International Teaching Interview Preparation: Tips and Tricks

Welcome to the third post in our series International Teaching: Everything you need to know, if you haven’t yet read posts 1 and 2 you can find them here:

Is International Teaching Right For Me?

The International Job Search: What to look for and where

In this post we’ll be taking a look at the interview process for jobs in international education. By the end of this post you’ll have an idea of what the process will involve, some questions you can prepare to answer and some examples of questions you can ask of your interviewer too. 

The Interview Process

For the majority of teaching jobs in international education job interviews are conducted using video calling (with the most commonly used platform being Skype).  When booking your interview be careful to check the time difference. Some countries use daylight savings and some countries have multiple time zones. Using a website like TimeAndDate (https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html) can help with this to make sure everyone has agreed upon the same time! 

A running joke amongst international teachers is the stories of people doing Skype interviews with a formal shirt/blouse and underwear but no trousers – certainly a bit different to how you would dress face to face! Still, trousers or not, you’ll want to appear formally dressed and make sure you are on time, same as for any interview. 

It’s very common to have multiple interviews (often with different people within a school) or to have panel interview (2 or more people interviewing you).  Schools are making a big decision here and so they want a few people involved in that. If possible you want to speak to more than one person, this helps you get a better feel for the school culture and the people you will be working with. 

Questions you can expect to be asked

This interview is the best chance your potential employer has to get to know you and for you to know them.  As such you should expect a broad variety of questions. Below we list some examples of what you might be asked about, but this is by no means an extensive list. 

About you as a teacher

  • What would we see if we came into your classroom? 
  • How do you motivate students?
  • How do you handle students with behavioural challenges? 
  • Describe your teaching style
  • How do you build community in your class?
  • How do you communicate with families? 
  • Give an example of how you collaborate with colleagues
  • Discuss your planning process for learning
  • Discuss your views on assessment
  • What do you love/what frustrates you about the age group you teach?

Moving to a new school/country

  • What interests you in coming to [school] [country]?
  • How have you [and your family] adapted to change in the past?
  • Questions about past work experience/school or curricula system

What should I ask my interviewer?

An interview is also a chance for you to ask questions. Most interviewers will prompt you to do this, but don’t be afraid to ask for the chance to run through your list of questions.

  • How would you describe the culture of your school?
  • What does a typical day look like for a student? Teacher? Leader? 
  • Do your leadership team have contact time? 
  • What is the school’s approach to… [assessment, behavioural support, community building, designing learning spaces, outdoor education, SEL]?
  • Typically, what professional learning opportunities will I have?
  • What is this year’s expected staff turnover as a percentage? (10-30% is common, anything over 50% and you should ask why)
  • It may feel awkward, but if the school has negative reviews on ISR (International Schools Review) ask the school to speak to the situation. The response you get will likely tell you a lot. 
  • What nationalities make up the student body? (There’s no ‘good’ or ‘right’ answer to this, but it will tell you something about the school)

Following Up

You’re making a big decision – moving not only jobs but home (and country) so ask lots of questions.  International education is always full of unknowns. Asking every question on your list can help you fill in as many of these as possible so that you can be comfortable with the decision you make, regardless of what that decision may be. You can (and should) also ask to talk to other teachers at the school by skype or email.  This can help you understand a little more about what life is like at the school and get a different perspective from that of leadership. Clearly, the school wouldn’t suggest you talk to someone they believe is unhappy. But the more information and impressions you can gather the better. 

After the Interview

After your interview(s) you should expect to hear back by email. If possible clarify when this will be during your interview.  Standard procedure is that you will get an offer by email (which you can accept or reject) and, if you accept, an example of your contract by email and then the official version by post/courier. 

Be prepared for the timeline here to vary drastically.  Some schools will be ready to interview within a couple of days of receiving your application and may give you only 24 hours to accept an offer.  Others will wait weeks/months to complete internal and local hires/leadership and high demand positions before reaching out. This is why knowing your why is important – you may have to decide between a time limited but definite offer and the potential for another offer to come in the future.  No one can tell you what decision to make, but talking things through with family, friends, and colleagues can be a useful sounding board. 

Good luck!

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