How to Ace Your ESL Job Interview in China

How to Ace Your ESL Job Interview in China
May 18, 2018 By Lewis Schwinn ,

“Why do you want to work here?” The answer is usually money, but you can't tell them that, can you? Thus begins the process of the ESL job interview in China. New and veteran ESL teachers alike can have problems when interviewing for a new school. Luckily for all of you, I've made most of the mistakes you can possibly make, so prepare to benefit from my ill-gained wisdom as we discuss how to ace your ESL job interview in China.

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Small for-profit schools

I guess the first thing that should be mentioned is that in many cases involving small or medium for-profit English training schools in China, you'll hardly have to interview at all. This kind of school is often just looking for a native speaker from a country they associate with the English language and will hire you based on that criteria alone.

This can also serve as a valuable warning sign; if the school has low hiring standards, chances are it will be poorly organised and the students will have behavioral problems. Teach there at your own risk!

If they do want an interview, the good news is that it will most likely be very laid-back. My friend once showed up to an interview at a private training school dressed business-casual and was asked why he was being so formal.

The purpose of these ‘interviews' is often just to see that you are in fact a fluent English speaker and have no obvious personality defects. The interview will most likely be more of a summary of the school and its salary/benefits as opposed to a barrage of tricky questions.

For-profit smaller schools are most concerned with the intake of new students and student retention, so they're looking for outgoing teachers who can make classes fun, engage the students and teach effectively.

You should try to display energetic and engaging qualities during the interview, and any questions about your teaching method or philosophy should center on these qualities. Needless to say, be confident, positive and polite.


Large nation-wide schools

If you're interviewing at a large nation-wide English training school in China, there will be a more formal interview process. However, large companies have such a huge turnover rate for teachers in China that they constantly have to recruit new hires in order to keep their heads above water.

What this means is that, despite a more formal interview, this type of school likely needs you more than you need them. Prepare some set answers, but ultimately try to be confident and relaxed.


Prestigious schools

Now, are all these schools just cynically trying to recruit native teachers for marketing purposes and to hike up tuition? The answer is yes — all of them are by the very nature of their business.

However, some schools are part of international programs, partnered with foreign schools with higher standards, or trying to maintain a level of prestige. Consequently, they have comparatively higher standards and will actually be more discerning in picking applicants and more vigorous in their interviewing.

These most high-end of schools look for experienced teachers who are passionate about education. Questions you could expect in this kind of ESL job interview includes:

Why do you want to work here?

What is your teaching philosophy?

How do you manage a classroom?

How do you make your classes engaging?

In this situation, the questions you ask can be just as important as the ones you answer. What I mean by this is that you should ask questions about the students' English level and workload, the class size, class length and frequency, the academic expectations of the course and how discipline is administered. These questions will not only show that you are a serious teacher, but also give you important information that can help determine if you want the job or not.



You might be thinking at this point that interviews are not very important in getting ESL jobs in China. And most of the time, they're not. “Demos” (teaching demonstrations) are in fact much more important and will likely be how a school  determines who gets the job.

Most good schools in China will ask you to prepare a 20-30 minute free demo lesson so they can observe your teaching in action (if they want a demo longer than 30 minutes you should negotiate for pay). 

If you really want to wow them, keep these three words in mind: “energy”, “engaging” and “kinesthetics”. You should always be energetic and your class should always be engaged.

If you're new to ESL, the buzzword “kinesthetics” might be unfamiliar to you. It basically refers to the idea of adding movement to your lessons. You can achieve this in a wide variety of ways, including:

Board Slaps: write vocabulary on the board and have the kids divide into two teams to slap the right word with their hand for a point.

Board Races: divide the class into teams and have them stand at the board and brainstorm in a race to reach a certain number of words on a certain topic.

Throw and Quiz: throw a ball to a student. If they catch it, they choose who answers the question. If they miss, they have to answer the question themselves.

These are just a few simple ways of adding motion to your class to make it more engaging (various ESL websites have hundreds more suggestions on kinesthetic activities). Using a kinesthetic method in a demo can make your class fun, engage the students and, more importantly, make you stand out from other teachers who just talk from a book.

I hope this hard-won advice helps you land you dream English teaching job in China. I've never looked back, and hopefully neither will you.

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Keywords: ESL job interview in China


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thank you

Apr 10, 2019 17:19 Report Abuse



try and be caucasian, this helps too

May 29, 2018 14:57 Report Abuse



This is very relatable. And accurate.

May 26, 2018 03:14 Report Abuse