We’ve all made job interview mistakes. Whether it be a weak handshake, fumbling over your words, or an awkward response to a not-so-difficult question.
Interviews for overseas ESL positions can be particularly frustrating. Without a good internet connection, letting your personality and interest in the offer can be difficult to exude via Skype. Sometimes, however, we can’t point our finger at internet connection, nor the interviewer’s English proficiency (or lack of), or even the questions.
Yep. You’ve read right. I do hate to say it, but more often than not, there’s nothing and no one left to blame on why you didn’t lock down that job but yourself. As recruiters, of course we want you to succeed. We get paid for it!
From our point of view, we spend too much time coaching, explaining and facilitating you in the job search only to learn that you decided to carry on about how you heard how Chinese people eat dogs. Would you say something like that in a regular interview in your home country? Likely not.
My burning question, though, is why do interviewees not always take their ESL interviews as seriously as they would an interview in their home country?
So without further adieu, I bring to you 5 ESL Job Interview Mistakes stopping you from getting that job:
1. Don’t Complain/Gossip About Your Current/Old Job
It seems like common sense to not gossip or speak poorly about others in a professional setting.
By doing this in an interview, you’re immediately portraying that you care too much about your peers’ downfalls, and as a teacher, your most important goal should be success. If you’re going on about how your last job didn’t pay you enough, how you worked too many hours, or that some employees were favored more than others, you honestly just sound like you’re a complainer.
From a hiring manager’s perspective, is this the type of person you want on your team? Not likely. You want a leader that knows how to work hard to earn their keep, regardless of how other employees live their lives.
One thing a lot of expats abroad tend to forget is this: No one is forcing you to be here. You chose it. Now it’s up to you to make the most of it.
2. Don’t Talk About Money
This applies in a few different instances. Money talk is a sensitive subject in most parts of the world. In China, it’s surprisingly more acceptable to talk about, but not typically in a professional setting, especially when you don’t really know each other.
Schools do not want to hear that you are completely broke and you need them to pay for a flight. This is just not going to happen, and it makes your recruiter look awful when you do it.
Instead, communicate to us that your financial game isn’t so strong right now and that you may have to put off coming for a while. We can avoid setting up interviews all together and then no one gets rejected, loses face, and more importantly, schools don’t get their hopes up for a potential new teacher.
Another surefire way to miss a great job opportunity is by talking about how much money you will make. I’d like to say I have done my part by writing this detailed article about salaries in China, buuuuuut not all of us absorb information equally, for lack of a better term.
So when is it okay to talk salary and benefits in a non-offensive manner? Once you’ve received a contract. It’s that simple. Go through the interview, express your interest in the offer, ask questions about the school, the students, and the staff. If the school likes you, they will send a contract that we will review with you. Therein lies a wealth full of knowledge about money and benefits. Bringing me to my next point…
3. Don’t Talk About Vacation Time
Imagine walking in to an interview in your home country and saying something along the lines of, “I heard we get x amount of vacation time. Is it full pay? Do I get paid before or after vacation? What countries should I travel to? You guys won’t call me back to school before vacation is over, right?”
The hiring manager would do their best to politely ask you to GTFO of the interviewing room. They’d probably also be wondering, “Who did they hear that information from? Why do they only care about vacation? Is vacation more important to them than education?”
It’s honestly just insulting to only ask about your benefits. Again, this is all information that will be well-detailed in your contract that will be offered after you’ve successfully completed the initial interview. This is information that you can easily talk to us about, saving you from looking like a holiday-hungry fool in your interview.
4. Don’t Talk About Religious or Political Views
Again, ask yourself if you would discuss these topics in an interview back home. Likely not, unless you’re applying for religious or political employment opportunities.
Not only is this offensive to the interviewer, it’s a quick ticket to getting booted out of the country if you’re found expressing political or religious views in the classroom to your students. Do your best to not forget that you are applying for an English teaching position.
While foreign political views are going to be 100% taboo in an interview, you can definitely let us know that you need Sundays off to tend to your normal religious practices. This will help us choose which school is best for you when it comes to scheduling.
5. Don’t Talk About Potential Business Ventures
New Life is living proof that you can go from ESL teacher to entrepreneur in just a couple of years. We love to highlight what our teachers eventually become, and what other expats in China have become after they’ve thrown in the ESL towel.
One perk you can count on is that you’re going to have a lot of free time. What you do with it is up to you, but more often than not, you shouldn’t be talking about it with your potential employer. A lot of our applicants are already freelancers that are looking to live the digital nomad life. And who can blame them? It is one hell of a life.
But does your school want to hear that in your free time you plan to start your own business? Is this something you would say during an interview back home? Again, not likely.
So, why is this a job interview mistake? Simply because the school is not only hiring you on to dedicate your time and efforts to them, but they’re also paying for you to live in China. Visa, salary, insurance, and housing costs ain’t cheap. Would you want to pay for someone to live and work in your home country only to find that they have a separate agenda? Nah. Not really.
I get it. In short, this sounds like a big list of “don’ts”, and that’s because it is! We just want you to treat this career and these interviews like you would in your home country. Each school is unique in that they have their own contracts, meaning it’s best to wait until you receive one to talk about the details as listed above.
Not to fret, future ESL teacher. I’ll soon be sharing a phat list of “do’s” to make sure you kill that interview. Be sure to comment with your best and worst ESL interview stories. We’d love to know what works for you and what doesn’t!