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Interview experiences

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Joined: 22 Aug 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 5:52 pm    Post subject: Interview experiences Reply with quote

Apologies if this is an old topic.

What are people's experiences of interviews? Both phone and face to face.

What kind of questions?

How long?


Technical (teaching) questions or practicalities?

Negotiations on pay and conditions?

Any tips for how to make the right impression?

I had a long and involved telephone interview with the British Council in Seoul. It followed a complicated format where I was supposed to illustrate with real examples from my past work/life experiences how I had succeeded in similar situations.

Sad to say I got very bored half way through and rather refused to play their games. Didn't get the job, depite being over qualified on paper.

Pay and conditions were poor anyway and a lot of it was kids, so no regrets. If anybody would like to know the drill for these interviews, feel free to contact me by PM and I'll be happy to go into details.

Thanks in advance

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Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Location: Geoje, Hadong, Tongyeong,... now in a small coastal island town outside Gyeongsangnamdo!

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Use the 'search' command at the top of this page to find threads with the term 'interviews'. Go to the one called 'uni interviews' and you will see some good advice for interviews in general and there's links. Plus there's a thread about phone interviews (my experience was: "You got degree? When can come?").

You seem to have begun a great thread for the ages.
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Joined: 22 Aug 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks - will search

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Joined: 01 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I have been on both sides of the interview process, and I know what I was looking for and what sent up flags....

Quickest way to lose the job is to not take the interview or interviewer seriously. If you are applying, you should be respectful and attentive. Even if you are overqualified for the position, if you take the attitude that you are doing the school a favor by talking to them...well, any decent school would toss you aside in a heartbeat. If you are truly overqualified, you will get your compensation when it comes time to negotiate your terms.

In general, I would assume an interview would last 30 minutes to an hour, unless it is just a preliminary or if it were to go very badly. I often spent an hour talking to the person to whom I offered the job, but could cut dead weight in ten minutes or so. Short interviews are a bad sign, in my opinion. If the interviewer doesn't have much to ask you besides if you will accept their basic terms...well, do you really want to work someplace where they don't care who they hire?

I would suggest that people remember that hakwans are a business... a lot of people go into contract negotiations with a list of what they want, but really don't sell themselves once they present that list. If I am a business owner, you need to convince me you are worth an extra 250,000 won a month (or whatever you are asking for beyond the basic contract). Put it into terms of profit or cost -- how will you make the business more profitable than the fellow willing to work for the basic salary. If you can't, why should the owner spend time figuring it out? There is no harm in interviewing for positions you know you won't take, just to practice this "rationalization" of your demands...hell, negotiations are more fun when you know you won't accept the job anyway -- you can ask for the moon and stars....

If you interview in person, have the decency to dress at least business casual. Had a fellow in sandals, a t-shirt, torn shorts and bed-head hairdo drop by an hour late to his interview...I had to meet him at a subway station since he couldn't find his way to the school. Obviously, I left him at the station and cussed the whole way home -- an utter waste of my time. Was I supposed to assume that his performance would IMPROVE once he got a job?

Face it folks -- most people figure that you are at your best in the interview, and that your day to day performance won't be as sharp or polished -- if you are sloppy, inattentive, tardy, and unprofessional, the interviewer assumes it only gets worse once you are comfortable in a job.

As far as questions go, my own preference was to allow the interviewee to ask questions first. It allowed me to gauge the person's priorities about the position -- someone that asks me about class size, student levelling, tracking processes, teacher support, administrative and disciplinary support, texts used, and school philosophy really gets my attention. If your only questions are "do I have to work overtime?" and "do I have to wear a tie?" ...well...I know what to expect from this person.

This is all pretty much common sense stuff, and a lot depends on the school an interviewer...I know a lot of folks will say that none of the above matters, they can get a job in a hearbeat just by showing up...well and good...but they probably could have done better by taking it seriously.
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Joined: 22 Aug 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Common sense indeed Gadfly.

I was pleasantly surpised about technical questions getting a positive response from you - I am sometimes wary they will imply criticism. But then again, if they don't have a system in place to be proud of then I wouldn't want to step over their door.....

I am a little jaded by the reality of EFL even in top rated UK schools. (Staff) cost cutting seems to be rampant here, with a lot of part-time semi qualified staff being used.

I think many people are afraid to make an effort at interviews in some belief that they're creating a precedent. Also, I have succeeded when quite slack in my approach and failed when very sharp and trying really hard.

There is a lot of luck involved and it depends on the exact situation. I usually know what I should have done 10 minutes after the end of the session.

Thanks for the detailed response.

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Joined: 01 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I think questions about the school should be high on any applicant's list...and if the interviewer can't answer, then the school probably couldn't afford to pay you what you are worth, or the administration doesn't have it together enough to recognize your value...if you WANT a position where you are designing curriculum, then I guess it would be fine, but if they don't have ANYTHING in place, it tells me not to worry about housing -- I won't be taking the job anyway....
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Joined: 22 Aug 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good point.

Ever worried about making a Korean director lose face or making a Native speaker teacher/supervisor feel threatened?

I am a bit disillisioned by my battles with management in the UK. I want the perfect job, I want to work somewhere I can make a difference and am appreciated......I am serious about teaching.

But - I have to live.
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Joined: 01 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2003 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never argue with a Korean director in public...always in private, just the two of you if you can manage...always be respectful and even a bit self-effacing...but do not give in. Couch your demands in terms that seem like requests, explain why you think it is reasonable and how it would work...and do NOT try to resolve anything in one meeting -- always drop the bomb and a solution in one meeting, then ask if he could think about it and talk with you later, when you both have more time.

In my own experience, I found that if *I* figured out how what I wanted could be done, and presented both the problem (my request) and the solution (however my request could be processed or whatever reasons I should be granted/given/paid what I requested), then asked to schedule a meeting a few days later to discuss the matter, I would get what I was asking for...or I would get a reasonable, reasoned argument against it, to which I could then respond.

With unreasonable/manipulative/cruel administrators (in Korea), I had to use other resources and methods, but even then I was always polite and innocent-seeming, asking politely rather than demanding...I just demonstrated how it would be easier and less costly to give in than to fight me on it...but you have to keep your nose clean in such a situation.

With foreign directors...I WAS a foreign director...I am a professional teacher, I take it seriously, and I was not a mouthpiece for I really can't think of anything that a teacher could do to make me feel threatened.... Follow the proper channels for reporting, keep the foreign director informed...I PREFERRED it when teachers wanted to take their concerns directly to the owner/president. I had to play den mother/arbitrator/therapist quite a few times, so if a teacher wanted to have it out himself or herself, I was all for it.

So...ask the foreign director how your concerns should be handled...if he/she refuses to handle it or move it higher up, ask if you can go ahead and move it up yourself (you will probably do so even if the foreign director says no, but only a moron would say no, since you are going to do so anyway...I can order the sun not to rise, but then I look foolish when it does...), then ask if the foreign director would sit in on your meeting as an observer...again, keeping them in the loop, and being polite.

If your foreign director is not professional, or is a jerk for some reason or another, all bets are off...but most people can be coaxed or coerced to be reasonable.... Being polite and keeping the foreign director informed go a LONG way....
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