In the last few years, teachers are often recruited for EFL teaching jobs abroad via telephone interview. That’s because it’s too costly to fly a prospective teacher to the country in question just for a job interview, the school can’t afford the time or the money to send someone to your country, and schools invariably need to hire quickly.
When I was still teaching English in Thailand, I had telephone interviews for schools in both Korea and China and was offered each job I interviewed for. If you know you are going to have a telephone interview for an EFL job overseas, here are the techniques I used to pass every interview with flying colors and get job offers for some amazing EFL jobs.
Choose a quiet place to take the call – Most of us nowadays take all of our telephone calls on a cell phone, which means you can choose where you speak from when an interviewer calls. You should know the time and date of the telephone call, so choose a place that is quiet and where you are not likely to be disturbed. Believe me, you won’t get the job if the interviewer is trying to hear you over the barking of a dog or the cries of your sister’s baby.
Speak slowly – The most important thing when doing any telephone interview for an EFL teaching job overseas is you must speak slowly, particularly if the person interviewing you is a native to the country you are interested in working in. That is because, while their English skills might be good, accents differ no matter where you come from, so while the interviewer may understand someone from London, England or Sydney, Australia, he may have more of a problem understanding someone from Boston, Massachusetts or from Glasgow, Scotland.
Take a deep breath, slow down your normal rate of speech and don’t get excited and gabble. You’ll sound more professional that way, and it’s great practice for when you are teaching EFL overseas as you’ll have to do exactly the same with your students.
After all, if the interviewer can’t understand you, he’s not going to hire you to teach in his school, as the students won’t understand you either.
Don’t speak in pidgin English – An automatic reaction to someone not speaking correct English for some westerners is to start making their English increasingly simple until it ends up being ‘pidgin English’. I once sat in a room with a fellow teacher who took an interview for a job in Japan on his cell phone in the teachers’ lounge and proceeded to speak to the interviewer like he was a four-year-old learning a new language “I no want go Japan till October. You think okay?” Needless to say, he didn’t get that job.
You are an English teacher. Your English should be perfect in a job interview, as the interviewer is assessing how well you will speak in front of your students. After all, he’s not going to pay someone a good salary to teach pidgin English to Japanese, Korean or Chinese children.
Don’t use slang – Not only does slang sound unprofessional, especially coming from an English teacher, but it differs from region to region. What you may think of as “normal language” may be vocabulary the interviewer has never heard, meaning he misunderstands what you said.
Imagine realizing you were telling him you think South Korea would be an awesome place to teach in, when what he thought you were saying was “It sounds terrible”. No slang often equals less misunderstandings, and more chance of you getting the teaching job.
Be friendly – While, of course, you want to sound professional and as if you know what you’re doing, you also want to come across as being friendly and approachable. Teachers need to be respected but in many countries, like Thailand where I live and used to teach, they must also be well-liked as students will complain to the school if they are not.
A great tip on sounding friendly on the phone is to put a smile on your face, as that often comes through in the warmth of your voice.
Sound enthusiastic – Most teachers who are interviewed for an EFL job over the phone have never visited the city, and often the country, where the teaching job is located. When talking about the place, sound enthusiastic and as if you can’t wait to get there. Interviewers are often proud of the country they live in and are happy that a foreigner is willing to come there, teach English and enjoy all the place has to offer.
The most important thing when it comes to being interviewed for an EFL teaching job via the telephone is often not your qualifications or your experience, although it helps if you have one, the other, or both. More often it’s that you sound friendly, positive, relaxed and as if you are going to be a good employee who will enjoy working at the school while you are there, and put in your best effort. All of the above tips will help convey these things, and hopefully ensure you get the job.