Independence and Cultural Awareness - The Other Things ESL Interviewers Look For


During a job interview for a job teaching English abroad, there are a number of things you'll be evaluated on.

Of course, the most obvious things are your teaching knowledge, ability, and qualifications. These are far from being the only things that interviewers look out for though, and they're not even necessarily the most important things.

It's much more important to schools that they hire someone with the right personality than the right qualifications. You can train people how to teach, and they can earn qualifications, but it's much harder to fit someone into a position if they're aren't "right" for the job.

In this post, we're going to look at two major factors that interviewers assess; your independence and your cultural awareness. On top of this, we'll talk about how you can better demonstrate these skills in your interview, and set yourself apart from other candidates.


Why is independence important to interviewers? They're primarily looking for candidates who can cope with moving to a new country. Independence is a massive part of this ability. If you can't demonstrate that you're able to look after yourself, then it's going to be a red flag to any potential hirers. 

Nobody wants to go through the ropes of hiring a teacher, introducing them to a new country, and training them, only to find out that they can't cope and want to go home in the first few months.

How can you demonstrate independence? Some good examples are having worked in a previous job where you had to take responsibility or solve your own problems, having travelled a lot (by yourself or with a small group), and even better, having spent time in various countries where English is not a native language.

Even if you haven't had any of those experiences yourself, there are still more things you can do to demonstrate independence. Did you study at a university away from your family? Did you go to boarding school? Are you an only child? Have you searched for these TEFL jobs by yourself?

If you think about it long enough, you can surely find plenty of examples of independence, and being able to draw on these experiences in your interview is key.

Cultural Awareness

Knowing what you're getting yourself into with your country of choice is massive too. One thing that affects a fair amount of new teachers is culture shock, and that can spell disaster for those who really can't cope with it. Being able to deal with culture shock is great, but if you have a lot of cultural awareness in the first place, you likely won't even experience it at all.

This isn't just going to help you in your interview either, it's going to make your life a lot easier and getting settled in will be smoother too.

The difference between an adventure and a nightmare can often be a fine line!

There's another added bonus to cultural awareness; it shows that you've done your research and are committed to the job. This is going to be a great way of setting yourself above your competition.

So how do you go about demonstrating your cultural awareness? It's actually a lot simpler than you might think. First off, while it helps to do as much research as possible, and reading a wikipedia page is a great start, you don't need to just rattle off as many facts about a country/city as possible.

Make sure you know the basics though. What language do they speak? Where is the capital? What's the weather and climate like? Do you have any knowledge of the visa application process? Did you receive any literature prior to your application/interview? Show that you read and understood it!

The extent to which you've done your research is important too. There's a big difference between someone who just read the wikipedia page 10 minutes before their interview, and someone who has trawled forums, guidebooks, and blogs with guides to find out the lowdown. 


These two factors are a big part of getting selected for a position, so it's important you understand this. In a later post, we'll talk about a few other factors as well (commitment one of them), and by familiarizing yourself with the whole lot, you'll be armed as one of the best candidates for any given position.

It's all simple stuff, but don't underestimate its importance.