The Phone Interview versus Reality

By Neil Root
Neil Root is a writer and London based English Language teacher with 10 years experience.

The Phone Interview versus Reality

By Christos Vittoratos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

You get the job abroad over the phone usually. Very few language institutions will travel to the UK to interview you (except perhaps Middle Eastern universities who recruit in bulk and the JET programme), and even fewer will pay for you to fly over to attend an interview. One, two or three phone interviews and you’ve got an offer. You’re excited, perhaps it’s a country or city you’ve always wanted to live in, or the employment package seems good. Well done, but keep your expectations realistic.

Key information omitted?

When we are interviewed, we try to create the very best impression we can, and it’s the same for employers looking to recruit. EFL schools worldwide are always on the lookout for quality teachers, and if they want you they will try to get you. They won’t tell downright lies usually, but they may omit key information related to your responsibilities, hours, administrative duties or expectations. One teacher I know was promised a rent free self-contained flat for six months which he moved into on arrival, but just a week later the school’s director moved him to a flat sharing with five other teachers, two in a bedroom. He had no choice – the only other option was to fly home, and he had yet to be reimbursed for his outward flight, or he could fund his own apartment, but the city he was in was very expensive. He ended up staying three months, got his flight reimbursed and put it down to experience.

Not the full picture

I took a job in a European city that I’d always wanted to live in. In the phone interview and contract I was told that I would be teaching a maximum of twenty hours a week, with another five hours admin. I was happy with that, but once I started teaching I realised that my classes were in suburbs, some more than an hour outside the city centre, and my timetable was very sporadic and not grouped together very well. With commuting and teaching, I was working around 55-60 hours a week and only being reimbursed for half my travel, which wasn’t cheap. I loved the city, but was usually very tired. I didn’t mind working more, but my pay didn’t increase. I wouldn’t have taken the job doing those hours for £18K if I’d known!

So try to ask key questions in the phone interview, and send follow up emails if necessary before you sign the contract. It’s a big move you’re making, and it pays to get it all straight before you commit. Being flexible is one thing, but being trapped in a situation you don’t want to be in is another.


Neil Root is a London-based writer and journalist who has also worked as an English language teacher for ten years, in London and several countries abroad.