So last night I had my interview for EPIK! If you don’t know what EPIK is, it stands for the English Program In Korea and it’s a government funded program that hires native English speakers as ESL teachers and places them in public schools all across South Korea. As this is my second go-’round with EPIK, I thought I’d share my experiences and some tips for preparing for the interview.
My First Interview
Last fall, I applied to EPIK for the 2015 spring intake of teachers. As you might have read in my previous post, I wasn’t able to secure a position due to some damaged paperwork, but I was able to experience the interview process, and it was a pretty positive experience. My interviewer was a young woman who was very bubbly and friendly. She asked me the standard questions, but also asked some follow-up questions and conversed more at ease with me, which I really appreciated. After my answers she would nod and say things like, “Okay, good,” so I was able to read how well I was doing based on her reactions. She made some minor corrections to my application at the end (line spacing, referee title, etc.) Overall, I came away feeling quite confident and I did in fact pass the interview stage that time.
My Second Interview
Last night’s interview was a little different than the first. My interviewer was a young man who was very polite and seemed like a generally nice person. But unlike the first interview, we went through the questions quite quickly, and I couldn’t get a read on his reactions to my answers. He mostly answered with “Mm. Okay.” At the end when he was reviewing my personal essay, he started by saying, “The personal essay is really important for the hiring process. We read these quite carefully so it’s important to write a strong essay. This is a bit awkward, but…” aaand that’s when I got really nervous. He pointed out something I had written which was very unprofessional in my rough draft that I must have forgotten to edit out for my final draft. It was one little word, but still, major face-palm. I had written that I was interested in EPIK because of the professional, cultural, and
financial benefits….Obviously you should NEVER mention the money aspect! I have a habit of writing everything I’m honestly thinking in my rough drafts, and in my right mind, if I had edited more carefully, I would never have left that word in. He was very polite about it. “I would suggest you take that word out,” he said, and I answered as calmly as I could: “Yes, I agree with you completely. I’ll take it out right away.” In my mind, I was thinking OHMYGOD THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING HOW COULD I HAVE WRITTEN THAT??? He assured me that if/when I pass the interview, I would be able to edit the essay as well as my lesson plan if I felt that it needed tweaking or improving before my final submission. Besides the mistake on my essay, I think everything went pretty well. I answered most of the questions strongly and tried to show my positive, bright attitude. I know I’m capable of passing the interview since I did it once already, but I was very nervous since I have so much riding on this interview! I’m expecting a follow up phone call tonight, and I’m supposed to receive the results of my interview (whether I passed or failed) in the next 2 to 3 days.
What to Expect
In most cases, the interview should begin right on the dot, but be aware that the interview before you may be running late, so don’t freak out if it doesn’t start right away. My second interview was about 10 minutes late in starting due to the previous interview running long. The start of the interview consists of simply going over the first page of your application and confirming some basic information like your name, date of birth, primary phone number, etc. After that, the interviewer will jump straight into the interview questions, and finish up by asking some mandatory health questions and the like. He or she will review your application and personal essay to recommend any changes or corrections you should make. At the end, the interviewer will explain the follow-up procedures, and then it’s over. It should take no more than 30 minutes all together, and both of mine took between 15 and 20 minutes.
Don’t take it personally or worry too much if your interviewer doesn’t give lots of enthusiastic responses to your answers. They have to give interviews all day in a timely manner, so just remember that they may be a bit drained from asking the same questions all day, and that they are trying to keep the interview from running too long.
Some Typical Interview Questions
- Tell me about yourself (brief self introduction, talk about your education, qualifications, and maybe an interesting hobby)
- Why do you want to teach English with EPIK? (are you passionate about education? literacy? working with children? why EPIK instead of a hagwon?)
- Why did you choose Korea? (as opposed to other countries or your own country?)
- Why did you choose your selected city? (are you flexible about your location?)
- What teaching/related experience do you have? (teaching experience if you have any, otherwise talk about any experience you have tutoring, leading groups or working with children)
- What are your weaknesses? (i hate this question :’c just do the typical strength-disguised-as-a-weakness thing, or give an actual weakness but follow up with ways you overcome it, which is my preferred method.)
- What are two important qualities that ESL teachers should have?
- Do you have any travel experience? (can you adapt to other cultures?)
- How will you deal with culture shock? (can you adapt to other cultures? do you have a positive attitude? would it be cause enough for you to quit?)
- What age group do you prefer to teach? (just be honest about your preference, as long as you don’t say something like “i prefer high schoolers because little kids are brats” or something like that)
- How would you deal with a large class? (how would you make sure every student gets attention and talking time?)
- How would you deal with a multilevel class? (how would you make sure your lessons reach both high level/fast learners and low level/slow learners?)
- How would you deal with an unruly student? (how would you manage your classroom?)
- How would you deal with a co-teacher who makes a mistake when teaching? (are you professional and tactful? can you cooperate with a co-teacher?)
- What are your personal and professional goals?
- What is your teaching philosophy? (don’t worry if you don’t have one that education majors can learn about in a textbook. First think about your personal thoughts on education, and then just talk about what you think makes for a good teacher, a good class environment, and an effective lesson. They basically all add up to your teaching philosophy. Hint: “communicative” is the buzz word.)
How to Prepare
I’ll just explain what I did to prepare. Everyone handles interviews differently, but this is what worked for me.
I luckily had the day off from work, so I was able to spend the entire day preparing for my interview that was scheduled for 11:30 pm. I went over the information on the EPIK website about the job requirements and duties so that I was familiar with the program. I also went over my application a few times so that I could re-familiarize myself with what I wrote in my essay and lesson plan. I spent a lot of time surfing the internet to read about other people’s experiences and also watched Youtube videos about it as well. Then, for each of the above questions, I wrote out my ideal answers. Some people, like my older sister, do better when they answer spontaneously, but that doesn’t really work for me. If you have the opportunity to think about what you would say ahead of time, I think you should take it. I’m glad I did so because I was able to come up with answers for some of the more difficult questions that I know I wouldn’t have been able to come up with on the spot. Closer to the interview time, I made sure to make myself and my backdrop look presentable. Even though it’s a Skype interview, you should still treat it as you would any other interview. I styled my hair, put on a little light makeup, painted my nails, and dressed professionally. I also made sure that my backdrop was neat and tidy (I was in my bedroom, so I made sure my walls were free of distracting art and made my bed neatly). Finally, I checked all the technical aspects of the interview. I made sure I was well-lit, checked my wifi connection, and signed on to Skype early.
Some of these items will be a bit of repeat from the above section, but I will list them all out anyways.
- Reread your application
- Prepare some thoughtful answers ahead of time
- Dress professionally
- Tidy up your backdrop
- Make sure you have a strong wifi connection
- Log into Skype early (10 to 15 minutes will suffice)
- Be well-lit
- Eliminate any excess background noise
- Silence your cell phone, but keep it with you just in case for some reason they need to contact you
- Use your laptop’s speaker if you want, but prepare a set of headphones/speaker just in case they can’t hear you clearly.
- Print out a copy of your application and have a pen handy to mark any corrections they suggest to you
- Be polite and diplomatic in your answers (Basically don’t be too honest. It seems obvious, but don’t say things like, “I just want this job so I can travel,” “I like this job because of the pay,” etc, even if it’s true)
- Speak clearly and correctly (you’re going to be a teacher! show them that you have a good command of the English language. plus, it’s Skype, it’s going to be a bit fuzzy-sounding)
- Be bright and friendly (show them that you have the type of positive, upbeat attitude that an ESL teacher should have)
- Don’t be afraid to gesticulate (again, show them the kind of teacher you would be in front of a class)
- Smile 🙂
Well, that’s about all I have to say on the topic of EPIK interviews at the moment. I hope that this information is helpful to some of you, and I hope your interviews go well! I’ll update you on whether or not I passed as soon as I find out. 🙂