English Teacher Interview Questions

What are the typical job interview questions teachers get? How to respond to curve-ball-questions from the interview panel or hiring manager? In an over-saturated job market with millions of unemployed post-graduates trying to find that all-important first permanent position in a school or company, the interview process is a critical step in a person’s career. Prepping for an interview is as important as writing a final exam.

Interview by Edmond Dantès/ Pexels.

What are interview questions for teachers?

Interviews in Education tend to be conducted by a panel of people that may include the director or principal, the department head, and representatives of the parents’ committee, the selection board, the union, and so on. In countries where there is a return to some degree of post-Covid-19 normalcy, interviews are again conducted face to face. Otherwise, virtual interviews are the norm, but the questions remain the same.

In the online English Second Language (ESL) industry many interviews are conducted by hiring agents, sometimes veteran English teachers working for the company. Such interviews usually take place after the candidate has passed a basic screening process, the resume/ CV has been checked and verified and the introduction video was acceptable.

Tell us about yourself…

Most interviews start with this standard question. Yet it’s amazing how many candidates mess this up!

Do not…

Do not fail this most elementary of interview questions by reciting your CV! The interview panel probably has studied your resume/ CV, so please, do not show ignorance and poor listening skills.

So, rather…

Be enthusiastic about yourself. In marketing, this is called the elevator pitch when you must sell the product, make an introduction for an appointment in 30 to 60 seconds. In an interview, the answer can be a little more relaxed but keep it short unless you must respond to follow-up questions. This typical opening question is to measure your spontaneity and personality.

The elevator pitch should be the basic outline of your cover letter/ introductory e-mail (professional summary statement) sent with your resume/ CV. Practice it to go down in 60 – 90 seconds without rambling it down.

If you had a somewhat boring life, then mention something interesting about where you grew up, or your family, or where you’ve studied, then briefly say in a sentence or two who you are and what your last or most important achievement/ job to date was. But remember, keep all answers happy, short and sweet.

What do you know about our school?

This is a standard question in almost every interview and it is to test the genuine interest the candidate has for the job.

Do not …

Sit there not knowing how to answer. If very little information was available, be honest and briefly explain where you tried to find some information without sounding critical.

Mention any negative things about the school or institution, do not compare it to its rivals. If you are very familiar with the institution and even its personnel or politics, do not go there.

So, rather…

Use the opportunity to show that you’ve done your homework regarding the institution. This may be harder in a foreign country, but that is where social media is a huge source of information. Join relevant groups and ask around.   

Respond by talking about positive facts you know about the company and perhaps finish with an intelligent question.

Why should we give you the job?

‘We have many candidates for this position, why should we give you the job?’

Do not…

Put the other candidates down, suggest that you are better.
Beg for the job and use your personal struggles or desperate financial situation as a type of emotional blackmail.
Repeatedly try and tell them how honest and hardworking you are. This should be a given and other candidates will make the same claim.

So, rather…

Systematically match your qualifications and experience with the job specifications that were mentioned in the advertisement for the position to show how you qualify for the vacancy.

What are your future plans?

‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’

Do not…

Do not show uncertainty even though none of us know what can happen between now and next year. Never be hesitant and say “Uhm… I don’t know,” or “Maybe married and at home with kids.”

So, rather…

Come prepared for this question, otherwise you will come across as someone who lacks ambition and planning, or want the position just as a temporary job. The best answer is to say that you see yourself as an established and hopefully promoted member of the team. So, give at least some realistic and achievable short- and medium-term plan without sounding arrogant or too ambitious, because managers don’t want to hire some overly ambitious Ms. Know-it-all who will make life difficult for them in the future.

What questions to ask after the job interview?

Nine out of ten times the interview panel will wrap the session up by asking some seemingly innocent question. View this last question as a swimmer lunging to touch the wall in the Olympic swimming pool first. This is where the smart candidate scores the final and lasting impression. Do have at least two questions ready that will show that you have done your homework as a serious, not desperate, candidate. Should you ask about pay, working hours, benefits and housing? If it was not explained by the interview panel and it sounds as if you made it onto their short-list, then yes! Ask them to confirm what the job advertisement said, but don’t sound as if you are already planning your first vacation!

Twenty job interview questions for teachers

  1. How do you handle difficult students?
  2. How do you communicate with parents?
  3. What would you say are your strengths as a teacher?
  4. What do you think is your greatest weakness as a teacher?
  5. How familiar are you with hybrid teaching?
  6. Can you do extra-curricular community activities?
  7. Can you tell us about your previous school?
  8. How do you feel about helping out when we are short-staffed?
  9. Can you teach sport/ music/ debate/ drama?
  10. What can you bring to our school that makes you unique?
  11. Can you name us two issues that frustrates you most in class?
  12. Tell us about your teaching philosophy?
  13. How do you prepare your classroom for the first day of school?
  14. How do you evaluate students?
  15. Can you tell us about your worst teaching experience?
  16. Can you tell us about your best teaching achievement?
  17. What technology have you used in the classroom?
  18. What are the rules of your class?
  19. Why did you choose ESL education?
  20. What do you do when students refuse to obey you?

To summarize

Preparation is the key to a successful job interview, but never recite your answers, be spontaneous. Be positive and be yourself, never show desperation.

  • The author worked in Recruitment – HR for an international mining company for ten years.

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