My Strangest Interview

Interviewing for an international teaching position can have both strange and comical moments.  Although recruiting conferences can be serious business, there’s always room for the unexpected.  In My Strangest Interview, teachers relate “memorable” interview experiences.  Have something to add?

Interviewing with a school in Japan several years ago… I was single… after 45 minutes of intense questions the guy gets up to get a drink while I’m in the middle of an answer.  I finish and as he walks back he says, “Do you like Asian women?”  I have no idea what to say so I umm and ahh for a second and then say “I find them attractive.”  He practically yells out, “Then you’re gonna love Japan!”  He then tells me that although married he wished he had the opportunity to dabble.

I was interviewing for a job in the Philippines.  The interviewer came late, smelling of cigarettes. We sit down for a talk.  He asked a question and then leans in real dramatically for the answer.  He did this over and over.  Freaked me out.  I also was grabbed by some men from Saudi Arabia at a job fair.  They told me they had the perfect job for me: 5th grade Math and Science. But I teach History and English,  I said.  “You will be perfect”.  Will I like the job?  “No no, you will hate it, the kids are horrible”.  Will I be able to meet many Saudis and have a social life?  “No no, the Saudis hate foreigners.  But there are many nurses in Riyadh. They are from the Philippines. We can hook you up.”  Strangely enough, I didn’t take the job.

I was interviewing with a school in Bahrain. The guy told me to close my eyes, and I did.  Then he asked me to keep my eyes closed and describe the pattern on his tie.  I couldn’t.  I hadn’t been looking at his tie.  I opened my eyes and he insisted that I should have been able to describe his tie because I had looked down at it multiple times.  Um, no I hadn’t.  I had looked down a few times, as I was taking notes on things he said and checking my list of things I meant to ask him.  If he didn’t notice my pen and notepad, why should I have noticed his tie?

After talking with a school for almost 2 months with no communication from the school despite my emailing them numerous times,  I decided to email them and tell them that I was no longer interested in the job:  Thank you, but I need to move on.  I then get an email back asking me why I have changed my mind and why am I going back on my word? When I responded that I hadn’t changed my mind–I was never offered a job–he then told me, “Well, what if I offer you the job now?”  I passed on the job offer, but it was pretty weird!

I think the strangest yet was when the head of school entered the ‘interview area’ of the hotel suite just after getting off of the toilette – the smell was rather ‘potent’ (I’m being tactful).  In addition, he was hung over (apparently from his breath drifting across the interview table),  so although I took the job (it was thankfully his last year at that particular school),  I barely made it through the fumes of this first encounter.

23 thoughts on “My Strangest Interview

  1. Looks like I’m a bit late joining in here, but in case anyone is still following the replies – I had an interview with a school in Azerbaijan which featured no questions at all about the school or my competence as a teacher, but instead focused almost entirely on whether I would be able to cope with living in the country. I mentioned that I’d previously worked in Turkey, which seemed to reassure the interviewer, as she said Azerbaijan was quite similar culturally. The impression I’d had throughout the interview was that they’d already decided to offer me the job (I guessed they must be short of applicants), and were just going through the motions. This impression was reinforced when I had to do a further interview with the school director – it was the last commitment of her working day, she clearly wanted to go home and made the interview as brief as possible. All sorts of alarm bells were ringing in my head by this point; I found a review on ISR which confirmed that I was right to be suspicious – they didn’t pay their staff on time. As I expected, I was offered a position, but declined it.


  2. Thank you for Discussion your experience can I ask u to write the most important question that the interver Ask and the best answer


  3. I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers


  4. At our first job fair my wife and I received interest notices from a school in China. We hadn’t considered them because of their very blunt interest in hiring only comitted Christians, but we did talk to them at sign up. My wife explained that we were not religious, but did they still wish to interview us? They were still interested and we had a fairly straightfoward interview with a nice older gentleman.

    THEN, he said we should go to the room across the hall for the second part of the interview. An older woman then proceeded to explore our spirituality for an hour while going on and on about how attractive my wife was. We both walked out feeling very strange and were not surprised when they never even bothered to let us know whether we were being offered jobs or not.


  5. It was my first fair, and I was really set on a school in the UAE but they weren’t going to give up a elementary slot to single applicant. I was getting a lot of last minute interest from a school in Vienna. I did one interview with the principal and she asked me to come back to do a Skype iterview with the superintendent and board in Austria. Everything seemed to be a done deal on the last day of the conference.

    That last evening the principal and I had dinner and drinks in the hotel lobby and she set up a conference call for me the day after I returned home at a very early hour to accomadate time differences. Somehow my keys got packed in a bag I decided to check and the bag was lost. I had to sleep in the airport while waiting on the bag.

    Finally, I arrive home exhausted but excited. But the call never came in. The next time I heard from her I got a long story about her car problems. Things were rescheduled but still no call came. This time she left me a message saying that the position was internally filled.

    Nothing she said made must sense or seemed believable. weird.


  6. At my first ever fair, I interviewed with a school in Germany. The interview went well and I was invited to meet up with the interviewer again at the social, where he bought me a drink. He met my friends at the fair, talked about when I moved to Germany, when I was working at the school, yada yada, and then invited me out for dinner. Thinking I was going for a business meeting with my new employer, I agreed. Long story short, he did not even have the authority to hire anyone!! The person who did was at another fair in the U.S. In the end, I was not even offered a job by the one with authority. My time was wasted and I was furious. I did at least have the sense to turn him in and he was sacked. Good–he deserved it!


  7. I interviewed for a position in Germany. During the emails prior to the interview, the school seemed very excited because of my language skills and so the job seemed very promising. I flew out-of-state to the interview, rented a car and still had to drive 100 miles. The interviewers came late and then still had me waiting more time before they were ready. During the interview one of them actually fell asleep. They asked to some questions but never responded/reacted to anything so I had no idea how the interview went. Then they said they will let me know in 2 weeks. After 9 weeks they sent me an email stating the position was filled.


  8. Odd seating arrangements designed to make the candidates very uncomfortable… Interviewed by three people, two blokes in suits sitting either side of me, the other, the principal, (a woman in a low cut blouse and weeping mascara), sat opposite me. Their aim seemed to be to catch me out. After an hour a suit man said “How would you direct Jesus Christ Superstar?” to which I replied “I wouldn’t”. Suddenly he stood up and said “That’s the end of the interview”. I was ushered into the room of baffled candidates. After an hour they said “Sorry, no one got the job, you can all go home”.


  9. My very first interview for an internationl posting was with the King Faisal School in Riyadh. To this day I don’t know whether the oviously Arabic looking gentleman was the principal or superintendent. Part way through our interview, he said , “So you could be a vice-pricipal”. I said, “No, I don’t have an administrative background” He said, “But you have been in charge of other teachers sometimes”. I replied,”Yes, I have been dept. head, have run workshops, etc. but I don’t even have my Masters” At this point, he threw his hands in the air and loudly exclaimed – “OH COME ON!-I NEED THE HELP!!”…..I did not accept his offer.


  10. My wife and I were interviewing for middle school positions at a small school in Taiwan. The interview started with the normal interview questions which we answered satisfactorily. Then, he asks what can we teach outside of our content area. I am a math teacher so I said I could teach computers and PE. My wife is a science teacher and she said she could teach social studies and English. He then asks what else we could teach. My wife and I looked at each other a little confused and we each threw in another subject each that we couldn’t teach. The interviewer then got a knock on the door and he answered it. My wife and I discussed the situation while he was at the door. When he returned, we told him we were no longer interested in his school but thanked him for his time.


  11. Reading these posts is not only funny; it’s tragic. It makes it shockingly apparent why the international school teacher needs this website! There are so many unprofessional administrators out there!

    “What was he thinking?” I thought, in response to the following administrator’s statement. I was interviewing for a position in a school in Syria. Fairly new to the interview process, and certainly new to the thought of a school in that part of the world, I asked, “What kind of challenges might a single woman face teaching in Syria?” He looked at me, pondered for only a moment, and then said, “Well, you might be mistaken for a Russian prostitute.”


  12. I am not sure which is stranger. You decide and comment if you wish.

    1)I was to be interviewed for a State Department School in Cameroon which was to take place in Philadelphia, PA. As I was in Boston, MA, I had to fly there. I was told that a face to face interview was necessary but that I was most assuredly to receive the job after the face to face. I arrived at the specified place 45 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting. I stayed in the loby of the hotel from 5:30pm until 9:30pm but alas the interviewer did not show up. I called continually both his mobile and his hotel room which I discovered was not the hotel in which we were meeting. There was no a responce to my numours telephone calls and messages I left the the front desk or on the interviewers email. The three days I was told via email that the meeting was canceled (Do not bother telling me, I am just flying to meet with you.) because the job was filled locally in Cameroon. I checked TIE and called school. TIE had the opening still posted and the school had no clue as to what I was talking about since the post was still vacant. Thankfully the US DEPT OF STATE cut me a check for my expenses.

    2) The interview at a school in Cairo by the Female administrator:

    Interviewer: Do you mind if I ask a personal question?

    Me: (thinking…If I say yes I mind, that is awkward.) No, go right ahead and ask.

    Interviewer: Do you find it difficult to shave your head?

    Me: (Trying to relate the topic to the interviewers background knowledge as good teachers do…) Well no, it is rather easy. Much easier than shaving my neck. You see a man’s neck is fleshy without form much like a woman’s cafe so I suppose the shin would be easier to shave than the cafe likewise the head is easier than the neck.

    Interviewer: We’ll I would not know about that. I grew up in europe and I have not shaved my legs since I was 13 years old.
    Me: (Thinking I just insulted her and trying to dig myself out of a hole…) Well I think that is rather commendable that you do not bow down to the male dominated stereotypes of what is considered feminine beauty. All thoughout history man has been dictating to women how she should dress; for example, high heels, the corset, girdle, make up, nail polish, as well as forbidding women at one time to wear pants were examples of male dominated concept of beauty thrust upon female fashion. (Thinking…STOP, STOP, STOP, THE MORE I SAY THE DEEPER I GET!!! CLOSE YOUR MOUTH DEREK!!! DO NOT SAY ANOTHER WORD!!!!)

    Interviewer: That is very interesting. Let’s continue with the interview. Shall we?


  13. My wife and I had a strange interview last year with the principal of an international school in South-East Asia. We were with him for half an hour and he only asked us one question in that whole time – he asked me something like, “Are you applying for the maths job?” (I wasn’t.) He talked at length about the social life in the country the school was in, and listed all the job fairs he was going to go to in the next month – it was a long list. At the end of the interview he said, “Let me know later if you’re still interested.” We left the room, not very impressed that he hadn’t really asked us anything. The next day we were coming back to the hotel in the evening and saw him getting out of a taxi with a young woman – the taxi had stopped about 50 meters from the hotel. The principal and the young woman made a big point of walking separately into the hotel, then they got into a lift together. We thought it’s not surprising he’s going to so many job fairs if that’s what he likes doing when he’s at them!


  14. My very first job fair, 15 years ago, was strange from the beginning. Of course, not knowing what to expect, I arrive at the hotel for registration. I am met by one of the founding father’s of this particular recruiting agency. I introduced myself and he responded with a very loud: ” I recogize your name. YOU ARE GOING TO RABAT !!!!!” (I am? What is this man talking about? Where is Rabat? )I remember saying something non-comittal about not knowing where I would be heading just yet,(the interview day was the next day!) hoping he had been maybe kidding, or maybe it was just social chit chat… The next day as I was getting in line for signing up for interviews, I must have crossed the path of the Rabat school. A man called out to me…..I went over to him…..He (this is true!!!) reached over and took my sign up sheet, looked at the schools I had signed up for an interview and wrote on the schedule, his name, in one of the time slots!!! Being new to the process, but not a new teacher (20 years at that point) I really didn’t know what to do……so I reluctantly went to his interview room at the time he had written down, even though I had no desire to pursue his school! He wasn’t there. I waited 30 minutes and then started to worry as I had scheduled an interview with another school, afterwards. He showed up after waiting 45 minutes( I wanted to get up and leave but thought that might be bad form.He seemed really hyper, very agitated and for some reason really angry…..It was a little scary and very bizarre.I was beginning to realize that communication had somehow reached him that ” the woman wasn’t necessarily heading to Rabat.” So, this Director turns to me after a long ominous silence as he sat staring angrily (???I had never met the man before the interview) …..when he suddeny whirled around in his seat and says to me(very close to my face) “So, I hear that you are very creative! So, …….create!” He sat back with his arms folded and crossed his legs…(this makes me laugh out loud now, but it was just scary then….) Ummmmm… it doesn’t really work that way, and I really had no desire to work in this place,and certainy not for this man. But, I went along with it and answered the question about creativity. When I finished, he whirled back around in his chair and with his back to me, waved toward the door,with a dismissive waving hand indicating the door. It was so bizarre. I was happy to finally be able to leave. I was running late for the next interview. That particular year, there were many job openings for the “creative arts” and not so many applicants. I was excited to accept a position in Eastern Europe, from several opportunities! About the time I had completely forgotten about the weird interview, I received in the mail, a letter from this man who told me that unfortunately, he would not be able to offer me a position, but “perhaps you could wait another year and find a school somewhere that would want to hire you. I certainly do not wish to….” Huh? I had of course signed the contract with my first international school shortly after he job fair, two months previously. He had to have known this. The job fair people certainly knew it. Very very strange…..


  15. My wife and I were interviewing (at an ISS fair) for a positions in Taiwan. We entered the room where the curtains were drawn and the lights were dimmed. In the process of trying to ask questions about the school the interviewer kept bringing the conversation back to personal topics. All questions directed to us were seemingly half listened to. He usually tried to connect what we were saying back into experiences of his own. After a sideways glance at my wife, we gave up and listened to his ramblings. For the next 40 minutes he covered the death of his mother, his estranged kids, marital issues with his wife and personal conflicts with his staff. It was the end of the day and the last scheduled interview time for most. After a full hour we politely excused ourselves for a dinner appointment.
    We still don’t know if the gent was in desperate need of counselling, testing us somehow or blowing us off. Regardless we did not consider any positions offered us.


    1. I worked at that school for the last two years on my first international position; you and your wife were very, very lucky.


  16. I was interviewed for a post at an American School in London. They asked me to watch the department members teach for an entire day. Then they asked me what I thought of them. They didn’t tell me the purpose of me watching them teach other than for me to decide if I would fit in. When I told the head positive things about the teaching I saw, she was visibly disappointed. I guess I was supposed to be critical of them. Anyway, I thought it was strange for me to observe all day, and then to be asked very little about myself. Also, they told me I would be eating lunch with some teachers, but it wasn’t a lunch it was a group interview. I was the only one with a lunch. That was also very awkward.


  17. My strangest interview came at my first job fair. The Director of a certain school in a certain African nation was drinking Scotch (it was 11:00am). The interview consisted of him telling me about how there were lots of single and “willing” young women teaching at the school. Sure, that is a selling point, but not exactly what I looking for in my next school!


  18. I was invited for an interview to teach French. When I arrived for the interview, the director asked me to wait a few minutes. I assumed he was finishing up another interview. Twenty minutes later he opened the door and was ALONE! He told me he had been preparing for his presentation, which was to take place the next day. He then began to talk about an IB German position. When I said I was not a German teacher and there had been some kind of misunderstanding, he asked, “Why did you come here and waste my time?” I got up and left as quickly as I could, thanking him for his wasted time. I was contacted by him a few days after the fair asking if I was available for a phone interview for the French job. No thanks!


  19. I was at my first job fair and quite green on the international scene. My second interview was with a man from an international school in China who smoked throughout the interview in the hotel room. He then said (in a heavy Brooklyn accent), “I gotta be honest wid ya. I’m not an educatah. I’m a lawyah. I’m just here cuz my boss told me to hire.” I was nervous, so didn’t tell him that the next 30 minutes were wasted time as there was no way I was going to take that job!


  20. I was interviewed by the chief executive of education for Papua New Guinea, and HE FELL ASLEEP!!!!!!!!. I wish I was joking! The director of schools was also there, so in one of those ‘let’s all ignore the pink elephant in the room’ moments, we carried on! Of course I couldn’t think straight and interviewed badly, but probably a blessing not having to work with someone who thinks it’s ok to fall asleep! (He did eventually wake up, but didn’t apologise, just waved his hand regally and said ‘carry on’!)


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