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Job Interview Horror Stories from English Teachers in HK

Published on Tuesday, 26 Apr 2016

Teaching English in Hong Kong is a popular and extremely competitive profession. While the rewards are plenty, including a lucrative monthly salary, international exposure in a major cosmopolitan city, and an exciting life living in one of the most rapidly changing regions in the world, landing a job as an English teacher in Hong Kong isn’t always smooth sailing. 

The saturated field yields a large number of candidates vying for a limited number of positions, resulting in interviewing processes that may skew towards the unusual. If you’re considering a job as an English teacher in HK, here are some job interview horror stories you should be aware of before submitting your application.

Surprise Trial Classes
Teaching is all about quick thinking and having the ability to adapt to changing environments and classroom situations. Some schools and education centres may throw interview candidates into surprise lessons to gauge whether a teacher succeeds or fails in delivering age-appropriate lessons on the fly. 

While this isn’t a common practice, it has been known to happen. In the off-chance that your teaching interview may go in this direction, save yourself the panic and stress by preparing an appropriate lesson plan targeted to the right school subject and grade level should you be asked to conduct an impromptu class. 

Prejudices May Still Persist
Hong Kong is undoubtedly an international city with more than several dozen nationalities calling it home and its inhabitants certainly have a worldly view. Unfortunately, prejudices and stereotypes are hard to eliminate and even the most open-minded and well-intentioned interviewers may surprise prospective teachers. 

The most commonly persistent stereotype is that all Westerners are of the blonde hair, blued eyed variety and it has been reported that those who fall outside that category may find it a surprise that this can come up in the interview. Not to worry though, a majority of schools will value your credentials and experience over their ignorance and many Westerners of colour and different ethnicities are happily and successfully employed in Hong Kong as English teachers. 

Crowded Classroom Sizes
In recent years, schools in HK have grown in numbers, but not all campuses have been able to expand to meet the rising number of students. This has led to more students crammed into classrooms, making it harder for teachers to do their job properly and give individual students the attention to learning that they might need. 

During the interview process, ask the interviewer about classroom size and if it’s possible, see if you can visit a classroom that may be in session. Many candidates may find the teacher to student ratio shocking at some schools. 

Prying into Your History
Although it’s not uncommon to be asked you questions about your past experiences in a job interview, sometimes teaching interviews in Hong Kong can delve further than what many are used to in an interview setting. Questions can include the status of your love life, living situation, personal goals, and family background. 

While it can be easy to mistake these types of questions as being more like an interrogation, interviewers just want to ensure that prospective teachers have a stable and happy life outside of work. Don’t feel you have to reveal more than what you’re comfortable with, but do reassure the interviewer that you are happy and won’t be looking to leave Hong Kong, or your teaching post, in a few month’s’ time. 

Finding a job teaching English in Hong Kong is a challenging task and the interview process is certainly one of the more difficult aspects of the search. While some job interview horror stories do exist, they are, thankfully, not all too common an occurrence. Just remember to create an impeccable teaching resume and prepare for your interview as best you can ahead of your meeting and you’ll be ready for any surprises that may turn up.

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