Crack the Code to Your Dream Teaching Job Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide to Nailing Your International Teacher Interview

Covid-19 Disclaimer:

If you would like to go into international teaching – NOW IS THE TIME! Covid-19 has meant that many international teachers went back to the UK and has discouraged many others from taking the leap to move abroad. 

Schools that would normally not even look at applicants with less than 3 years experience (preferably as an international teacher) are now forced to hire NQTs! 

It has never been so easy to get into international teachers and to snatch up a post at a post at a good school with good pay and good benefits. If you ever wanted to become an international teacher, now is the time! 

Going international is a dream of many UK, US and European teachers. They want to escape the dreary, rainy weather and experience all year-round sunshine, amazing food, sandy white beaches, and that all when teaching easy classes and often getting paid a lot more than at home.

I am not even exaggerating. My husband always wanted to teach, and I wanted to travel the world. We were a good fit from day 1! I guess we really decided to go for it that first big talk we had on a small little terrace, hidden away in Belleville, Paris.

Although you would be able to secure a job with only your PGCE – when you do not have NQT status yet, that is, my husband decided to first get in 2 years of experience in the UK. He was teaching inner London schools which meant that being able to handle and teach hard kids and classes would give him an edge on other candidates. This also meant we would have to stay put in the UK (I was growing tired of Great Britain by then) and start applying as soon as jobs for 2018-2019 came online.

Applying was NOT easy! In fact, it was a tedious and boring job. First of all, I would scour multiple websites, set up notifications and alerts via IFTTT in order to read, analyse and maybe apply to new job openings.

I did a lot of work while my husband was at work. I filled out forms (takes about 45 minutes PER FORM) and made massive spreadsheets of interesting job opportunities to track whether we were interested, we applied, if they replied, when the interviews were and when the closing date was. It was a whole operation – but it was necessary to secure a job abroad as a teacher.

Looking for a job as an international teacher – what to expect?

When you are looking for a job as an international teacher you can expect lots and lots of applying. I remember someone explaining finding a job in London to me with a very apt expression: It is just like throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks. And although that might not be the most professional way of explaining applying for international teaching jobs, that’s what it is in its essence: sending out loads and loads of applications and hoping to get an interview.

I remember seeing this one amazing job in South East Asia, I think it was somewhere in the Philippines, and when filling out the application form, I noticed that the site showed you the amount of people who had applied for that same job. We were 1 of 340 applicants. * internal screaming*

But don’t get discouraged. There will be loads and loads of great jobs for you to apply to, and depending on your subject, your experience in the UK (and maybe even international experience) you will definitely find a job.

Key takeaway: You will not be the only one applying to the job. Unlike in the UK, where there is a shortage of teachers in some areas, you will be competing with many, many qualified (and often experienced) teacher. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job! I will explain this later on why it can be very easy to get a job teaching internationally!

The application process when looking for a job as an international teacher

When you have made the decision to become an international teacher, you want to start applying. Now, there are multiple websites – which I shall list below, where recruiters or schools post job ads. You will undoubtedly come across websites that ask a pretty penny to look for international school jobs for you. Now, this pretty penny can be as much as $200, which – seen the large number of free websites, is quite a substantial amount.

I would monitor websites on a semi-daily basis. This means that every day, or every two days, you will want to go through the list and make sure you have read all job ads for places you are interested in applying to. A lot of schools and recruitment companies will start interviewing DURING the process, which means that applying sooner rather than later can give you an edge over other candidates.

Let’s be honest: you might hear back from 1 in every 100 applications you send out. I am not even kidding. This – as said before, will obviously depend on your teaching experience, international experience and the subject you teach.

To give you an example: my husband is a history teacher (head of humanities in the current school) and had 2 years of experience in London. His colleague in the school was doing his NQT year, he was a drama teacher. After only a few applications he was accepted to be a HOD in Brazil (Or I think it was Brazil). Why? Because a lot of schools offer drama or music or whatever – but in comparison, there aren’t that many (international) teachers available.

Key takeaway: do not get discouraged when applying to international schools. The fact you are not getting any replies might just mean there are loads of people with your subject speciality applying. You might not get a job or an offer straight away, but if you keep on it you will be on a plane and flying to your new future next summer!

What is the interview process for international teachers?

The interview process is actually quite straightforward: you receive an email with a date and a pre-planned slot. Most schools try to keep in mind that there might be a time difference – which is cool because you do not have to miss out on work, but I’m afraid that 5 AM interviews are not all that rare.

Most interviews happen over Skype. Even interviews from countries where VoIP is supposed to be blocked (cough Dubai cough) happen over Skype although our interview from Dubai happened over the phone.

Now, during the interview, recruiters or interviewers (mostly it is the HOD, the VP, the Principal or the head of HR or a mix of all of them) will ask you a lot of questions that you will have to think about before answering. Take your time and don’t panic! There’s nothing worse than giving a flustered impression during your interview. You are supposed to stand your ground in front of a class – and how are you able to do this when you can’t even answer some simple questions over Skype?

One of the best things you can do to ace your interview is to prepare yourself. As a first-timer you will probably only get a few interviews (my husband had 4 of which 1 didn’t show and 2 he got because of his Camebridge Master’s degree) and you do not want to squander your chances of landing that international teaching job by coming across unprepared.

Key Takeaway: Be prepared! Preparation is 60% of your interview!

How to prepare for your international school teaching interview

Preparing for your international school teaching interview is not much different than preparing for any other interview.

  1. First of all, you need to research the school you are doing the interview for. Take ample notes you can reference during the Interview. I have made a PDF file you can download for free with all the different questions and details to look at when researching the school.
  2. Download Skype or the predefined VoIP software. The school or the recruiter will send you an email with your interview time (do NOT forget to confirm this by the way) and their Skype name. This way you can add the school onto your Skype which makes things easier for you on the day of the interview.
  3. Go to bed EARLY! Most interviews you will be doing for international schools will happen early in the morning. I remember when my husband had to get up at 4AM to do an interview with a school in Myanmar. No use in you sitting there, in front of the camera yawning your jaw off. It doesn’t make a good impression!
  4. Dress up! Dress up professionally. You might be sitting in your kitchen or living room – you need to look like a million bucks. Guys should comb their hair (duh), wear a shirt and tie and maybe even professional trousers. The last thing you want to happen is that you are wearing a shirt and tie on your pyjama bottoms and then the interviewer asks you to fetch something (like proof or papers or whatever) and you get up, only to reveal you have been wearing pyjamas – or even words, no pants at all!
  5. Go over interview questions and try to come up with suitable answers. In order to battle your nerves, you might want to repeat the answers in front of mirror. It might sound very stupid, but it will help you to answer difficult questions with confidence.
  6. Be on time! Even better: be early! As a teacher, you definitely know the shortcomings of electronics and IT. You will want to make sure your laptop of computer works, your camera is working fine and that your microphone does not make any sounds that might give the people on the other side of the screen a headache. If you aren’t sure about your microphone and cam, I can in fact recommend the Mircosoft HD Lifecam. I use it in preference to my own cam and the built-in microphone of the cam is superb. We use it all the time when gaming!
  7. Drink lots and lots of coffee! Like I said before: interviews are likely to be very early and you want to seem awake and happy and energetic. Now, I can understand that it is very hard getting up so early, but you really need to do an effort to look awake and look enthusiastic. Buckets of coffee will help you with this! Also try to get up 45 minutes to an hour before the interview so you can make sure you look good and have breakfast before the interview.
  8. Have breakfast! I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people that can get very annoyed when I’m hungry. We call it hangry. I get very short with people and I can imagine being in that state might bugger up your interview. Although this is obviously not the case for everyone, I would recommend having a good breakfast when this applies to you!
  9. Choose where you will have your interview. Choosing a quiet, well lit location is very important. Also make sure you will not be disturbed by pets/brothers/sisters/partners/kids when doing your interview.
  10. Print off your CV and make sure it is close by when the interview starts so you can always reference your own CV. 

What questions will be asked during the interview

  • Why do you want to work with us?
  • What challenges are you looking for in a position?
  • What can you contribute to this school?
  • How do you plan to help yourself adapt to life in this country?
  • What do you know about the school location and the country?
  • Describe a great lesson you taught recently and how do you know it was great?
  • Give me an example of how you encourage great learning?
  • Describe your ideal classroom?
  • How do you cater for different abilities / learning styles?
  • How do you deal with conflict (parents, students, teachers)?
  • How could you contribute to professional development in our school?
  • What do you think of your current school? How could it be improved?
  • Why do you want to move overseas?
  • What do you know about our school and how do you think you will fit in with our learning community
  • How will you cater for children who are second or third language learners and can you give some examples?
  • How will adapt your teaching to an international context and can you give an example?
  • What do you think the main challenges will be for you teaching in a different country?

What if you have a hard time finding an international job?

You have been applying for months but you have not yet received an offer, maybe you haven’t even had an interview at all! So, what can you do? How can you kickstart your international teaching career?

When we were applying for schools, we were mainly looking to move to South East Asia. I lost my heart in SO Asia and I would LOVE to live there. But although my husband had an interview with a school in Myanmar, because of the high volume of applicants, we did not have much luck. In fact: we had no luck at all. It was starting to look like we had to spend another year in the UK – UGH!

My husband and I had a big talk. I was against moving to the Middle East. I have never really had an affinity with the region. Although a lot of people absolutely love Dubai, to me it really wasn’t on my travel bucket list and I would honestly never really have travelled here on holiday.

But in the end I came around to the idea (At that point, anything was better than staying another year in the UK) and we started applying for jobs in the Middle East after we came back from our ski trip in the US (so after Feb 17th) and the contract was signed on March the 7th.

After months and months of applying and hoping for interviews and not getting any result, it was flabbergasting how easy it was to find a job in the Middle East. In fact, if you have difficulties getting interviews, I would try my luck in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. They need a constant stream of international teachers and thus it is very easy to get a job in those emirates – even for teachers who need to do their NQT year (!!!). 

I know it might not always be what you have hoped, but getting international experience is a MASSIVE plus when applying. Most schools, when receiving a massive amount of applications, filter on years of experience, education and international experience. It is literally a step on the ladder of your international career!

10 websites with International Teacher Job Openings

international teacher job abroad teaching thailand dubai china

This was us moments before we left for the airport, catching our plane to Dubai. Our lives in 4 bags! I still get a bit emotional looking at this picture because from that day on, our lives changed for the better! I cannot believe how good our lives have become! 

When you have decided to start a career in international teaching, you obviously need to know where to find international teaching jobs. I have made a list of websites we scour for international teacher job openings.

Try and sign up to as many free recruitment agencies as possible as it will be in their best interest to get you into that job!

  1. Tes

As a teacher Tes might as well be one of the core websites you use for resources and information. They also have a massive job section where international job openings are published. You will not find all and every job on here as some schools think the fee to publish (last I heard it was something like $4000) a bit too steep, but you will find a great and steady flow of job openings on the website.

Look for jobs on Tes

  1. COBIS

Cobis or The Council of British International Schools is another website where you might find good job openings for international schools. Although you will not find many ads on the website, the schools that are part of the COBIS network are exemplary and will be offering great packages.

Look for jobs on Cobis

  1. Teach Away

This website offers both ESL as certified teacher jobs. I do not like their search function but there will be great jobs on the job board.

Look for jobs on Teach Away

  1. Teachingabroaddirect

Teaching abroad direct is the recruitment agency my husband got his job through. They are very friendly and help you whenever and where possible. I found them to be very professional and a pleasure to work with.

Look for jobs on teachingabroaddirect

  1. The Guardian Jobs

Another great source of international job openings is The Guardian! They have a large database of jobs. It is easy to apply to these jobs through their built in application system.

Look for jobs on The Guardian

  1. Edvectus

Edvectus is a recruitment website with one of the handiest search and filter possibilities I have seen so far. You can filter on subject, start date and even if the school and job are family friendly.

Look for jobs on Edvectus

  1. Ticrecruitment

Ticreacruitment is a great website to keep an eye on as they often have jobs you won’t find anywhere else. It is a popular website so you might find that there are many other applicants.

Look for jobs on Ticrecruitment

  1. Nord Anglia

If you have a lot of experience – whether it is in the UK or abroad, you might want to apply for Nord Anglia schools. Nord Anglia is considered to be one of the best chains of international schools and a dream for many international teachers.

Look for jobs on Nord Anglia

  1. Teach Anywhere

Teach Anywhere is a Randstadt company so everything will feel very familiar. They have a moderate amount of teaching jobs in their database. Keep an eye on the new jobs coming in and make sure you put on your email alerts.

Look for jobs on Teach Anywhere

  1. International school websites

Many international school websites also post their job openings on their websites. It might be a good idea to look for job openings this way as it will give you an edge over other candidates. By doing it this way you show that you have an active interest in the school.

3 thoughts on “Crack the Code to Your Dream Teaching Job Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide to Nailing Your International Teacher Interview”

  1. Think about some questions that you will want to ask. These questions will say a lot about you. If your first question is about the salary and benefits, or promotion opportunities, that is what your interviewer will consider you find of most importance. You might want to focus your first questions on the learning community, assessment and evaluation the curriculum, staff development or your integration into the international community of the school. It sounds obvious but you d be amazed how some people turn up for an interview or present themselves during a Skype interview! Make sure your attire is neat, tidy and appropriate, whatever the interview setting. Always dress smartly and professionally. Have accessible a portfolio with copies of your CV, teaching certificates and any work you are particularly proud of. Be prepared to share this electronically as well as in a hard copy. Have a pen and paper or iPad handy for note taking. Look like you are well prepared and want the job.

  2. Thank you for this excellent guide, I am going to put it into practice immediately.

    I have to admit that I have gone from being the confident teacher who felt that it would be a breeze to slip into the next phase of my life, happy to tell all of my friends and colleagues that I am looking forward to teaching abroad, to now being racked with self-doubt and insecurity. I thought that my 20-plus years of teaching experience and my subject knowledge would carry me to the interview table. In reality, I feel that my age of 58 is writing me off before I’ve even started. Additionally, the realization that just because there are so many jobs for English teachers advertised there are also ‘thousands’ of ‘younger’ English teachers chasing them.

    1. It can sadly be incredibly hard to get an international job as a classroom teacher once you have reached a certain age. This is especially true for very corporate schools in highly competitive places such as Bangkok. There are still schools, however, that care more about your experience and you being an excellent practitioner than your age. My husband’s school in Kathmandu (would highly recommend this as a destination!! But stay away from Kisc) for instance, has employed some excellent classroom teachers who are in their 50’s. I think you will sadly need to keep applying and see what sticks. Also don’t forget that in international teaching, most (but not all) teachers that want to stay international will have moved into a middle leadership position by the time they are 30 to 40 and an SMT position by the time they are 40. Being a classroom teacher at your age might sadly be held against you and might be seen by some schools as you not being ambitious enough (which I do not agree with as there is a big difference between teaching and being part of the SMT if you became a teacher due to a love of teaching). In your personal statement I would counter this with explaining your love for teaching and focussing on you being an excellent practitioner. In your CV I would highlight your experience (obviously) but also the CPD sessions and events like BETT you have attended over the last few years to show that you are keeping up.
      Hope you find something!

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