How to Prepare for your Vietnam ESL Interview

The interview is an important part of the ESL application process. It is not just for the school to assess whether you are right for them; it is your chance to decide if this is the right job for you. Working for a Vietnamese company is very different to working for a company in a Western country, as there are less safe guards in place to protect workers. This means you need to be cautious, and during the interview you need to establish exactly what the job entails and what would be expected of you. Always read any contracts through carefully and question anything you don’t think is right.

What to expect

Most interviews will be carried out by a Vietnamese person, although some may hire native English speakers to conduct their interviews. Of course each interview and the questions they ask will be different, but there are certain questions you should be prepared to answer beforehand.

  • Tell me about your teaching experience.

An obvious one! Talk about your previous teaching jobs, including: the level of English of the students, the age of the students, where you have worked, and any established courses you have taught (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, etc.).

  • Describe a lesson you have taught that you think went well.

Think of a lesson where perhaps you tried something new or a bit different, and that resulted in a lot of student interaction and enthusiastic discussion.

  • How would you deal with a disruptive student/group of students?

Here they are looking into your knowledge of classroom management. You can discuss a method and you can take it one step further by talking about a time you used it in class and how effective it was.

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses as an ESL teacher?

A true favourite of any interviewer! I can’t give the magic answer for what ‘weakness’ to admit to, but make sure to immediately follow it up with what you are doing to improve in that area. As for strengths, just say what you are amazing at!

  • Why do you want to work in Vietnam?

You will be moving to a new country to live and work in. Schools will want to minimise the risk of employing people who will get homesick and leave, so they will ask this question. They want to know if you have lived abroad before and what it was that drew you to Vietnam specifically. Having a passion for travel is important.

Vietnam school assembly
School assembly in Vietnam, complete with dragons

What to ask

Obviously you won’t ask all the follwoing questions, as some will likely have been answered earlier on. But this is a useful list of things you want to know about the job, so have a look through and decide which questions you need to ask.

  • How many teaching hours are there per week?
  • How much will I be paid?
  • Will I be paid salary or per hour?
  • If I am paid hourly, are the hours guaranteed?
  • When will I be paid? Monthly? What date?
  • Will I be expected to work at the weekend? What days will I get off?
  • Where will I be teaching/will I have my own classroom?
  • How old are the students I will be teaching?
  • Will there be a teaching assistant in the classroom?
  • Do you provide textbooks/materials/syllabuses?
  • Will I be expected to participate in any extra-curricular activities? Will that be paid?
  • What facilities does the classroom have? (Bear in mind this is a less developed country, so this is just to prepare you for teaching)
  • Do you provide accommodation? If no, will you provide help to find it?
  • Do you reimburse flight costs? (Not that common but some companies do offer this)
  • What holidays will I get off?
  • Will the company help me with my visa and work permit? Will the company pay for these or will I?

Top tips!

Ask for the email address of a teacher that already works for that school/language centre. You can then email them and find out first-hand what it is like working for that school.

If you have no previous ESL teaching experience, you need to think about how any work/life experiences you do have will have provided you with skills you can transfer over to teaching. For example, have you ever; babysat/ran activities for children/coached kids in sport?

Dress smartly, even if the interview is over skype. First impressions are important.

If the person interviewing you doesn’t have a great level of English (this can happen), keep your answers simple and speak clearly. This will demonstrate you understand how to communicate with people who are learning English.

Have in mind what level and what age of students you might prefer to teach, in case they ask. Of course the less picky you are on this the more job opportunities will suit you.

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