Job Interview Lesson for ESL

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Students in ESL classes (and some EFL classes) will eventually need to take job interviews as they go about finding new employment. The art of job interviewing can be a touchy subject for many students as the approach to job interviewing can vary widely from country to country. Some countries may expect a more aggressive, self-promoting style, while others may generally prefer a more modest approach.

In any case, job interviewing can make the best students nervous for a variety of reasons.

One of the best ways to deal with this is to explain that job interviewing is a game although, admittedly, it's an incredibly important game. I've the best approach is to make it clear that students should pragmatically understand the rules of the game. Whether or not they feel any given job interviewing style is fair is an entirely different issue. By making immediately clear that you're not trying to teach the 'correct' way to interview, but only trying to help them understand what they should expect, you'll help students focus on the task at hand, rather than getting caught up in cultural comparisons.

At the end of this lesson, you will find a number of links that students can visit to help understand job interviewing and improve their skills written especially for English learners.

Aim: Improve job interviewing skills

Activity: Simulated job interviews

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Outline:

  • Distribute the worksheet to students in the class. Students should follow each of the instructions carefully.
  • In groups of three people, choose one person to interview for the positions, one to interview the job applicant, and one to take notes on the job interview.
  • Review notes after each interview and have students ask their opinion on how they could improve your job interviewing skills.
  • Have students switch roles and either interview another person, or take notes. Make sure that all students have taken notes AND interviewed so that they can understand the job interviewing process better.
  • While students are in their groups, have them note disagreements on good job interviewing technique. At the end of the session have students to ask other students their opinions on these disagreements.
  • As a follow-up activity, have students go online and find a few jobs they would like to do. Have them write down their qualifications as practiced in class.

Practice your job interviewing skills in English using this exercise:

Job Interviewing Directions

Visit a popular employment website such as Monster to search for positions. Put in a few keywords for jobs that you would like. Alternately, find a newspaper with employment ads. If you don't have access to job listings, think of some jobs that you might find interesting. The positions you choose should be related to employment you have done in the past, or the jobs you would like to do in the future as they relate to your studies.

 

Choose two jobs from the list of positions you have found. Make sure to choose jobs that match your skills in some way. The positions shouldn't necessarily be identical to past employment. If you are a student, you may also want to interview for positions that don't necessarily exactly match the subject you are studying at school. 

In order to prepare yourself with appropriate vocabulary, you should explore vocabulary resources that list specific vocabulary for work sector for which you are applying. There are a number of resources that can help with this:

  • Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook which lists positions by industry. This is a rich resource that provides general descriptions of the type of work and responsibilities you can expect. 
  • Search on the industry + glossary, example "banking glossary". This will lead you to pages that provide definitions for key language in your chosen industry. 

On a separate piece of paper, write down your qualifications for the job. Think about the skills you have and how they relate to the job you would like. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself when thinking about your qualifications:

  • What tasks have I done at past jobs that are similar to the tasks required in this job advertisement?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses and how do they relate to the tasks required in this job advertisement?
  • How do I relate to people? Do I have good people skills?
  • If I don't have any related work experience, how does the experience I have / studies I've done relate?
  • Why do I want this job?

With classmates, take turns interviewing each other. You can help fellow students by writing down a few questions that you feel will be asked. However, make sure that your partners also include general questions such as "What's your greatest strength?"

Here are some more job interviewing resources to help out with the job interviewing process in English.