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How to prepare for your online teaching interview

Guest blog written by i-to-i graduate, Molly Higgs

If you’re new to the realm of online teaching, welcome to the exciting next step of your TEFL career! While Covid has been less than ideal for many industries, the shift towards online working and remote learning has increased the demand for online teachers. Whether you’re looking for a part or full-time gig, you’ll find that while a plethora of companies are hiring, the interview process is pretty standard across the board.

Having previously worked for the BNOC’s of online teaching (DADA, Palfish, and currently EF) I’m here to share what I’ve learnt, and help you prepare for your interview in five easy steps!

First and foremost: prepare your tech

This may seem like an obvious place to start- but never underestimate the importance of a good headset! An employer’s first impression of you should be many things (which we’ll go over later), but it shouldn’t be a grainy image or distant echo. This is something that became woefully clear to me as I stared back at my own blurry image during my first interview!

A 1080p webcam from Amazon will set you back somewhere between £10 to £30, while a basic headset is anywhere up from £7. Once you’ve secured a job, you can easily pay this money back, but your first task is to secure a professional first impression. If you’re ready to go all out, I’d also recommend investing in a wireless headset. This way, you’ll avoid becoming entangled in wires while impressing employers with some essential TPR!

Get creative with your teaching background

You might be noticing a trend in these first few steps: appearance is key, and nothing says “experienced teacher” quite like an interesting backdrop.

Instead of seeing this as a box to tick before your interview, view the blank canvas behind you as a chance to showcase your individualism and flare! I usually find an assortment of posters goes down well, and these are easy enough to find on websites such as Pinterest. You can even go a step further and search for printable reward systems, which will segway nicely into a discussion of classroom management and incentive learning.

For a more personalised feel, and for those of you without access to a printer, family photos and postcards go down a treat and provide a level of relatability for students.

Having said all this, remember to check your chosen company’s specification; though most will favour a colourful background, some may prefer a blank canvas, or simply their logo.

A girl preparing for her teaching English online interview

Have some props at the ready

Whether it’s your childhood teddy bear, a chocolate bar, or a pair of sunglasses, when it comes to teaching props, the possibilities are endless. Anything you bring to the table (quite literally), will get employers onside. Remember: the goal in this interview is to demonstrate your dedication to providing an engaging lesson- having fun is not only allowed, but actively encouraged!

If you’d prefer to teach younger students, it might be time to find your old stuffed toys or head to your local charity shop in search of some; I’ve found most of my teaching aids in these goldmines! As ever, don’t be afraid to get creative- if food vocabulary features in your interview material, why not stick a pair of googly eyes on an apple or a fake moustache on a banana? Having a troupe of props will show you’re prepared to navigate language difficulties, and you can use them to prompt dialogue from shy students.

Often, interviewers will ask directly if you have any props to incorporate into the demo lesson. This part of the interview follows the introductory questions, and is essentially a preview of your teaching style! You’ll be interacting with material chosen by the company and either teaching an imaginary student or, harrowingly, your interviewer will pose as one (trust me, just roll with it!). From my experience, there are two key ways you can prepare for this.

Take inspiration from other teachers

Luckily for us TEFLers, whether we teach online or in person, there are endless resources at our disposal. A classic example is Youtube, where you’ll find a number of certified online teachers sharing their interview tips, demo lesson examples, and generally imparting wisdom. You might not even have to go as far as to open a new tab: here on i-to-i, there’s a catalogue of Webinars with an online teaching focus, courtesy of our resident experts!

While we all have our unique teaching style, there’s always room to take inspiration from lesson observations. Whether it be gestures and hand movements, pacing, or behavioural management, I can guarantee you’ll find something to put your own spin on!

World TEFL Guide

Record a practice run and watch it back as your own critic

You may be cringing into your chair at the thought of this- but hear me out!

While I can only speak from my own experience, each company I’ve worked for in the past sent the demo lesson material prior to the interview. This gives you plenty of time to mull over the content, which will likely be a classic ESL topic focusing on types of animals, the weather, or food. After you’ve familiarised yourself, set up your camera and hit record!

Once you’ve presented the target language to your phantom student and allowed some pauses for them to respond, watch it back to see how you did- which was great I’m sure! Remember that employers aren’t expecting you to be perfect, and a few mistakes will be forgiven as long as you remain upbeat and energetic throughout!

When watching your demo practice back, here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I maintain energy and enthusiasm throughout the demo?
  • Was my speech clear enough for a beginner to understand?
  • Did I cover each element of the target language within the time frame specified by the company?

While there’s no magic formula for acing your online teaching interview, hopefully, these five pointers will help you along the way. The first step is always the hardest! Once you’ve got your foot in the virtual door, you have an exciting TEFL journey ahead of you! Most importantly, relax, be yourself, and get those camera smiles ready!

Keen to hear more about Molly’s TEFL journey? Take a look at her website here

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