The ABC of ELT

10 great questions to ask during your TEFL interview

Preparing questions for an interview is an important step during your application process. It’s one of the few stages that can really make your application stand out from the rest AND help you find out the true character of the school.

Many companies look to the questions you ask as an indication of what type of teacher you are and what you are looking to get out of the school.

For example, asking about what the standard teaching hours (and then asking about the option of overtime hours) sounds a lot better than how many hours do I have to work and would I be forced to do overtime [but both get the same information]

This list certainly isn’t a complete guide and the best tip I can give you is to research the company before hand. If you ask a question that is specific to that school and shows that you want to be there rather than just anywhere you are half way there already.

However, if you want some “go to” questions then the 10 bellow will no doubt be useful for you.

Question 1: What is the student demographic at your school?

Some schools teach mostly/solely children or business classes with very only General English Adult classes. It’s important to ask as you don’t want to end up going to a school where you are teaching students you don’t want to [although broadening your horizons is always good.]

Bonus tip: Expect the follow up questions of what teaching experience do you have and what types of students would you like to teach. In general you will NEED to compromise somewhere and it is almost impossible to teach only one group all the time. There are some exceptions with specialist Business groups and Specialist Children teacher positions but have a second group as back up.

Question 2: What administrative/other tasks are required outside of teaching hours?

Some teachers only have to teach the lesson, write down what they have done and then they are free. Some school have a more formalized system which requires more administration. It’s important to ask as not every school includes information like this in their job advertisements.

Warning: Just because the school says they don’t require to do any administrative duties it won’t mean that you can clock in and off before and after lessons (in some cases this is true) sometimes it is just assumed that you will do extra preparation work for classes.

Question 3: Are there any experienced teachers who can help me settle in?

If lot’s of teachers are leaving then there is usually a reason, sometimes it is a cultural aspect and sometimes it is a managerial aspect but either way it’s good to ask. If it is cultural then you want to prepare yourself to adapt, if it’s a problem within the school then maybe it’s best not to go. This question is more subtle than asking “What is your teacher turnover.” and by using “settle in” you avoid the implication that you aren’t competent in time management and preparing.

Question 4: What is the average class size?

Trust me very large classes are no fun, especially when they are all misbehaving children!

Having said that teachers have preferences as to what they thin the best size of classes are. Some teachers prefer one to one classes with only one student who they can really get to know and invest in. Others prefer the environment and culture of groups and have different preferences over what size is best.

Generally schools prefer groups (and the larger the group the better) as this means that each teacher/class generates more cash, having said that it is generally accepted that the smaller the class size the better the learning environment for the students.

Question 5: Does the school organise extra-curricular activities?

Some schools require their teachers to attend extra events that the school hosts with no benefits for the teachers at all. Others pay or offer free drinks for the teacher. Asking the question like it is above is much better than “Do I have to attend ...” because it shows you are interested in being more than just a face in the class.

Just make sure to ask how much you’re expected to attend. You don’t want to end up being shattered at the end of the week and required to hang out with students and feeling like your still working.

Question 6: Does the school hold regular staff meetings?

Staff meeting are a great way to communicate with management, report and find out answers to problems. Regular meetings also allow the opportunity to bring up any small niggling issues as well as extremely large issues.

Ultimately, staff meetings aren’t the be all and end all, and it is certainly possible to communicate with teachers and management via other means, however, they are a very simple system. If there isn’t some sort of system in place then why not?

Question 7: How much flexibility is there within the curriculum?

Set curriculum can be a blessing and a curse. For a new teacher knowing what you have to do and teach ever lesson can be really liberating from a whole load of panic and worry. However, it can also lead to laziness on the teacher part and not really teaching what the students need (either by progressing too quickly or slowly) If you’re a new teacher then it might be worth looking for a school where they will give you more guidance and assistance (on the other hand you may want to avoid developing bad habits early).

Asking the question as it is worded above hints that you aren’t just going to teach from the coursebook and that you actually want to make the lessons relevant and interesting for the students.

Question 8: What types of resources and teaching aids are available?

Again having plenty of resources and materials can be really beneficial in helping you discover plenty of great activities for your specific student, on the other hand too many resources can lead you paralysed by choice and later dependent on materials. In addition, the modern computer age means that many resources and materials can be found online. Think carefully about what materials and resources you really need.

Question 9: What is the payment schedule?

Knowing when you’ll get paid (and how much) is important for many obvious reasons. However, asking this question is a nice a gentle way to go into the specifics of payments, possible flight reimbursements without looking like you are just concerned with getting paid and not the teaching. It also allows you to bring up potential penalties for late payments.

Be careful not to just accept “we’ve never paid anyone late,” Any cowboy operator can state that without it being true.

Question 10: Can I speak to someone who works for the school?

Without doubt this is your best chance of getting the true inside story on the school.

Directors can promise the world and deliver very little but a regular teacher is more likely to tell you the truth. Of course, they could still being swayed to give a glowing review (they are currently doing overtime and need a new teacher to lighten the load) and if they didn’t say a single bad thing there might be something they are hiding. Still this is your best chance to hear the inside story and avoid a bad work place.


Of course, different schools have different needs, different problems, different cultures and different questions you should ask. After all if they give explicit details on their job description then it might be best to not ask the questions above. In some cultures it is also more acceptable to be direct about asking about money or other topics. As such, it’s a good idea to research the company and the country’s culture a bit more when you prepare your questions.

What good questions have you heard or used in Job Interviews?


About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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