Top Ten ESL Interview Questions You Need to Know How to Answer

Updated: Jul 24, 2020




Interviewing for an ESL teaching job abroad can be nerve-racking, but the more prepared you are, the better the interview will go. To help, let's take a look at how to answer ten common ESL interview questions.


1. Tell me about yourself


When asking this question, the interviewer wants to observe your confidence, enthusiasm, and passion. Talk about your education, where you grew up, and your past work experience.

2. What are your strengths?


Try to avoid one-line answers such as, "I’m very approachable" and expand upon your answer with an example.


Example Answer:

"My strongest trait is my attention to detail, I believe in planning and execution. In college I would plan out my week and ensure that I was completing everything I wanted to accomplish as the week went on.”


3. What are your weaknesses?


Try to share a weakness that can be perceived as a strength.


Example Answer:

“Because I’m so detailed orientated I try to accomplish everything at once and sometimes I realize that there isn’t enough time to complete everything I want to do. So, because of this, I have to make sure that I pay attention to my time management and prioritize my tasks efficiently."





4. What do you know about our company? 


In this question, the employer is looking to see how seriously you are taking the interview. By researching the company prior to the interview, you show that you are genuinely interested in working for the company or school. Having even a little knowledge can really impress, especially in the ESL teaching market.


Example Answer:

“Well, I know that you follow a teaching methodology very similar to the Reggio Emilia philosophy and that was something that made interested in applying. I know that you also have several campuses across China meaning you are quite a large and reputable company.




5. How well do you handle change?


This question is important because especially if moving to a new country for the first time, there are lots of changes that may be quite challenging. You will face a new culture, a new teaching environment, new people with all kinds of backgrounds, and the interviewer wants to know you will be able to adjust well to these changes.


Of course, you want to answer that, yes, you are good at managing change but simply saying so isn’t a very convincing answer. Give an example of a time that you have had to manage change in the past.


Example Answer:

"In one of my previous schools, there were some big changes implemented when the principal left. The new principal had a very different way of organizing the school and wanted to implement some new curriculum changes. As a team, we had to all work together and do our best to become accustomed to these changes and help the school implement them in the most productive way for our team and our students. It was a challenging experience but definitely one that I grew from.”


6. Why did you leave your last job?


Although it may be tempting to complain about your previous or current employer, this will only reflect poorly upon you. Instead, highlight your desire for growth.


Example Answer:

“A teacher is a role model and especially if working with younger students we can have a huge influence on their lives. Teachers need to be patient, loving, and instill confidence in their students".y current company. I’m really looking for a company in which I can grow, work alongside with, and learn new teaching methods to help better my teaching ability."



7. What past experience do you have teaching?


You may be interviewing for your first-ever ESL teaching role. But, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have skills that can be relevant to the role. Be honest, but highlight the qualities that you think will carry into the position and try to let your passion and enthusiasm for the job shine through.


Example Answer:

“Well although I have never taught English in the classroom I think that I have several essential qualities that are essential for a teaching position, such as patience, dedication, and a genuine love for children. I have completed my TEFL certification and have been researching different teaching techniques such as using TPR and chants in my lessons so that I can be ready for my first day in the classroom. I’m a fast learner and am genuinely passionate about teaching, so I’m confident I will be an excellent addition to your team."



8. What 3 qualities do you think makes a good teacher?


Make sure you give this question some thought because if you aren’t able to answer, it really shows that you haven’t thought about what it means to be a teacher.


Example Answer:

“A teacher is a role model and especially if working with younger students we can have a huge influence on their lives. Teachers need to be patient, loving and instill confidence in their students".



9. How would you manage a troublesome student?


The interviewer is looking to see if you have strategies in place to manage behavior in the classroom. They want to know how you will manage distracted or disengaged students. Show that you have strategies in place and that you would be willing to follow school policy on discipline.


Example Answer:

“Well first I would look to see if there is anything that I’m doing that can be done differently to help engage that student. I would also try to understand their behavior, are they bored because the content is too difficult or too easy for them, are they distracted by those they are sat with? I would then try to involve that student in the lesson more by giving them extra responsibility or involving them more in the games we would be playing. I would also make sure that I have some attention grabbers ready to help bring back students that have lost concentration."



10. Why do you want to come to (China)?


In this question, the interviewer wants to know that you have really thought about the country you will be working in. There are usually huge differences in lifestyle and culture that can cause culture shock and not everyone is able to adjust. Answer this question with some positive things you have researched about the country and try to link your answer back to the teaching role.


Example Answer:

“Well I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese culture and history and I know that I will be able to learn and grow both as a person and a teacher by facing the challenges of living in such a different culture to my own. I also understand that education is really important in China and something that can make a huge difference to a person's life and I’m excited to be able to make that difference in the lives of my students."


I hope that these examples will help you feel more confident and prepared for your ESL interview. Make sure you check out the top five questions that you should be asking employers so that you don't get let down by your new employer!


What is your ESL interview experience like, what questions were you asked? Let me know in the comments below!


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