One thing that is sometimes overlooked by candidates who apply for a TEFL job abroad is their ability to live in that country for an extended period of time.
It's easy to focus on your qualifications, your enthusiasm, maybe even your knowledge of the country, culture, and area when filling out your applications.
However, recruiters and potential schools will be equally interested in your experiences with foreign cultures and languages. Nobody wants to hire a teacher who will not cope with life abroad. One of the biggest difficulties schools face is hiring a teacher, investing time and money into training them, only to find they want to leave two months later.
The "Ideal" Candidate
Not everybody will meet the following description, so don't worry if you don't either, but in terms of experience the ideal candidate will be the following:
Somebody who has had experience living, working, or studying abroad for an extended period (preferably 12 months), in a country where English is not the native language. The ideal candidate would have learned, or made efforts to learn the local language, embraced the culture and overcome any challenges faced.
Naturally, there aren't going to be a huge amount of applicants who match the above description, but now you know what "ideal" is, you can think about how to show recruiters that you have some of those traits.
How Recruiters Evaluate You
There will more than likely be some questions asked that are designed to evaluate how closely you meet the above criteria, so you should choose answers that will help demonstrate this. Obviously, you shouldn't lie though!
Here are some example questions you might face:
- Have you ever lived away from home before?
- Have you ever lived in a foreign country before? Was English a native language?
- What difficulties did you overcome during this time?
- Have you traveled much? How long for?
- Have you learned a foreign language before?
- What would you do if you experienced culture shock?
When you know the motives behind these questions, it's a lot easier to answer them, but if you find that you CAN'T answer them, we've given some tips below to help.
It's quite possible that you've never spent an extended period of time away from home or in a foreign country, but don't despair if this is you.
Think about what else you could say instead. Maybe you've traveled extensively around your own country, maybe you lived alone and had to overcome difficulties while you were at university, or maybe you're familiar with a lot of foreign cultures due to your work or other environments.
It's always better to give something than nothing in this case. Remember, they're just trying to check that you're not going to freak out and come home early once you arrive in your new country, so make it easy for them.
If You're Being Interviewed, The Job Is Yours To Lose
While we're on the subject of making it easy for the recruiters, we've got an insider's tip for you. If you make it to the interview stage of an application, this means the job is pretty much ready to be offered to you. Your application has been pre-screened, your visa would probably be approved if applied for, you're available for the job at the required time, and the recruiter feels that on paper at least, you should be the right candidate for the job.
Recruiters don't really want to interview 100 candidates for every vacancy, so when they schedule an interview it means they want to offer you the job, but need to confirm their initial assessment or ask about one or two smaller details of your application.
Essentially, the job is yours to lose, so make it easy for the recruiter by preparing for your interview. Do your research on the country you're applying for, prepare answers for the kind of questions you might face, and relax! They want you to be the right person, so they'll be on your side.