Teaching Experience

(ESL) job interview red flags

Imagine that you are a brand new ESL teacher. You sent your CV everywhere, and now you wait. Finally, it happens! You got a job interview. You go to the academy full of energy and hope, but it’s nothing like what you had imagined. Sounds familiar?

As the first part of becoming a freelancer, I decided to look for a part-time job only to support myself during my transition process. I sent my CV to different places and got a call! I went for a job interview and a true disaster happened! I’ve been to many job interviews before and only twice I felt like I didn’t want to be associated with the company. This was one of those times. In a way, I am very thankful for this experience because it inspired me to write a set of red flags that you should be aware of when you enter this field.

I present you with a list of red flags that raise my guard and give me a general bad feeling. Feel free to share your stories with me! There’s nothing better than a good bad job interview story!

Soooo…how old are you?

Asking someone about their age is a little bit strange. I used to have my date of birth on my CV, but I removed it, as I don’t think it’s relevant to the teaching job. My age shouldn’t decide whether I am fit for this position or not. It was one of the first questions I was asked in my last job interview, and I immediately sensed that there was something not right. The reason an employer may want to know your age is to assess your young years without any commitments such as family or children (in my opinion).

Are you in a relationship?

Again, I was asked this question at my last job interview, and I frankly couldn’t believe it. I was under an impression that I came here to talk about myself and my experience and not about my partner and his job. This question was asked to check if I live on my own and if I can support myself with their low salary.


No, I don’t need to see your certificates. Are you a native?

I was once indirectly asked about that. The person interviewing me couldn’t care less about my certificates, experience and references. They were more interested in my nationality, and the time and place I learnt English. I normally can conquer this question without any issues as luckily for me I learnt English at an international school and took English as a first language. This gives me some kind of leverage. However, I had a lot of non-native English teachers, and you know what? They were incredible and as knowledgeable as the natives. It goes to show that some academies choose natives over experience.

Many of our teachers leave after one year

This was said to me at two different job interviews, and it immediately made me feel like I probably didn’t have a bright future over there. In the first case, the academy was quite far and the owner told me that people don’t like the commute and tend to find jobs elsewhere. In the other case, I was told that many teachers are coming and going because of the low salary that forces them to look for second jobs or change their careers completely. As much as I appreciate their honesty, I think I’m not the only one trying to sell myself during a job interview. You need to impress me too!

Do you have any disabilities?

I was asked this question at my very first job interview. I remember everything going well until this point. I was shocked. I truthfully said that I don’t have any disabilities, neither physical nor mental. Now thinking about it from some perspective, I should have got up and left. It was one of the most intrusive and insensitive questions anyone could ask. I understand that there are certain benefits a company can get for hiring a disabled person, but it should be discussed at a different moment with a different person.

Do you have any children? Are you planning on having any children?

Run! They want to see how much they can use you. That means, calling you outside of your working hours, asking you to come whenever they feel like it, or working at the weekends. It also means that the second you announce your pregnancy, you can say goodbye to your workplace. I always thought it was illegal to fire a pregnant woman, but apparently, it has happened before in some Spanish language academies.

We have a lot of financial problems

I was informed at a job interview that the academy brings more losses than profits, but since they’ve already invested so much into the equipment, games, and renovations they need to keep on going! The owner of this academy sounded sad and regretful which made me feel sorry for them. I left this interview not with hope, but with a lot of pity that they need to run this place. Again, I appreciate your honesty, but as much as I need to convince you, you need to convince me too.


We are like a small family here

Except you aren’t. You can say that this is one of my pet peeves. I hate when an employer tries to sell his workplace as a happy family gathering. From my personal experience, you should stay away from certain colleagues, and you should definitely not get too close to your boss. I think it’s nice to have a friendly relationship but unfortunately, normally no one cares about you and your needs. Once you become a burden to the company, demanding too much or asking for things that are seen as inappropriate (for example, asking to alter your contract), you are out. To many companies, you are just an employee, and there are many people like you, waiting to take your spot.

There was a time in my life that I would completely ignore all the red flags and take any job, only to get experience. I feel like this is not the case anymore. If you get a bad feeling or if you feel like there was no chemistry between you and the boss, just leave it. There will be many other opportunities that you may miss if you work elsewhere already.

As for me right now, I keep on looking! I am collecting private students, researching the world of online teaching platforms, applying for jobs and blogging! Let’s see how the situation changes in a month!


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