10 Things you shouldn’t say in an interview for a TEFL job 28

Over the years, I’ve interviewed about 50 TEFL teachers. Some people walked through the door and I automatically knew they weren’t appropriate for the job: stinking of alcohol, 3 hours late with no explanation, tattoos all over their face when they were applying for an in-company position…..little things like that.

Other applicants seemed fairly normal and then made certain comments which made me think twice about employing them.


1. I don’t like teaching grammar. I like my students to chat and play lots of games

Does this comment suggest a professional approach to teaching?

2. My favourite coursebook. Well, that would be Face2Head, no, I mean Facehead, wait, I meant to say Faceway, Cutting Head, Cutting Face, New English Face, way, head…..

Does this teacher have a memory ravaged by heavy drug use  or alcohol abuse?

3. How would I describe myself as a teacher? I like to be their friend, go out to bars with them, maybe date some of the cute ones. Ha ha, only joking! I don’t do that much now.

This teacher clearly has an ulterior motive!

Did you just say that?

4. Well, I don’t want to stay in teaching very long. Is it a problem if I sometimes miss classes or arrive late? I have a lot of interviews to go to. Teaching English to foreigners is not a proper job, is it?
This teacher will disappear very soon.

5. I believe in correcting every single tiny mistake my students make. It’s the only way they learn.

This teacher is going to scare students off.

6. Sometimes, I tell my students to sit cross-legged on the floor and close their eyes. Then, I put on some Bach and read them some of my poetry.

For every student who loves this approach, 10 others will go straight to the Director of Studies and complain.

7. I prefer to teach Beginners. Higher- level students ask some really difficult questions.

This person has no idea about the difference between a noun and a verb.

8. I prefer to teach Advanced levels. Lower level classes are really boring!

This person has no patience.

9.Most days, I show my students a movie. For homework, I get them to write reviews of the films. Then on Friday, I get them to vote for their favourite and we watch it again.

Do the students do anything else? Practise speaking or learn grammar for example.

10. Well, I’ve taught students from lots of different countries. The (insert nationality here) were the worst – really lazy. And the (insert other nationality here) were just as bad, they just sit there, staring at me like cows in a field, really stupid people.

This person probably doesn’t like anybody who is from a different country to his or her own. 

Welcome to TEFL

Welcome to TEFL


  • Trained teachers who can actually remember what they did on the TEFL course
  • New teachers are fine if they show they are willing to learn and develop their skills
  • Friendly and enthusiastic personalities
  • Professional teachers who will be reliable and flexible
  • Teachers who actually respect their learners and consider their needs

 Have you said anything in an interview that you later regretted?

28 thoughts on “10 Things you shouldn’t say in an interview for a TEFL job

  1. Zohreh Dec 25,2012 7:35 am

    I am from Iran and I have been a TEFL trainer for 19 years looking for a job in Spain

  2. mrsmissoveness Jan 28,2014 12:32 pm

    That’s why in certain parts of the world, English Language Learning Specialists have bad reputations. Where I am at, TEFLer backpackers are aplenty, mocking the hard work professionals like myself and you do.

  3. roua shamma Jan 29,2014 6:21 am

    this is helpful thanks i am a new teacher and looking for job opportunities in the middle east

  4. younes Jan 29,2014 11:23 am

    if this program is realy helpful,so can you help me to find a work in north africa because im a very skilfull new teacher .thank you

  5. Anonymous Feb 4,2014 4:11 pm

    Omg that’s hilarious. Love it. Especially number 4!

  6. Anonymous Feb 4,2014 4:32 pm

    Really has two l’s

  7. Hassan Feb 4,2014 5:03 pm

    Very interesting indeed. Thank you so much.

  8. Deborah Feb 4,2014 6:19 pm

    Heard of the old saying if you are going to pay peanuts then you are going to get monkeys – lets face it the average wage for a good TEFL has not changed in the last 10 years – it really is a shame we do not get paid what we are worth that way you have a reason to start separating the wheat from the chaff !

  9. Anonymous Feb 4,2014 6:54 pm

    The answers sound really funny! I myself is a non-native speaker,but have been teaching for quite a long time. Love teaching a lot! That’s the most fascinating job ever!:)

  10. Venus Bonilla Feb 4,2014 7:18 pm

    Then what should I say? With bosses like u, no wonder I prefer to be independent and self employed.

  11. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 4,2014 8:22 pm

    Thanks. I’m glad you saw the humour in the blog.It was meant to be a little ‘tongue-in-cheek’.

  12. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 4,2014 8:23 pm

    Glad you liked it Hassan.

  13. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 4,2014 8:28 pm

    I do agree with you about the lack of financial respect for professional teachers. I think it’s a systematic problem really: many students want cheap classes, academies want to make money, and many people who teach are not really trained to do so. This means that teachers who want to develop professionally often hit a glass ceiling and find their options are limited.

  14. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 4,2014 8:28 pm

    Yeah, it’s a great job in many ways. Thanks for commenting.

  15. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 4,2014 9:10 pm

    Hi Venus, in answer to your question, interviews for teaching jobs are just like interviews for any jobs – you say what you think the other person wants to hear!Then, when you have got your foot in the door, you can start changing things from within!

  16. Muhammad Madkour Feb 4,2014 11:21 pm


  17. María Isabel Lizarralde Feb 5,2014 1:03 am

    I took a five years’ university course of studies. I very often feel frustrated or discriminated when language schools only want native speakers, even when I have been abroad before, graduated as an interpreter and a translator as well, and , modestly, in many cases much better qualified than a native speaker whose command of the language is somehow limited, and has little or no training at all.

  18. Anonymous Feb 5,2014 3:06 am

    People really say those things out loud… in an interview??

  19. bullet Feb 5,2014 5:41 am

    sometimes the education systems in certain countries make pupils does not want to learn english.

  20. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 5,2014 8:51 am

    Yes, they do. Then again, I’ve probably said some equally dumb things in interviews too!

  21. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 5,2014 8:56 am

    Very good point. I watched an interesting documentary about the education system in Finland and why it is considered among the best in the world. Here’s a link: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/12/why-is-the-finnish-school-system-so-good/

  22. Naema Chamekh Khadher Feb 6,2014 12:55 am

    Very interesting and amusing. Thanks

  23. dylgates@hotmail.com Feb 6,2014 8:45 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Naema. Thanks.

  24. Anonymous May 1,2014 10:04 am

    looking for a “career” in TEFL what a silly concept

  25. Michelle M May 15,2014 12:57 pm

    Maria Isabel I understand your frustration. I am a native speaker, and when I first started teaching it was just a way to get by, and I scoffed at non-natives. “How dare they try to teach my language?!” I thought.. I soon realized I was far from qualified for the position and immediately began taking courses and doing a lot of my own training to become a better, more qualified teacher. I agree that often times non-natives are just as good, if not better, than teachers like myself.

  26. Anonymous Jun 17,2014 10:40 am

    Ha..ha so hilarious

  27. ouahida guerziz Oct 12,2016 1:09 pm

    helful advice thank you a lot i’d like to teach abroad i’ve experience of six years in teaching if you could help me teach a broad.

  28. empressdalek Nov 24,2016 9:23 am

    My most memorable interview was a guy who turned up without an appointment or CV and demanded to be interviewed immediately. I couldn’t get rid of him, so I took him to the interview room and began. He didn’t seem to understand my first questions and said, “Can we do the interview in Russian?” (in Russian). I said no. At this point he got very angry, said he was going to report me for unfair interview procedures and that my Russian was s*** (It’s C1). I told him we don’t teach Russian, we teach English and showed him out the door.

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