likely answer you with a direct question which also covers the issue of prep time.
What books do you use and what kinds of teaching aids and resources are at a teacher’s disposal?
This is important as it shows your interest and if they answer this question well, you’ll get a better idea of their expectations of you. This shows that you take your work seriously and you’re a teacher who tries to offer as much variety and support material to your students.
How are your teachers paid?
Money is always a touchy issue and if this theme has not arisen while you’re speaking then you might not actually have a choice but to ask. However, you can’t just come right out and ask them “How much am I going to earn?” Instead you need to ask about how they decide to pay their teachers in other words is there a set starting salary for all new teachers or do they have a payment scale based on a teacher’s experience? You need to try and gauge how much you’ll be paid and whether or not you’ll be paid for any hours accumulated outside of the standard classroom time because if you don’t do this then you might just end up wasting your time and their time when it comes to the second interview and you discover the pay isn’t enough to meet your needs.
Can I have a look around your school?
If you’re face-to-face in the school having an interview in the office, it’s only natural that you want to take a look around and see for yourself, however, this is one question that you should leave to the end as it will interrupt the flow of the interview. Usually, employers will offer you a tour, but if a boss is reluctant or finds an excuse not to show you about, you take this as a big red flag.
If they do offer to show you about, pay special attention to the environment. Are the teachers happy? Do the kids look satisfied? Do the students seem to be learning? Are their visible resources? What about a photocopier? These things, although they are little, may just be enough to make or break the school.