Teaching abroad has been one of the most exciting and adventure filled experiences of my life, and I’m so happy that you are considering teaching abroad too! Along the way I’ve learned that an interview is not only my chance to shine and land a potentially awesome job - but also for me to test my employer and suss out if they’re a good fit for me. It’s extremely important that you take the time to ask questions during your interview (or via email during the hiring process) so that you know what you’re getting yourself into and so that there aren't any surprises when you arrive.
Pro Tip: Be sure to read your job advertisement, contract and have a look at the school’s website before asking questions that you should probably already know.
Here’s my go-to list of questions to ask my employer before I decide to teach abroad:
Teaching Related Questions
I usually start with these. Although this might be your first teaching job abroad and you're just desperate to get hired, remember that you don’t want your life to be hell. Think about what an ideal situation would be and don’t settle for less. Do you want to be teaching on weekends or every evening? Will you only have one day off? These situations are very likely if you're planning on teaching in Asia.
Pay attention during your interview and practice active listening. Usually the interviewer will give a brief job description or tell you a little bit about the school. Try not to ask a question that has already been answered earlier in the interview.
- Which age groups will I be expected to teach?
- How many students are typically in a class?
- Which curriculum or text books do you use?
- What resources will I have access to?
- Could you describe a typical day for a teacher at your school?
- How many minutes are in a lesson?
- How many hours/lessons will I be required to work per week?
- Which days of the week are teachers required to work? Monday to Friday, or Monday to Saturday?
- Is admin/office hours included in my teaching hours, or are these additional hours?
- Will I receive a set teaching schedule or do I get to choose the hours I teach?
- When are the schools vacations? Are these paid vacations?
- Do you provide opportunities for professional development?
- How many foreign teachers work at the school?
- Are there any extra-curricular activities that teachers are expected to take part in?
- What documentation will I need to obtain a work visa?
Benefits Related Questions
Although these are usually included in the job advertisement, it is important to tune into the finer details.I once thought I’d get my flight money back once I arrived only to find out it would only be provided at the end of my contract to ensure I completed the year. I’ve stayed in shared housing with four people sharing a bathroom which turned out to be very inconvenient. I try to get everything discussed and promised to me inserted into my contract, or at least in writing, so that nothing can be altered once I’ve gotten on a plane and flown halfway across the world.
I typically don’t ask any direct money or salary related questions during the interview as I find it unprofessional and rather arrogant. If you are offered the job, then you’ll find all that out soon enough.
- What benefits are included?
- Is my flight provided before travel, or will I receive the allowance once my contract is complete?
- Is housing provided or do I need to find my own?
- Is the housing shared or private?
- If shared: Which areas are shared? How many people share the house? Will I have my own bedroom and bathroom?
- Do you provide a housing allowance? How much is it?
- How much does average monthly housing cost in the area?
- Do you assist with finding suitable housing for teachers?
- Will I be able to find furnished housing or will I have to furnish the house from scratch?
- Do you suggest obtaining travel insurance for the year, or do you provide medical insurance?
- Will my salary be paid into my current bank account or will I need to open a bank account abroad? Do you assist with this process?
- What is the visa process like - do you assist with obtaining a visa and who is responsible for the costs?
Cultural and Location Specific Questions
Read up on the country or area beforehand and adjust your questions accordingly. If you're moving to a big city the food related questions might not be necessary, but in my experience with teaching in more rural areas I always ask about access to food and healthcare. These are generally things we take for granted in our own countries, but they have been a huge wake up call for me over the past few years.
Many of the questions are only necessary if you will be moving to a rural area.
- Will there be an orientation at the beginning of my contract to get me acquainted with the area and customs?
- Is English spoken and understood in the area?
- How do teachers usually spend their weekends? What activities are there in the area?
- What do people in the area typically eat? Do you have access to a variety of fruits and vegetables?
- Is clean water easily accessible in the area?
- Are there restaurants and grocery stores in the area, or do people usually use the markets?
- How close is the nearest airport?
- What is healthcare like in the area?
- Are there any risks of diseases like malaria in the area?
- How would I get to school every day?
- What is the climate like in the area?
- What is the dress code for the school?
- Is there anything you can suggest I should bring from home? *In Bhutan we had a long list of supplies that wouldn't be available once we were in the country.
I also try to keep a neutral reaction when the interviewer responds to a question in a manner I wasn't necessarily hoping for. If they tell you you’re going to be sharing a house withe twenty people and that you have no days off, and you know without a doubt you won’t be accepting the position still try to keep the interview experience professional and positive. I’ve had situations where I chose not to take a position offered to me, but my interview went so well that they referred me to another school.
I used to feel ashamed of asking too many questions because I wanted to seem like I was an easy-going, hassle free employee - which I totally am. But, I’d rather really know what I’m getting myself into before its too late. Ask as many questions as you see fit, in my experience employers even appreciate it when we show interest.