How to Teach Job Interview Skills: An ESL/EFL Lesson Plan

It is incredibly unfair to university students to allow them to graduate without helping them prepare for a job interview. According to a recent article in the Korea Herald, English skill is still an important requirement for job seekers, a survey done by the Korean job portal Saramin found that:

  • 58% of personnel managers for private companies gave an advantage to foreign language speakers.
  • 17% said language ability was a compulsory requirement.
  • 25% said language skill is used as a reference.
  • 95% stated that English was the most desirable language.

When the personnel managers were asked how they evaluated foreign language skills, it was either by giving a presentation or interview in English.

The last third of a university presentation skills or speaking course is enough time to prepare students for the test that they cannot afford to fail.  Seniors will naturally appreciate the training since they will be interviewing in the near future but underclassmen can also benefit. It will serve as a blueprint for the skills and experiences they need to accumulate before graduating in order to be as competitive as possible.

How to teach job interview skills in 8 sessions: A course outline

In eight sessions you can prepare students for a variety of interview scenarios by introducing thirty questions in sets of five and reinforcing the delivery skills they learned for public speaking. Each session can last from 60 to 90 minutes and will use what was learned in the previous session to help students feel more confident and prepared when they interview for their first jobs.

Session One: Lecture & Discussion

In the first session I introduce the “Five C’s” of a job interview.  These adjectives describe an ideal candidate.

The 5 C’s: Capable, Confident, Convincing, Comfortable, Concise

The Five C’s help students set goals for preparing and delivering their answers and also help their classmates give feedback when working together in class.  At the end of the first session, I give the students the first set of five questions to prepare for session two.

 Session Two: 1-1 Practice

In session two, we discuss the pros and cons of different answers for the first five questions.  Then students practice asking and answering the questions with a partner.  My final exam is a one-on-one interview with me in my office so practicing one-on-one is an important scenario to prepare for.  Ten questions are chosen and the test takes ten minutes per student. The second set of questions is given at the end of the second session.

Session Three: 1-1 Practice

The third session is similar to the second.  Students usually find the format more comfortable the second time around.  We may rotate partners after a round of practicing so that students can get a variety of feedback.  Teachers can choose to have students practice both of the first two question sets or focus completely on the second set.  The third set is given at the end of the third session.

Session Four: 2-1 Practice

Once students begin to feel comfortable in a one-to-one format, it is time to more to the next level.  In session four I put students in groups of three.  Students build upon what they have learned and now have two interviewers and must rotate who they look at in order to speak to both interviewers while answering.  This is similar to looking at different areas of the audience while presenting.  I ask students to start and finish their answers looking at the interviewer who asked the question but also show respect to the other interviewer while speaking.

Session Five: 2-1 Practice

In the fifth session we practice in the same way but with the fourth set of questions which were given in the previous session.  The fifth set is given at the end of class.

Sessions Six & Seven: Hot Seat

In the sixth session I introduce the hot seat.  A single student will sit in a chair in the front of the class and are grilled by a group of three or four interviewers.  This helps simulate the stressful environment students will face in an actual job interview. In a smaller class all of the students can be asked two or three questions in the hot seat in a single session.

They can do it again in the seventh session with the last question set.  In a larger class the students will be split over sessions six and seven.  Be sure to factor in time for giving feedback when planning your lessons. The final set of questions is given at the end of session six and can be focused on in session seven.

Session Eight: Mock Group Interview

In the final session students are divided into groups of four and take turns simulating group interviews.  All thirty questions can be used. Group A will interview Group B.  Interviewer 1 from Group A will ask the same question to each candidate in Group B starting with Candidate 1.  Interviewer 2 will choose another question and ask each interviewee starting with Candidate 2.

Every candidate will experience answering in the various orders so they understand the pros and cons of being the first, the middle, or the last.  For example, the first candidate has less time to prepare but there is no chance of another candidate stealing their thunder by giving a similar answer.

When we finish each round, I ask the interviewers to give feedback to the candidates and then the other students vote on who they would select as the best candidate and give reasons for their choice.  This activity demonstrates the randomness of what different people focus on and favor when choosing a candidate to join their company.

Interview Tips

Some general interview tips that are covered include turning nervous energy into enthusiasm, keeping eye contact inside an imaginary passport-sized box around the interviewer(s), and smiling in a professional manner.

It can be challenging to give advice and feedback to students regarding the right way to interview for a job since different companies, cultures, and individual interviewers have their own unique preferences when selecting candidates.  The best thing you can do is point out pitfalls to be aware of such as keeping answers positive, avoiding controversial topics, and not volunteering weaknesses.

Finally, to make your interview questions, just visit the job site Monster. It has a great list of 100 potential interview questions. You can also use this Success Checklist activity with your students to help them brainstorm and set goals.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Tim's other article: 7 Reasons to Attend English Language Teaching Conferences Abroad.


Tim Thompson

Tim Thompson teaches graduate and undergraduate presentation skills courses at KAIST. He served as the national coordinator for KTT (KOTESOL Teacher Trainers) and is the Program Chair for this year’s KOTESOL International Conference. He can be reached at
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About Tim Thompson

Tim Thompson teaches graduate and undergraduate presentation skills courses at KAIST. He served as the national coordinator for KTT (KOTESOL Teacher Trainers) and is the Program Chair for this year’s KOTESOL International Conference. He can be reached at

4 thoughts on “How to Teach Job Interview Skills: An ESL/EFL Lesson Plan

    1. Tim Thompson

      Thanks Pete!. I don’t use a textbook for skills-based classes. Instead, I try to read as many articles as I can and ask students about their experiences interviewing for jobs. That way I can stay as up to date as possible.

  1. landros

    I was surprised at first at how much chatting you have planned for the learners. I see though that emphasizing that they are not just “getting to know one another” but are trying to prefect their image. This makes a world of difference and makes me wish I had a chance to do some dry runs myself before bombing at an interview panel. Cheers.

  2. Mark Turnoy

    Looks very good, Tim! Thank you for sharing it. I’m teaching an Interviewing class for the first time at my uni in Seoul (English majors) next semester and am scrambling for a tentative syllabus right now. (If you don’t mind sharing that, that would be fabulous, also – although if you’ve prepared your own packet of materials, I certainly can’t do that in the next 1-1/2 months (without any experience in it).) But this was really helpful to look at. I teach Presentations often, also, and I can see how these 2 classes can work together and overlap in some helpful ways. Maybe see you at a KOTESOL conference or something, sometime. (I don’t think we’ve met.) Mark Turnoy

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