It started off as a crazy idea, but after doing a little research, rearranging your life schedule and submitting a resume, you now actually have an interview offer or two from a prospective company or school on the other side of the globe. Unfortunately, the vast majority of English language institutes will not hire you from your home country. Except for a few large chains, most schools do the hiring from overseas. Thus, there is a leap of faith involved for both the school and you as the individual. They want to get a real understanding for not only what kind of teacher you would be, but also your character, demeanor and/or any bad habits that you have. From your perspective, you are entrusting the next year or so of your life with a company or school in a foreign country. There is no doubt that accepting a job overseas is not without its risks for both parties involved. They need the Western teachers and you are looking for a teaching position as a means to support yourself living abroad. On the other hand, you don’t want to take just any job, but one you feel comfortable with.
Since the school that wants to hire you may be 5,000 miles away and 13 hours ahead on time, the inevitable reality sets in that you will need to have a Skype interview and possibly several interviews before you can find a school/company that is a good match. There is the possibility of a simple phone interview, but 95% of the time it will be a Skype interview. So, if you don’t use Skype, but are serious about teaching abroad, take some time now to download the app, create a profile and familiarize yourself with it.
Personally, I don’t care much for Skype interviews, but they are the reality of the industry and with technology improving, Skype makes sense from a logistical standpoint. So, if you are the awkward type as I am, learn to be less awkward when speaking through a webcam. I don’t think anyone really enjoys doing or administering a Skype interview. For me, there is something about them that is slightly agonizing, painstakingly long and uncomfortable. I feel like people are examining every feature of my face as I give my best fake smile. On top of that, I just don’t trust individuals that conduct Skype interviews, but they must be tolerated since they are the ones making the hiring decisions. I definitely prefer a female interviewer rather than some middle-aged man in a suit who just came back from a smoke break. With these issues in mind, here are some tips and things to know for a successful Skype interview.
For more advice about landing a teaching job abroad, read 7 Tips for Getting a Job to Teach English Abroad.
Dress professionally for your Skype interview
The biggest mistake that most people commit during their first Skype interview is assuming that they can dress casually since they are just sitting in front of a computer in their living room. However, you should dress for a Skype interview the same way as if you were meeting in person. I feel that sometimes in the United States and the rest of the English-speaking West, we are a little too casual in the workplace and in other formal settings when it comes to dress. This is not the case in the rest of the world and particularly so in Asia. Sure, the interviewer understands that you are a Westerner, but he or she will still judge you if your appearance is messy. If you are a guy, wear a shirt and tie with a suit jacket if you have one. Remember to shave, look awake and comb your hair. Skype technology is pretty good these days, so the interviewer can see wrinkles in your shirt halfway around the world. If you are a female applicant, dress professionally and comb your hair. They don’t understand Western feminism in non-western countries. Like I said before, when it comes to dress, treat the Skype interview like any normal one back home and not like a casual meeting with your friends at Starbucks. If you are applying for a job in Asia, remember that both Asian males and females are to the point of OCD when it comes to appearance. I am not saying that you have to meet those standards, but let em know you’ve at least made an effort.
Become a master of the ‘fake smile’ for your Skype interview
This one is more true in Asia, where everyone seems to be obsessed with smiling. When I lived in Japan, the only complaint I ever got from parents and school managers was that I didn’t smile enough. Every evaluation I got was exactly the same. A good teacher, but needs to smile more. I love to laugh, but I am terrible at smiling for no reason. However, the Japanese, South Koreans, Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and to a lesser extent Chinese, have seemed to master this art to perfection. I am not sure how they do it because I have the natural disposition not to smile unless I am going to laugh. Regardless if you are a stone-faced killer like myself or not, you have to put on a fake smile during the interview, which makes it all the more long and painful. Fortunately, a typical Skype interview only takes about 20 minutes, so afterwards you can rejoice. On the other hand, holding a fake smile for 20 awkward minutes can feel like an eternity and be mentally draining. Make sure you have that fake smile going at full blast at ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ of the interview. When you say goodbye, have a big smile, thank the interviewer for his or her time and don’t stop smiling until you are absolutely sure that the call has been disconnected.
Have a good connection void of distracting interference for your Skype interview
This may seem like a no brainer, but if you live with roommates or family, outside conversations, music or random noises can easily disrupt the interview. You also want to make sure that you have strong internet connection. Keep in the mind that the person interviewing you may be busy, overworked and tired. The last thing they need is to get on Skype for 20 minutes with someone they can barely hear or understand because of a poor connection or distracting noises. If you are new to Skype, you should also take some time before the interview to get comfortable talking in front of a Webcam. Having a solid internet connection in a quiet place also shows that you are prepared and take the interview seriously. If it is a position that you are truly interested in, remember that there are plenty of others besides you that also want that job. Being professional, clean and efficient can be the deciding factor that separates you from the pack. Having a solid internet connection in a quiet place is the first step to establishing that you are indeed that person.
Be Energetic for your Skype interview
This may seem strange since you are talking with someone halfway around the world in your living room. But remember that the interviewer is not only evaluating your responses to their questions, but carefully observing your body language. On their end, the biggest risk is that they hire you and then you leave the position to return home or take another job after only a few months. They want to see that you are young at heart, full of energy and enthusiastic about not only teaching for their school, but also living in their country. Don’t be afraid to be a bit animated and use hand gestures so long as it is in good taste. Don’t act like you are doing them a favor, but be appreciative that you were offered an interview in the first place. You have to kind of play into their culture during the interview as much as you may detest it. If you are not that interested in the position in the first place, then don’t even waste your time. Save your energy for something that is a good fit. So again, body language that exudes energy and enthusiasm is essential.
You should also keep in mind that teaching English abroad is 50% about teaching and 50% about being an entertainer. They want to bring you into their school and put you on display for the parents, students and everyone involved. Unfortunately, part of teaching abroad is playing the part of the friendly and energetic foreigner. It’s not enough to smile, but you need to show that you are the kind of person that is positive, secure and adventurous. Whatever school offers you a contract just wants you to do your job, show up to work on time and be strong-willed. They are not looking for someone to babysit or full of drama, so keep this in mind before you make the final decision to teach abroad.
Be prepared to have a Skype interview between 7pm to 11pm
Besides the fake smile, this is really the biggest nuance of the Skype interview. If you are coming from the United States or Canada, it is likely that you are applying for a job in Asia or the Middle East. If you are applying for a job in Asia, it is likely that you will be between 12 to 15 hours behind. Being that the hiring managers of schools typically work normal 9 to 5 hours, the only option is for you get on Skype with them at their convenience, which means a very inconvenient time for you. There you are on a Wednesday or Thursday evening. It’s about 8 or 9pm and all you want to do is hang out with your homies, drink a beer and smoke a blunt. I wouldn’t blame you for feeling annoyed since we are only young once and you suddenly realize that you have this Skype interview cutting into your social time. Well, if you want to teach overseas, then you got to do what you got to do. So if you do have a Skype interview, wait until it’s over to have that beer and keep the bong in closet for god’s sake!!!! Ok, maybe a couple of beers is ok to feel relaxed, but nothing more than that.
Getting a job teaching English overseas takes some research, diligence and patience. There is a process involved and nailing the interview is the key. If you feel shy and awkward about talking in front of a computer, learn to get used to it. Hopefully these tips mentioned above will help you land a job abroad.