You’re hired!


January 20, 2011 by Willy Cardoso

Out of the many ELT related tasks I’ve done so far, interviewing English teachers has never been a favorite.

I’ll start off with some fading memories of being an interviewee though.

Do you like teaching? This was a killer, every time an interviewer asked me that I wanted to dig the pavement with my nails and bury my head in the ground and scream NO, I’m in it for the money!

What’s going on people? You interview a baby-sitter and ask if she likes children. (??)  But do you ask if she likes long cries? Hey Mr Postman, do you like letters? I mean,  do you like walking? Anyway… what kind of question is ‘do you like teaching?’

Another downer was that after beautifully crafting that cv and personalizing that cover letter, they come and say So, tell me about your experience. Oh give me a break, didn’t you read the cv?

And believe it or not,  I was once asked:

If you could be an animal what animal would you be?

Aahhhh… a cockroach.

But there were the funny bits, like when as a very young teacher the interviewer asked me How would you explain to a student the difference between listen and hear? Tough job that one, I thought.

Now at the other end of the desk, as the interviewer, I’ll tell you that it took me a while to make it a survivable experience, for me at least. 🙂

Eventually, I found some ways to make the interviews worth everyone’s time.

One of them being CAR.

Despite my aversion to corporate-focused McAccronyms, I bought this one.

Context | Action | Result

Quite simple stuff.

Firstly, pin down the general competencies you’re seeking in a teacher and then write some questions that can elicit something substantial. For example:

Competency Question
Goal setting / Goal orientation What was the most challenging goal you have ever set to yourself? Did you reach it? Which goals were substituted, forgotten or reformulated?
Responsiveness  (to feedback) Tell me about the best advice you were given to do a job better. Who said that and why? What was the outcome? 

Tell me about some sound advice you were given that you haven’t put in practice. Why?

Interpersonal relationship / Conflict resolution Tell me about a situation in which you had some incompatibilities with colleagues or bosses and how you dealt with it.

As the questions suggest, good responses will come with context, action and result. That way the interviewer can have a better idea of candidates’ past behavior. Of course, one can always lie. But then we have the police officer technique. (on a later post)

Another useful tip I like is:

Reject empty answers. Follow up with smart questions.


I was tired of working on things that weren’t my responsibilities.

Ask: Which things were not your responsibilities?

I have always been very proactive.

Ask: Give me an example of a situation where you were proactive and how it made a difference.

We did great things.

Ask: Such as?

So, there you are. A few simple ideas to make that recruitment process less agonizing.

Oh, I almost forgot. If you are the kind of person who enjoys a more relaxing atmosphere, you should take a look at the video below and I’m sure you’ll find a handful of very good techniques to use in your interviews.


6 thoughts on “You’re hired!

  1. luthcal says:

    Hi Willy,
    I’ just started following you on Twitter and @hoprea tweeted about this post. The light humour you use is amazing, made me remember my interviews. Also, I’m laughing to tears until now, because of the video. Great work!!

  2. Josh Round says:

    Hi Willy, really like this post.

    What about some of the worst replies teachers have given you in interviews? I remember one interviewee telling me how they were open-minded and understood when students didn’t like their teaching style and complained to the DoS…Hhmm I thought, well-intended perhaps but not the best thing to bring up in an interview!!

    Anyway, your C-A-R idea is a useful & simple approach.



    • Thanks Josh.
      Ugly replies there were. But I try not to make fun of them, interviews are not the real world, they’re like… filling in the blanks with the past simple, or something like that.

      But I remember when a teacher brought a guitar and sang a song to show how he taught. Another one who was a hypnotherapist, kinda scary, he got the job, but I still don’t know whether I was hypnothized …lol

  3. Great post! Although I have to admit that I think the question “do you like teaching” is a good question to ask… some people simply don’t and they really do do it for the money (because no other profession will have them) and…. and…. and… they’re what give good teachers a bad name!


    • many people don’t like it, I agree, but how could you tell it in an interview? I mean, will they say “No, I don’t”? or can you see they’re lying when they say “Of course, I love it!”?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

receive new posts by email.

Join 490 other followers


Events 2015

IATEFL Manchester, UK
10 April, 2014
TDSIG PCE: Challenges and Rewards
More info

IATEFL Manchester, UK
12 April, 2015
Talk: Initial teacher training: challenges and innovations in course design

23 March, 2015 - Kragujevac
28 March, 2015 - Belgrade
Theme: Assessment: who is it for?
More info



%d bloggers like this: