Let’s face it - interviews are completely terrifying on the best of days.
Your palms get sweaty. Your brow spouts little droplets of perspiration or, if you’re the man who practices yoga beside me every Tuesday afternoon, a geyser of water flows from every oraphis of your body, at even the slightest hint of movement. Your mouth becomes dry and, even when you try to swallow, you end up choking which results in an often failed attempt at hiding the fact you’re choking, because you don’t want the interviewer to know how truly petrified you are. You overthink your hair, where to focus your gaze, how to hold your face, (“Do I subtly frown as to look more serious or sport faux spectacles to appear more collegiate?” “Does smiling, ever so slightly, make me look completely insane?”). Often times, we shoot ourselves in the foot (I work at Footprints, come on!), before we even get a chance to make a good first impression because we overthink, or misunderstand the very purpose of an interview, and, as such, unconsciously self-sabotage.
I interview hundreds of people applying for teaching jobs overseas and I can tell you, with complete honesty, I predict within the first five minutes who will be selected to interview with the client and who won’t be. Here’s some helpful insight.
What Not to Say in a job interview: Lesson 101
Jessica: “Hi there! This is Jessica calling from Footprints Recruiting. How are you today?”
Candidate 1: “Argh, not great. My students were awful today and our administration is so useless. I can’t wait to get out of this place.”
Jessica: “I’m sorry to hear that. Great first impression, Candi 1!” Click. Fail. DO NOT HIRE.
This example is extreme but, I kid you not, even if you’re not quite as overt in your disapproval of the days’ events or your current job as Candi 1 here is, I assure you, a bad mood or low energy come across almost instantly; sometimes, even before you open your mouth. We feel it.
Please DON’T tell a prospective employer you hate your current one. Don’t go on and on about how difficult your life has been these past couple of years. If your day totally sucked and you were nearly hit by a truck on your way to get groceries and your pants ripped and you slipped in the mud, don’t tell us about it. In other words, don’t be a Debbie Downer. Unless, your name is legally Debbie Downer and you’re, in reality, quite pleasant. Then it’s okay.
What Not to Say: Intermediate
Jessica: “So Candi 2,” weird, my last applicant was named Candi, “what sort of research have you done on the United Arab Emirates? What do you know of Abu Dhabi?” (You can alter the script depending on what country you’ve applied to teach abroad in.)
Candidate 2: “Um, well, I’ve done a lot of research.”
Jessica: “Great! Such as?”
Candidate 2: “Well, you know, just reading things online.”
Jessica: “Awesome! Like what?”
Candidate 2: “Ya know, things about the area. Cultural things.”
Jessica: “Cool! What did you learn about the culture?”
Candidate 2: “Well, it’ll be different than it is here.”
Translation: I don’t know anything about where I plan on living and teaching abroad for the next two years.
Okay, teachers, let me break it down. If you asked a student to write a small paragraph about the planet, Jupiter, and they came to class the next day and you question them, “Student, what can you tell me about Jupiter?” And if they came back at you with, “Well, I’ve done a lot of research,” would you deem this answer acceptable? Didn’t think so. Nor do our clients we recruit for. If you apply for a teaching job and manage to snag an interview for that job, please know WHY you want it. People respond to honesty-if you don’t know a whole lot of specifics, or clam up, but are able to communicate why this opportunity fits into your career goals and what you’d like to learn about it or, even admit, you don’t know as much as you should, we can work with this. But do your research. Don’t just say you’ve done it because we know you haven’t.
What Not to Say: Advanced
Jessica: “Candi 3, you’ve done great! I’m more than happy to move you forward in the process here. Any questions about teaching abroad?”
Candidate 3: “Nope.”
Jessica: “Are you sure? We have time for questions.”
Candidate 3: “No, I’m okay. I know a lot already.”
Jessica: “We have, like, ten extra minutes. Are you sure?”
Candidate 3: “I’m sure. Bye!”
At this stage, it is forgivable if you don’t happen to have any pressing questions as you will have, at this point, already received an FAQ from Footprints, including a job description. However, if you’ve actually done your research, you will have questions. Probably more than one. We love questions! It makes us that much more confident in submitting you to the client. And, now that we’re on the topic...
Prospective Employer: “Candi 3, it’s been wonderful to speak with you. Any questions for us about your teaching job overseas?”
Candi 3: “No.”
Prospective Employer: “Oh, um, are you sure?”
Candi 3: “Yep. No questions.”
Prospective Employer: “Alright, well, um, thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
Yikes. You have your greatest resource on the phone, or right in front of you if you’re interviewing in person to get information about teaching abroad, and you don’t have any questions?! You’re thinking of moving to a new country, where they don’t speak your language or play by your rules, and you don’t have any questions for your potential boss? Okay, no longer forgivable. A lack of questions shows a lack of commitment and awareness of the job you’ve applied for. If you don’t have any questions, you’re probably not going to teach abroad.
Tie it All Together:
An interview to teach abroad is not a formal exam. An employer does not take time out of their busy day NOT to hire you; they absolutely want to give you a job, so don’t give them a reason not to. I think often times we freeze during, or overthink, the whole idea of an interview because we have the objective of it all wrong. An interview isn’t meant to be rigid, it’s supposed to be fluid. Those who interview well interview confident; they ask questions, actively engage with their prospective employer and use this opportunity to learn more, about the job and about themselves. If you totally bombed, don’t go home to eat a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cheery Garcia and self-loathe to the tunes of Annie Lennox-write down, or say aloud, what you didn’t do right and what you can improve on for next time. Now, go get ‘em, teachers!