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  • Writer's pictureJ. Mallais

Job Interviews: Do's and Don'ts

When you score that elusive request for a job interview at your dream school, you'll want to be highly prepared but also sound natural. That actually takes a lot of practice!

For that reason, I would recommend never turning down the opportunity to interview. It's a chance to hear new questions, meet school admin members (think: networking opportunity) plus, you can get a good feel for what the school is like by how they interview you: Starts on time? Reasonable questions? Genuine interest in you and your answers? Follow-up questions that show they’re listening? Caring demeanour? You can glean a lot of information from an interview.

But how else can you prepare for interviews? Take a look at these Do's and Don'ts of interviewing:



  • Do practice your answers beforehand, limiting them to 60 seconds or less. Use a timer and practice keeping your answers succinct and to the point. The interviewers can always ask you follow-up questions if they want to know more.

  • Don't use terms you're not familiar with. Avoid using edu-jargon unless you can back it up with relevant examples from your teaching practice.

  • Do your research on the school beforehand. Read everything on their website and take notes of relevant information for your position. Prepare some follow-up questions for them that demonstrate your knowledge of their school.

  • Don't be shy to ask for information on a school in social media groups, such as Facebook International Teaching groups. Be sure to search the group first for recent info before asking. Check this job search tip for more information:

  • Do wear your most professional outfit: suit and tie for men, blouse and jacket for women. You'll make a favourable first impression.

  • Don't be late. Think of your interview as starting 15 minutes before the actual time so that you're ready to go. This is especially important with technology if your interview is virtual.

  • Do ask if you could take notes. This will help you recall their name(s) and position(s), what questions they've asked, and their responses to your questions. Just make sure they're jot-notes; it shouldn't be a distraction to making a connection with your interviewers.

  • Don't forget to make a lot of eye contact and smile. It helps you come across as approachable and friendly: important qualities in a teacher.

  • Do listen actively and ask clarifying questions. If you're unsure what their question was, it's better to ask than presume and answer something you think they've asked. Feel free to paraphrase their question to verify you've understood.

  • Don't badmouth previous schools or supervisors. When asked why you left a school, speak to the possible future opportunities, like: wanting to work with a new curriculum, expanding your grade level, switching the type of school (international vs. local, for example), your desire to experience a particular culture or geographical location.

  • ​Do relate your answers to both your current and past teaching practice. Using the full range of your teaching experiences shows your growth as a professional.

  • Don't tell long stories. Using concrete examples is good, but only if you can keep them short and to the point. You want to avoid rambling.

  • Do speak to your strengths and draw links between their needs and your abilities. Use wording from their advertisement and job description to show them you're the right candidate for them.

  • Don't sell yourself short. It's okay to admit to challenges you've faced and even mistakes you've made but, be sure to spin them as learning opportunities and show the growth you've experienced as a result.

  • Do thank them for their time, both at the end of the interview and in an email shortly after the interview. This will leave them with a lasting good impression.

  • Don't be impatient. The hiring process can sometimes feel interminably long, but remember that they could be interviewing many candidates. Multiply that by the number of positions they have advertised, and you can see that they might not get back to you quickly. If you haven't heard back from them in 2 weeks, you could send them a gentle follow-up email expressing your continued interest.

Do you wish you had someone to turn to with the experience and ability to answer your questions about international schools? I first went overseas in 1996 and have been in the international circuit ever since, both as a teacher and a school leader in 6 different countries on 4 continents. In addition to helping you with your CV and cover letter, I will meet with you in a video call, happy to answer your questions and advise you of your next steps. Additionally, I will send you job leads from around the world that I find through my professional and personal network. I'm always just an email away. Have a look at the services I offer here:

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