No one likes an interview at the best of times. However, rest assured, they become bearable once you know what to expect and how to handle it. Here, TeacherTee founder Luke – who has years of experience of working for teaching schools himself – gives his top tips for acing an online teaching interview.
Prior to founding TeacherTee, I’d worked for five different online schools across a five year period. That’s five different interviews, with five different interviewers and five different interview outfits I had to dig out of my wardrobe. Today, I’m here to share everything I’ve learnt about the process of an online teaching interview, from the easy stuff to have nailed (like functioning equipment and preparation) to the slightly tougher stuff if you make it to the later stages (like the use of TPR in your trial lessons and the one game-changing technique I swore by). Make note of these tips and you can’t go wrong. Read on…
Firstly, let’s give you an overview of what you can expect the online teaching interview process to look like. Most teaching schools will have a stage 1 interview, where they get to know you in an often informal conversation. The majority of the schools (and the most reputable ones) will have a second stage, too. Here’s how to prepare for every stage.
Prior to Stage 1
You’ve applied for the job and you’ve been invited for an online teaching interview. Great! Go you. What will then happen is the teaching school will send you detailed instructions of your Stage 1 interview, which will be a short opening conversation and a five minute demo lesson. They will provide you the materials for this – just make sure you go through this thoroughly, and have these below tips nailed in advance.
- It goes without saying that equipment MUST be working. We’ve included this in more detail below, as this is probably the most crucial element for an interview. You’re applying for a job that functions solely online: if your internet is rubbish and your microphone is broken, it’s not going to give them high hopes.
- Dress presentably. Don’t come in a suit, you’ll scare off the kids. Any plain or colourful T-shirt is fine, but don’t be afraid to wear a nice Hawaiian shirt either. You may think we’re joking but we’re not – anything that complements your personality is a win.
- It goes without saying but read the instructions for the interview – this will give you vital information about what to expect and every school is different.
- Try and test demo lessons; don’t trust your ability to wing it. Trust me, I’ll admit that I’ve tried this many times and it shows. You may be able to pull it off by the skin of your teeth, but you won’t look half as good as when you have practised.
- Have an interview in a quiet place. If you have to, warn your housemates that you have an interview. You don’t want your half-naked mate, covered in shaving foam, busting through your door looking for a razor while you’re trying to get a job in an online teaching school (this happened to me, and it goes without saying I didn’t win the job). Remember, background noise in general is a massive put off.
- Have decent lighting. Your interviewer needs to be able to see your face clearly. This is important to show professionalism.
Like most online interviews, this will be a preliminary conversation, so the interviewer can get to know you. It’s important to be yourself, and let some of your personality shine through at this stage. The interviewer will also ask you a few basic opening questions about yourself.
Examples include: where are you from? Where do you live? Do you have a TEFL? Do you have a degree? What teaching experience do you have? This is the point where you should talk enthusiastically about any experience, even if it was voluntarily or brief, online or not.
After this you will have a five-minute ‘demo class’. The school will expect you now to teach them using PowerPoint as if they were the student. We’ll level with you: it’s a bit weird having a fully grown adult pretending to be a little kid over video call, but it’s all part of the process. Once you’re over the initial strangeness (it’s OK to have a small giggle in your head remember), here’s your chance to showcase your skills as a teacher.
If successful (well done you), you will progress to stage 2, which is a full trial lesson that ranges anywhere from one to three recruiters pretending to be children (usually it’s one, but be ready for more).
Again, don’t get thrown off by this. It’s a strange procedure, but it’s the way they do it in China, so don’t feel embarrassed. They want to see how you can handle a class. Here’s some teaching techniques that will win you points with recruiters.
- Make sure you’re set up right. First and foremost, recruiters will be looking at your working environment. They will want to see if your Internet connection is fast, your laptop is reliable and you have good camera light and suitable background. Connect up an Ethernet cable if you can. Troubleshoot in advance to make sure all of your equipment is working. If you have a technical fault during the interview, they will expect this to happen all the time while you’re teaching, which is enough to fail you. Don’t put yourself through all of the prep, just to lose it for a technical fault.
- Introduce yourself properly in an informal and friendly way. This will get you off to the perfect start, will ease your nerves and let the recruiter know that you’re in control and experienced. Remember, you’re pretending to talk to a kid, gestures help! Here’s how I’d do it:
“Hello!” (with a big wave to the camera)
“My name is Luke” (whilst pointing to yourself)
“What’s your name?” (whilst pointing to the student)
“Nice to meet you!” (whilst pretending to shake hands through the camera)
*Continue with the lesson materials provided*
- Speak clearly with the most neutral accent possible. You will be teaching young kids with very little English and English is a second language to 95% of the interviewers too, so they’ll be impressed by a clear, pronounced speaking voice. If you have a regional accent, just speak extra clearly and slowly.
- Over-exaggerate facial expression and words. Get your face nice close to the camera and point to your mouth. You might think you look stupid, but it’s extremely helpful for a first time young learner when trying to practising pronunciation. The recruiter will want to see you have a friendly face.
- Use TPR (Total Physical Response). You will come across this term a lot when teaching languages as it is one of the most useful techniques when teaching. It’s all about the use of gestures, facial expressions, props or body movement to illustrate the meaning of the word. Check out Teacher Tool Kid for an in-depth analysis on TPR.
- Use high fives. High fives are a killer technique for interviews! Most students love a high five and every recruiter will give a positive response to you when doing this in an interview. Schools will encourage children to respond to high fives, so definitely showcase the gesture when trying to get the job. If the recruiter or student gets the answer right – give them a big high five.
- Don’t be scared to make a fool of yourself. Don’t be embarrassed to dance around, sing and act silly. The children love this and a recruiter will want to see that you are capable of doing this.
- Have a nice background. Remember, you’re meant to be creating a classroom environment so have a backdrop that looks organised and creative if you can. A map of the world on the wall, some ABC letters or some colourful drawings. Get arty, get creative – the employers will go mad for it.
- Stand up while teaching – this was a game changer for me! It isn’t necessarily essential, but I have found that when you’re on your feet, you are so much more active and have far more energy. You tend to bounce around more, and this energy reflects on the student, making them far more engaged. Plus it does wonders for your back! Get an ironing board or stack your laptop on a thick pile of books to get it eye-level. You will never go back to teaching sitting down again.
These are some tips that will definitely help you in your online teaching interview. If you have any questions let us know in the comments section and we will get back to you straight away. Good luck!
P.s. If you’re in need of a TEFL, visit our TEFL Course section here we have thoroughly researched all the TEFL Course providers in the UK and recommended our TOP 6. Then head to our Online Teaching Jobs section where you will find the latest jobs around.