Top 5 ESL Teacher Interview Questions and Sample Answers
A list of ESL teacher interview questions and sample answers. Please feel free to add a favorite question and example response in the comments and we can make a list of popular ESL teacher interview questions/answers in a future post. The following should apply to other educators too and isn’t necessarily specific to Adult ESL teaching jobs.
1. Tell me about your strengths and also an area you hope to improve upon in your teaching.
Here you should have your 2-3 minute “Why you should hire me?” pitch ready to go. Focusing on a couple of strengths directly related to the job posting and position. State your strength then follow with a short story illustrating it and then tying that back to the position and institution you are applying to. NOTE: Nearly all candidates think they have a great rapport with their students and while worth mentioning it better not be your key strength. For example: “A teacher of any subject first needs to build rapport with students and I feel I have been able to do that however, I think rapport is just the first step. A great teacher is creative and has an ability to engage students in learning and I strive to do this in my classes by understanding my students and what their interests are and linking those with the topic. I remember a lesson I had to teach on conditionals…” (explain how you created interest in the topic and made a fun activity to reinforce the skill that was a modification of what the textbook provided and why that was much better for your particular students).
The area to improve on or your weakness is one of the more difficult questions to answer. Incredibly many don’t prepare for this even though the probability of being asked this question or variation of it is very high. Please avoid the obvious mistake of using another strength as your area to improve on. The “I’m a perfectionist or workaholic” answer isn’t going to do you any good here and in fact will harm your chances. You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome and one that isn’t the strength they are looking for (refer to job description to be sure).
For example: “I have had trouble in the past with organizing my board work. However, I started to sketch out how I’d like to organize my board while lesson planning and upon entering the class one of the first things I do is to divide the board into sections so I can keep my language focus, vocabulary, objectives, errors/successes neatly presented which has helped me a lot. Actually here are a some pictures on my phone of a few of my boards. I like to keep a record of them so I can refer back when planning.” (OK that last one might be over the top but you all have phones with cameras so why not have a few pics of those great boards to show off or include them a portfolio.) Again talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.
2. What are your short and long-term goals?
Hear some research on the organization you have applied to and the career opportunities they may be able to offer is important to do. Along with taking time to sit down and really think about your objectives and also hopefully how you’ve already started taking steps to achieve those goals and other plans you have for achieving them.
A sample interview answer: “During my first 2 years, I would like to become one of the very best teachers at __________. I want to become the kind of teacher that other teachers look to for advice. In April next year I’m going to start the DELTA course which should further my knowledge and skills to which I can then pass on to teachers. I understand that positions for teacher trainers do come available at times with your school and if given the chance I hope to interview for that position if an opportunity arises and by that time I should have completed my DELTA and hopefully demonstrated that I would be a good choice for that position.”
3. How has your education and/or previous teaching experience prepared you this position?
For newer teachers or for those with little experience then talking about the behavioral examples in your educational background which relate to teaching would be where to focus. Naturally much harder for those who didn’t study education, TESOL or linguistics but regardless you should still be able to talk about classes/experiences that demonstrate some teaching related skills. An example: “Being a business major I had to focus a lot of giving presentations that were at times informational and from that I learned how to think of my audience and designs talks that persuaded my listeners and engaged them too. I feel this is what a good teacher does too. As a teacher in your business English program I feel that my studies in business along with strong presentation skills will be quite helpful and being a language learner myself having taken 3 years of Spanish I can certainly empathize with my students which will serve me quite well as I embark on becoming a teacher.”
Ideally you’ve taken some sort of teacher training program and can discuss modules covered and positive feedback received from instructors along with experiences from your university or work experiences.
4. If I were to ask your previous supervisor/professors to describe you, what would they say?
Please make this easy on yourself and have letters of recommendation at the ready. Before the stage of interviewing ask former bosses and professors in advance if they would provide a positive reference either in writing or via phone/email. Not having at least 2 ready when an interviewer asks shows a serious lack of preparedness & can mean the difference between being hired or not.
Once you get them you’ll be able to answer quite confidently. For example: “I hope she would say I’m a very energetic teacher who was one of the best writing teachers she has seen. Actually, I have a letter of recommendation from her touching on that as well as a few other qualities of mine. Would you like me to give you a copy?”
That kind of answer has impact.
5. What qualities do you feel are important to have as an (ESL) teacher?
Plenty of lists out there on this that talk about characteristics of good teachers which generally focus on passion, creativity/fun, flexibility, empathetic, having high expectations for students etc… Choose a couple that really ring true for you and that you can have examples ready for. It also good to talk about a great teacher or language teacher you’ve had.
A sample answer for this would be: “The qualities of a successful teacher I feel are passion for teaching and their students and also creativity. The passionate teacher brings energy to the class that can be contagious especially if they are also creative at taking the lesson material and bringing it to life in a fun and interesting way. I’d like to tell you about a person whom I consider to be one of the best teachers. . .” Go on to talk about how they demonstrated those qualities and has inspired you to become a teacher who embodies those qualities too.
These top 5 interview questions and sample answers might not be in your top 5 and so we’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. Hopefully after hearing from you experienced teachers and interviewers we can make a top 10 list or more!
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