Questions to ask an Interviewer

Looking for a TEFL job, and doing an interview?

So, I have returned to Canada, and I am searching for various job opportunities. Now with a couple years of experience teaching under my belt, I am looking both here and abroad. Interviews are beginning, and to come in prepared, I have assembled a list of questions to ask my interviewer, as well as gone back to the best job advice I have read.

So, I would like to share my mental preparation.

Part 1:  TEFL Job search Questions


Is there any important information you want to tell me about processing my visa?


What do you like most about the city that you live in?


What do you like most about the region you live in?


What do you dislike the most about the city or region where you live?


Are there any risks or dangers I should be aware of?


Is there any threat of a specific kind of crime in the area? Are there any dangerous places in the city I should be aware of?


What are the most well known tourist sites of the region?


What are the neighbourhoods like in the city where you live?


In terms of food, what do recommend?


In terms of teaching, are there very slow times of the year?


Where do teachers generally go in their free time in the region?


Are there tourist attractions nearby that I must go see? Natural features? Galleries?


Museums? Historical sites? Seasonal Festivals?


What are the hours like of government offices and banks?


Will it be difficult to get a local account?


Is the currency difficult to exchange?


Will it be difficult to send and receive letters from my home country?


What is the most difficult thing for English speakers like myself when they learn the local language?


What is the most difficult thing for speakers of the local language to learn when learning English?


What is the accommodation like?


If it is necessary to search for accommodation do you have any advice?

Are there any walking tours that would help me to get accustomed to the city?


Are there any websites that would help me understand the layout of the city?


Are there any English resources (newspapers, blogs) that would help me understand the city or region?


Where is your office located, and how would you characterize the neighborhood where I will work?


What is one of the most important attributes that your organization looks for in its teachers?


Are there rewards/ recognition for the teachers? How are the teachers judged in order to receive the performance recognition?


How many people work at your school?


How many of them are teachers?


Do the teachers get together socially?


Do the teachers network, do they share ideas?


Is lesson planning creative and independent, or more regulated by the administration?


Is the management style micro managing or delegating?


Is lesson planning private on the part of the teachers, or is their some kind of database to keep track?


What kind of textbooks do you use?


What kind of testing and evaluation do you use?

How regular is testing and evaluation?


How would you characterize the pace of the lessons?


Is there a lot of time to deal with individual student concerns, or are the lessons always a rush?


What are duties that the teacher must handle, outside of the classroom?


How many hours do teachers tend to prepare there lessons at your institution?


Are there materials in English that I should bring for my lessons that cannot be found in the region? (books, magazines, resources etc.)


Are there any ESL bookstores? Are there any English bookstores? Are English books expensive there?


Do students expect progress in terms of grades on any sort of standardized tests?


How often is student progress reported to the office?


How often is attendance reported?


For the most part what do students use their English for?


Do students go on to further education in English after your program? Do they apply to English Universities?


Do students use English in business settings? Do they mainly speak with internal or external business contacts?


Do you have any advice to ensure success in my job?

Part 2: Advice from the Expert

These notes are made from the job search bible “What Color Is Your Parachute”by Richard N. Bolles, which it almost goes without saying, is well known for good advice on the job search.  Of course, he is not looking at the TEFL context specifically, but most of what he says is relevant in any interview context. This is all from the chapter 7 “Sixteen tips about Interviewing”.  Partially because interviewers have to seem objective and neutral, this can make candidates feel intimidated.  The most important thing that this chapter does is give us a picture of the psychology and anxieties of interviewers.   This helps to diminish the fear that the candidates have.   I think reading through this cheaper is a good way of getting ready.

  1. “An interview resembles dating, more than it does buying a used car (you)” By this I believe that Bolles means that interviewing is about learning if you are a good match for the company, and if they are a good match for you.  He is indicating that it is wrong to think of it as just as a sales pitch.
  2. a.”The next person who comes in here and has done some research on us, I’m going to offer a job”Prepare by researching the organization through their about us section, library articles, and by communicating with any contacts that have worked there. b.”Watch your watch or timepiece like a hawk” Make a good impression by respecting the interviewer’s time, take only 20 minutes .c.”We act as though it were a science” The interviewer may be just as anxious as you are; if the person interviewing you has the power to hire you, they will also be held responsible for the success or failure of the hiring decision.
  3. “But this employer is, after all, a human being just like you” Be compassionate towards your interviewer.  They may have as many fears about the interview as you do.
  4. “Observe the 50-50 rule”  There should be an equal division of speaking and listening during the interview.
  5. “Observe the twenty-second to two-minute rule”.  Twenty seconds to two minutes is a good length for a concise answer to a question in an interview.
  6. It is a good idea to determine how you can be an asset to the organization, by visualizing what would constitute poor performance within it, and strategizing how you will be the opposite sort of employee. Some of the attributes he managed are important regardless of the organization you work for: punctuality, willingness to work extra hours if required, drive, time management, creativity, problem solving, and social skills.  It is up to you to find the information within your CV that exemplifies these attributes.
  7. “Realize that the employer thinks the way you do your job hunt is the way you will do the job.”
  8. Bring a sample of what you have produced.  In the case of a teacher, this might mean bringing a lesson plan.
  9. “Do not badmouth previous employers”.  In fact, you should plan on saying something positive.
  10. He distills the essence of interview questions into the following:  “Why are you here?”, “What can you do for us?”, “What kind of person are you?”, “What distinguishes you from the nine hundred and nineteen other people who are applying for this job?”” Can I afford you?”.  These questions can be prepared for, by visually charting your experience.  He notes that job searchers are trying to determine similar questions, although they are posed in a different form.

11.   Try not to take interview questions about your past too personally.  Questions about the past are intended predict  future performance.  It is worth noting that the rationalization for many  classic questions, is to elicit an assurance of performance that allays some kind of anxiety on the prat of the interviewer.    We can refer to the text to get a more detailed examination of the classic questions and answers.

12.  If the interviewer begins by asking questions about the distant past, and moves more to questions about future goals, this is in fact, a positive thing.  It means the questions are moving beyond the preliminary.

13.  Small things can derail an interview.   Bolles calls these “mosquitos”, in that they are small indicators that shake your employer.   There are several things that you have to represent well in an interview:  astute attention to appearance and hygiene, minimizing nervous mannerisms, displaying confidence and a lack of hesitation  in speech, considerate behaviour towards other people (the receptionist, previous employers),  and good values.

14.What questions might help you in the job interview process

a.Can you offer me the job?

b.When may I expect to hear from you?

c.  May I ask what might be the latest time I could expect to hear from you?

d.May I contact you after the aforementioned date?

(e.If the job is not offered, “can you think of anyone else who might be interested in hiring me?”)

15.A thank you letter from the candidate must be written after every interview.  Functions of this are: to prove social skills, to remind the employer of who you are, to give the interviewer something to pass on if the hiring is a committee process, reiterate your interest in further talks, and give you an opportunity to deal with any problems that arose during your interview.  Most job hunters do not follow this advice.

16.  It is often the case that you have done nothing wrong in an unsuccessful interview, but sometimes it is helpful to get feedback on your interview from the employer, even if you did not get the job.



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