What Should You Ask During Your Interview for an Overseas Teaching Position?

While attending an ISS conference, a “home made video” convinced me a school in the Congo was the school for me. The director showed this “amateur” video at the informational session. The photographer, a parent, had cleverly made the school and surrounding areas look like paradise in the jungle. Charged with enthusiasm, I neglected to ask some important questions at my interview. Unbeknownst to me the parent who shot the video was a professional filmmaker. I had been snookered by someone with an agenda to attract top notch teachers for their children. Welcome to the Congo. Uggh!

Personal Matters

So, what should you ask when interviewing for international teaching positions? Of course each of us has our own personal interests and priorities and ISR recommends you take time to prepare questions around these topics. Your questions might range from the availability of certain products to activities such as jogging, gyms, libraries, bookstores, movies, etc. Don’t be shy. If you ask and find your interests are not going to be fulfilled in a particular location you can at least come prepared, or decline the job offer.

Directors are looking for a “good fit”. They want teachers who will integrate well with their current staff and administration. They look for teachers who are flexible and demonstrate an ability to adapt. Let’s say you ask about the availability of bookstores and the director tells you there’s only one and with very few books in English. Instead of looking distraught, you could simply say, “That’s good to know in advance. I can set up an eBook account and read books on line”. Now you’ve killed two birds with one stone. You had your question answered and demonstrated you’re flexible and a good fit.

In 2002 my wife and I interviewed for a teaching position at a mining camp in coastal Peru. After viewing the director’s photos of the school and area we realized we would be 100 miles from nowhere and dependent on seating in the company plane to get out on weekends. During our interview, the doorbell rang and the director left the table for a few minutes. My wife, who had told the director she loves art museums and ethnic crafts, took this opportunity to whisper, “No way in hell am I going there”. When the director returned he proceeded to show us the pay package. Wow…. $50,000 each, plus benefits! He looked at my wife and said. What do you think? She replied, “I’d love to come”. We weren’t offered the positions because we were obviously not a good fit. Had fishing, hiking, mountain biking, tennis been our passion we would have been right for the location. In this case no amount of flexibility was going to make the difference.

The point is, be honest and find out what you personally need to know about a location. Finding a “good fit” is a two-way street. If both you and the director are honest the chances of success at your new location will be greatly enhanced.

Contractual and Professional Matters

Topics in these categories include: health insurance, teaching load, expectation for after school activities, housing, travel expenses, and questions such as “Do teachers generally stay for more than their first two- year contract?”

In earlier ISR articles we covered these topics and more, in detail. We suggest you pick and choose questions from the following articles that reflect your needs. If you find yourself having to ask a number of questions from the 10 Tough Questions category you may want to reconsider the idea of teaching at the school in question. Here’s the line up:

• Ask the Right Questions at Your Interview

• 20 Questions You May Want to Ask

• 10 Tough Questions You May or May Not Want to Ask

Best of success this recruiting season. As always, we recommend you do your homework and check various sources for information on schools and directors.

ISR

Be Prepared for Tough Interview Questions

confused44040691Credentials, enthusiasm and a burning desire to teach overseas describes nearly 100% of recruiting-fair candidates. So, how do you set yourself above the bar with so many high caliber candidates competing for the same positions?

A Director’s gut feeling about how you’ll fit into and adapt to their school and geographical location certainly plays a big part in the decision-making process. For some hardship locations, a “good fit” may be more important than actual years of teaching experience and advanced degrees. But when it comes to competing for the most desirable schools, your answers to some unexpected interview questions can easily make or break the deal:

Tell me about yourself. What’s your greatest contribution to your last school? If I walked into your classroom, what would I see? How will your past or current Director describe you when I dial them up? How would your students describe you? Teach me something right now! What’s the last article or book you read on teaching? Which educational journals do you subscribe to? Tell me about a conflict you resolved.

Answering tough interview questions is something you definitely don’t want to do impromptu. Of course, if you’re thrown a curve ball you have to swing at it, but anticipating and honing your answers to possible interview questions is obviously the best way to prepare for a successful interview. You just might be Teacher of the Year material but if you can’t convince the interviewer of that, all is for naught.

The Job Search Minute is a collection of 69 one-minute videos exploring the answers to a wide variety of tough interview questions. We highly recommend this series for all teaching candidates. For questions specific to International Teaching, we invite you to Scroll Down to post and solicit responses to interview questions you could use some help with. We encourage you to also post and answer your own questions so we all can learn from each others’ knowledge.

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