When preparing for interviews, many beginning English teachers often ask us what the large English language schools are looking for in their teachers.
Whether you’re considering teaching for any of the chain schools like Geos, Aeon, Nova, ECC, or the Jet Program, they are all looking for basically the same thing...
a positive cultural experience for their students.
So what does this mean? It means they’re more concerned about the teacher being optimistic, bubbly, fun and dedicated than anything else. Knowing grammar, having top-crank writing skills and experience won’t help you as much as being fired-up about teaching English in Japan.
If teaching skill were a pre-requisite for getting a job as an ESL teacher for large chain schools, they wouldn’t hire English teachers fresh out of college with little or no teaching experience. But they do. In fact, the bulk of the industry runs on them.
So being cheerful during your interview is much more important than any demonstration of knowledge. In fact, acting like you’ve been there and done that is often received poorly by many recruiters. Click here for interview tips for English teachers.
Flexibility & Openess
Another trait they like in English teachers is flexibility or openness. Why? Because their curriculums are generally fixed. They want English teachers who will teach their curriculums the way they want them taught. Not the way you want to or think it should be taught. Basically if you're looking to work for the big 4 or the JET Program don’t act like you want to reinvent the wheel when they interview you.
Simply project a positive attitude towards their teaching methods/curriculum and be enthusiastic and cooperative. Keep in mind most Japanese going to language schools do so for a unique cultural experience and fun. If the English teacher isn’t fun, the class isn’t fun. And if the class isn’t fun, the students quit. Can you guess what happens next?
Not All English Schools are the Same
Are the above points true of all schools? No. Smaller schools that compete against the giant chain schools do so more on quality of teaching. (They don’t have the budget for unrelenting student recruiting like Nova etc.)
So for small ESL schools losing students poses a much bigger problem than for the giants. So they want instructors who know their stuff. This means experience, teaching and TEFL certificates definitely help in finding jobs with quality-oriented schools.
Being confident, having teaching certificates and showing you know your way around the classroom are the keys to landing your English teaching job with small schools and higher end gigs.
Youth is Key or is it?
Lastly, youth also plays a big part in hiring instructors. Many large schools draw the line at 35. Jet draws it at 40. Although this is not as big a deciding factor as it once was, it still can’t be ignored.
Bear in mind a youthful looking and acting 35 year old instructor and one who looks old makes a difference too. Smaller schools will hire older English teachers because they often focus more on quality of teaching and so want more experienced teachers.
We personally know of schools who hire ESL teachers in their 50’s so the bottom line is: just because you’re not fresh out of school, your age (within reason) shouldn’t deter you.