Job Interview: One-on-One ESL Lesson Plan

(See also: Job Interview Lesson Plan (Upper-Intermediate))

job interview practice lesson

Practicing for a job interview in English is an excellent way to improve a valuable skill and force your students to do their best in class. I’ve found that students always make an earnest effort to answer questions in a job interview scenario. My students find these lessons extremely beneficial (and entertaining).

Lesson Plan Duration: about 1 hour (flexible, depending on the number of questions you ask).

1. First Consideration:

Firstly, you need to decide whether you will:

A) interview the student, along with his/her real credentials, for a potential job in their field


B) interview your student, with fictional credentials, for an alternative job

The benefit of option A is that it will be more practical and applicable to the student in his/her field. The drawbacks are that you may not have the custom knowledge required in that field to ask relevant questions, or that your student may be sick of his/her field. If neither of these drawbacks applies, choose this option. Jump to point 2 below.

The benefit of option B is that the lessons generally prove to be more fun. This option allows the student to be more creative and imagine interviewing for a completely different job. If you choose to have a student interview for a job outside his or her field, then I recommend allowing your student to also use a fictional educational background + job experience in their interview, since in reality, they would not be interviewed for a non-entry level job they are completely unqualified for. While the content of this type of interview may be different, the structure and techniques will be similar, and therefore the lesson is still quite beneficial (although perhaps less applicable).

If you choose this option, as I typically do, next ask the student to brainstorm about jobs he/she would be interested in doing.

Make a list on the whiteboard. Usually I end up with a list like this:

nurse, doctor, high school teacher, policeman, HR manager, journalist, politician, salesperson

Then pick one job and go with it.

2. How to Structure the Job Interview

Greeting/Small Talk

  • basic greeting and short question about weather/finding the office


I introduce myself briefly. Usually I am either a manager or owner of the business. Sometimes I introduce the expression “we are an equal opportunity employer” if the student is advanced.

Next, I ask the student to tell me about one of the following:

  • his/her educational background
  • his/her employment history

Questions x 2

Ask whatever questions you believe typify job interviews in English. You can find a list of more questions on the web. These are questions I consider (only ask a few of them):

  • What do you know about (my company)?
  • Why choose us?
  • Why did you leave your previous employer?
  • Please tell me about an obstacle you faced in your previous position and what you did to overcome it.
  • What is your weakness?
  • What can you contribute to my company?

Abstract Question x 1

  • What does it mean to be successful?
  • What do you look for in an employer?
  • What does “customer service” mean to you?

(Feel free to get philosophical. Or psychological: you can show the applicant abstract photos and then pretend to analyze the student’s interpretations)

Future Question x 1

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Please tell me how working at (my company name) fits with your career goals?

Scenarios x 2

Think of scenarios the student could face (even ridiculous ones) and get him/her to tell you how he/she would behave. Get creative. I usually include at least one provocative scenario. Examples:

  • another employee is stealing supplies/etc. Would you report him?
  • you are not getting along with your manager or co-worker. (give some concrete scenario). how would you resolve this problem?
  • Marketing job: Would you be willing to market cigarettes to high school children?
  • Marketing/Sales job: Outline a product and ask them how they would market it.
  • Marketing/Sales: Please sell me this (pen).
  • Teacher: bullying in the classroom – how would you deal with it?
  • Teacher: students don’t seem interested in lesson/material. People are sleeping. What would you do to improve the atmosphere and their attitudes?
  • Sexual harassment scenario: how would you handle it?

These are just some examples. If you have an imagination, you should be able to think of relevant/ethically provocative scenarios specific to the job they are applying for. It’s not that hard to do on the fly.

Practical Questions x 2

  • How much money would you require?
  • Are you willing to work overtime? How much? Unpaid? (I usually try to get them to sacrifice evenings and weekends in order to test their limits).
  • Discrimination: if the mood is playful and I know the student well, then I sometimes offer a discriminatory salary to women. I do this to drive conversation and see if the student will take a stand. You can go further by asking people (male or female) if they are married, and how their family will affect their duties as an employee. (Note that such questions are illegal in many developed countries — the purpose is to try to see if the student will take a stand).

English Question x 1

“It says on your resume that you speak fluent English. Please make a sentence using the [insert recently studied language item, e.g. present perfect, here]”.


Say thank you and that you will contact him/her in a few days with the result.


3. Review

During the entire interview, take note of 1) the student’s answers (roughly) so you can comment on them later and 2) the student’s (major) mistakes. Review both of these after the interview and comment on areas where improvement is possible. Commend your student on his or her performance wherever possible as well.


As you can tell, I usually have fun with it and try to provoke the student. However, when the mood or student is more serious, I stick with the non-controversial stock questions. While these questions may be cliched for us, remember that job interviews are conducted completely differently around the world. Your student needs experience answering even cliched questions in English.

Give it a shot. Get creative. And have fun.

Matthew Barton – English Current

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13 comments on “Job Interview: One-on-One ESL Lesson Plan

  1. Rachel (Posted on 10-10-2013 at 11:09) Reply

    Very helpful guide for a private class with interview prep!
    Thank you – I’ll be using it in Barcelona today.

  2. Didem (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 16:27) Reply

    We love you Matthew! This is such a good website for teachers, so neat and to-the-point. Thank you!

  3. alirez (Posted on 9-3-2015 at 07:05) Reply

    Thanks a million Matthew,so useful and applicable for a standard interview.I’ll submit the format to our HR manager to use it for employing new staff in Kashan,Iran.

  4. Bridget Jaspart (Posted on 11-5-2015 at 07:25) Reply

    This is an excellent lesson plan. Thank you so much for sharing it. You’ve really helped me in a pinch!

  5. Sally (Posted on 8-25-2016 at 18:12) Reply

    Thank you so much for this amazing lesson plan!

  6. Anonymous (Posted on 10-17-2016 at 09:00) Reply

    Thanks for this excellent resource

  7. derek (Posted on 6-19-2017 at 08:04) Reply

    excellent stuff!

    1. Saiqa (Posted on 12-23-2017 at 10:47) Reply

      its gud

  8. George Granada (Posted on 6-13-2018 at 18:54) Reply

    thanks. greetings from Colombia

  9. Anonymous (Posted on 10-10-2020 at 02:16) Reply

    Thanks. Very interesting and resourceful . Excellent piece.

  10. Bradley Tonkin (Posted on 11-23-2020 at 15:51) Reply

    Absolutely love it. A thoughtful and well designed lesson plan that I’ll be using this morning. Thanks for the help, I’ll make a donation!

    1. mb (Posted on 11-23-2020 at 21:03) Reply

      Great. I hope the lesson goes well.

  11. Chris (Posted on 1-27-2021 at 07:49) Reply

    Awesome, thanks! Will be using this for an online class in Sao Paulo today.

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