Common interview questions

In my experience, English teaching interviews tend to be friendly and reasonably easy. In Berlin, the fact that you are going for a freelance position adds to the general air of informality. Questions generally range from inquiries on your previous teaching experience along with more personal information including your motivation for moving to Berlin. Ironically, the most arduous interviews tend to be for the schools offering the least money and worst conditions.

You can also read ‘things that you should ask at the interview’.

Following is a list of questions I have been asked:

Why did you come to Berlin?

The first question I’ve been asked at every interview and hopefully an easy one to answer. revenge

What teaching experience have you had?

There seems to be more business than general classes in Berlin, so it’d be worth highlighting your business teaching experience, or any experience in business you had before starting teaching.

What levels have you taught before? Which do you find the most difficult to teach?

There tend to be more higher level classes in Berlin than lower levels. It might be worth pushing your higher level experience, how much you love complicated grammar and explaining it lucidly to your students.

What are you strengths and weaknesses?

Stock interview question. + Everyone loves me. – I push myself too hard. That’s a joke by the way. Make sure you come up with something a little more imaginative.

How would you teach present perfect?

If I’m asked a grammar teaching question, it is invariably this one. Note: whilst being the obvious answer, ‘use a textbook’ is not acceptable.

Tell me about a time that something you were teaching went wrong

This is a reasonably common question that will show the interviewer how well you can handle stress and improvise when necessary. Every teacher has times when things don’t go quite to plan. Make sure you add that the experience made you a better teacher and that you always learn from your mistakes.

What do you want to do in the future?

Apart from not working freelance? Get settled into the city. Go on to do the DELTA/management. Become prime minister of the world. Be the first person to walk on Jupiter.

Some other excellent sites:

Information and advice on having a Skype interview

Some general tips

Advice from the interviewer side

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5 Responses

  1. Good advice. I’d say that I never want to hear the positives “Everyone loves me” or the negative “I push myself too hard”. They really tell me nothing as an interviewer.

    For the positives I want to actually know what are the persons strengths as a teacher and I really want to hear an honest appraisal of the persons weaknesses. If a teacher says to me “I am useless with kids”, that is fine; I know the person is being honest and I know that they will not work with kids. I can pencil them in for adult lessons and look for a teacher that actually wants to teach kids and has a flair for it. My business will look and run better if the teachers I send to do lessons are appropriate for the lessons they are doing.

    I tend to find that people say “I can do anything” in the interview and then I approach them with offers for lessons and they say “Oh, no, I don’t teach kids/business/large groups/whatever”. Essentially they have wasted my time and their own by not being brave enough to be honest in the interview and it is something that comes with age and maturity. As a youngster I’d have said the same but I find that most people who value their own experience and know their own strength are aware that it is not a weakness to know your real weaknesses.

    • Hi,
      The ‘everyone loves me/pushing too hard’ was meant to be tongue in cheek. I guess it didn’t come across too well in the blog! I certainly wouldn’t expect to be successful in an interview with either of these.
      It’s great to hear things from the other (interviewer) perspective and I can imagine it is harder interviewing than being interviewed as you are expected to lead proceedings.
      You make an interesting point about exaggerating abilities in order to get a job. I suppose there is a great deal of pressure to find any teaching position as the majority of people doing this job have just moved to the country and hence, have limited time/money to find something before they have to go home. Like you say, there are a lot of younger people in the profession including those who are teaching short-term and don’t have any aspirations to improve themselves within the industry for the future. Of course, I imagine that makes it very difficult to recruit effectively and manage a school.

      • Exactly. Even if people are just passing through and only intend on doing the job for a few months, I still value the honesty of them saying so. If that is the case then I say “Fine, we’ll throw you a few cover lessons when our teachers are away or ill, that way you can earn a few bucks but the students aren’t expecting a genius teacher as it is a cover lesson”. There is always a way to make a person’s skills (as long as they have at least some amount of skill) with the needs of our business. The problem is always when people try to appease the interviewer with what they think they want to hear.

        It’s the same as the old “describe yourself in 5 words” thing. I don’t ask that question, as it is asinine, but I don’t want to hear “punctual, friendly, creative, inteligent, hard-working”. This is what people think an interviewer wants to hear and it is so predictable it means nothing at all. The best answer I have heard was a brutally honest “Recovering alcoholic making things right” – I would hire that person on the spot as that answer tells me a million times more than the answer people think the interviewer wants to hear.

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