ESL Teacher Interview Questions & the Answers to Get You Hired

by Joshua Rodriguez

All college grads want to have a successful career, and they muse over different fields that might interest them, and the skill set they’ll need to move up in the line of work. However, there is one field that is often overlooked or not taken seriously — teaching English as a secondary language (ESL). Not only can this job pay well in many areas of the world (especially Southeast Asia), but you’ll also get a chance to travel and visit different countries.

ESL Teacher Interview Questions and the Answers to Get You Hired

After teaching English abroad, you could even segway into different career fields in education, government, administration, and more with the skills you’ll gain. The process to getting to that point will be quite an endeavor, and you might be anxious about the upcoming ESL teacher interview questions, so read on to get ready, set, and go abroad for a teaching adventure!

General ESL Interview Tips

Keep the following in mind prior to your big day.

Interview Jitters for an ESL Job

After browsing teaching English abroad programs and applying for the country and program of your choice, you’ll hopefully receive an invitation for an interview. Thankfully, ESL teachers are always in demand, so not to worry too much about this step. However, you need to be prepared for the interview and the sort of questions you’ll need to answer. Luckily, the anxiety you feel about the upcoming interview is usually worse than the actual interview.

Think of the interview as just a conversation between you and the program coordinator to make sure that it will be a right fit for both parties involved. If you are a bit unsure about what sort of ESL interview questions you might be asked or what sort of questions can come up, then it’s appropriate that you learn a thing or two about some common questions that are asked during an interview to give you that added advantage.

Communication Is Key

The essential thing to know when interviewing for a job as an ESL teacher is that you answer questions effectively and efficiently (as that is going to be the core part of your job). If you’re not a good communicator, you should consider other job options.

An ESL teacher needs to be able to get their point across — not only do you need to respond well to ESL teacher interview questions, you’ll need to be mindful of your nonverbal communication. Smiling, using appropriate hand gestures, and eye contact amongst other things are important factors. Your body language is your most effective tool when trying to convey your message to the interviewer (and of course, the students in the future).

If you’re doing an online interview, make sure that you’re wearing a top-notch interviewing outfit, you have good Internet connection, you’re in a quiet room with the door closed (no cats or dogs to disturb you), and the background is appropriate.

The End of the ESL Job Interview

Don’t forget to prepare your own ESL teacher interview questions to ask at the end of the interview ahead of time. After you’ve done thorough research of the country and program before the interview, create a list of questions related to available teaching resources, class sizes, policies and procedures, program support for living in the country, and the next steps. Thank the interviewer for their consideration and taking the time to talk to you, and email them a short thank-you note within 24 hours.

Possible Open-Ended ESL Interview Questions

Two feet in sneakers over a birds-eye view of the city

Interviews are not as bad as heights.

To begin the interview, you should expect many different sorts of open-ended questions to get the flow of the conversation going. Drumroll please...

What do you know about <insert destination of your teach abroad program> and <teach abroad program>?

Here’s where you should do an ample amount of research about the destination’s economy, culture, languages, geography, and why this country is in need of English teachers. You should also research in depth about the program, such as its history, costs and benefits, program support, FAQ’s, and teaching resources. If the program sends you resources to read ahead of time, you bet you’ll need to read them!

Have you traveled abroad before? Tell me about your experiences. 

Sometimes experience with traveling abroad is a prerequisite for teaching English abroad, or it just helps your chances of securing a spot in the program. Here you can talk about if you’ve studied or volunteered abroad or if you’ve just traveled abroad for fun. Talk about the value you got out of it and what it taught you for future travels abroad.

Describe your strengths and weaknesses.

This is a common question because it’s a great opener, gets the ball rolling, and it allows for the respondent to open up and speak on his own terms without any hesitation. Discuss strengths from previous experiences that relate to the position, such as management, leadership, and organization. Don’t go in depth about your weaknesses — just name a couple that you’re working on and how you’re working on them.

Where do you see yourself in a few years?

Another typical question is where you’ll see yourself in the future. This is again one question that engages discussion and is used to further allow the respondents to open up about their hopes, dream, and expectations, and how they hope to manage those in the immediate future.

What challenge have you faced in the past and how did you overcome it?

This is an opportune time to discuss a challenge you faced with teaching or international travels and how you faced the challenge with tact and what you learned from it. You could also talk about challenges from previous job positions such as public speaking, management, and similar skills related to teaching English abroad. 

While these types of questions are somewhat easy, the tough task begins when you are asked a question where you have to go into the specifics. But with the right amount of preparation and training, it’ll be smooth sailing!

General ESL Teacher Interview Questions

A woman on a computer screen

Be clear as a bell.

Here’s a go-to prep list of interview questions for esl teachers you’ll be asked and a detailed response about how to answer them:

What other languages are you proficient in?

Describe what other languages are you proficient in besides English. Maybe you have a foreign language minor or you’ve practiced another language in previous job or volunteering positions. If you aren’t proficient in another language, talk about how you know a couple of key phrases and what you’re going to do to learn more. 

Is there an added advantage to knowing different languages? Why?

Yes, it’s been proven that bilinguals have an added advantage when it comes to opening doors for professional experiences. Students who know English will have more opportunities to further develop themselves in their lives and careers. 

How well can you manage a class whose first language is not English?

Here, you can talk about how it is extremely important to be patient, and be sure to tell each and every student about how they can learn at their own pace without any judgement whatsoever.

What would you identify as top-notch qualities to be a successful ESL teacher? Do you have them? Show us.

Talk about how it is essential that you should be passionate about teaching, empathetic to their students’ frustration, and dedicated to helping others learn, and for that, you need to be proactive, patient, and have a sense of understanding that far transcends others. 

How do you anticipate planning your daily lectures while staying on top of your class work?

Here you can talk about what you’ve learned from earning a TEFL certificate, or you could discuss creating lectures using the presentation, practice, presentation method. Arming yourself with examples, description, charts, and games is necessary. Using a planner or a calendar with alarms is also important to keep everything organized. 

What’s your motivation for teaching?

You’re going to need to dig deep for this one. Is it because you want to do something rewarding? Fulfilling? Make a difference? Maybe you feel a calling to teach abroad, and you can’t ignore it. 

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with higher management. How did you handle it?

Tread lightly here and make it positive. Give a specific example from a previous job or teaching experience and how collaborating with higher management resulted in a better outcome. 

What do you do — or plan to do — to maintain discipline in the classroom?

Discuss that you’ll make sure the lesson plans are highly engaging with some entertaining aspects to keep the students busy and out of trouble. If trouble arises, you’ll follow the discipline procedures outlined by the school. 

How can ESL teachers ensure they’re being understood?

The best thing teachers need is efficient command on the subject and an ability to convey their point across in an efficient manner.

How has your education supported your ESL teaching experience?

Here’s a good opportunity to discuss English classes you’ve taken, where you’ve learned grammar in depth, and foreign language classes you’ve taken, which helped you learn how to empathize with students learning a new language.  

Do you have any previous teaching experience?

If you don’t have any formal teaching experience, you can discuss your practicum from earning your TEFL/TESOL certificate, or you can talk about teaching experience from volunteer positions or job positions. 

Are you technology proficient?

Here you can discuss how you’ve used audio and visual aids in the past for job or school presentations and that you’ll use various visual aids in lectures.

Schools Hiring ESL Teachers RIGHT NOW

Two women sitting across from each other in a restaurant

Relax, and you’ll do great!


To get you started, here is a list of some of the institutes that are hiring right now:

1.  HESS International Educational Organization – Taiwan

Founded in 1983, HESS International Educational Group is the largest and most recognized private language school in Taiwan. It employs more than 600 native English-speaking teachers in 180+ HESS schools across four countries. The staff has more than 30 years of experience looking after both new and experienced teachers just like you!

2. UAE Government Schools - Abu Dhabi, UAE

Edvectus is a friendly, innovative company that combines international teacher recruitment with a learning portal for teachers who wish to improve their teaching skills, enhance their knowledge of international curricula, and working abroad.

3. American United School of Kuwait – Kuwait

The American United School experience offers students a 21st century creative learning environment. With its new, state-of-the-art facilities, talented American educators and dedicated staff, the American United School is rapidly expanding and building on its reputation for excellence using a foundation of exceptional academics to showcase student achievement.

4. Best Learning China - Beijing, China

Best Learning is a total English immersion training institute established in 2008. At present, Best Learning has over thirty centers nationwide with over 20,000 families enjoying the Best Learning experience. The most advanced and innovative American teaching philosophy is provided to the children of China by Best Learning.

It's All About Confidence & Genuine Motivation

After you’ve prepared for these ESL job interview questions and practiced a couple of times with someone, then the most important attribute is your ability to show your confidence and convey your message. The interviewer can quickly tell if you’re motivated for the ESL job when you respond well, ask good questions, and show interest. If you can do these things effectively, then you are bound to be ace the interview and land the ESL job of your dreams! Most important of all, don’t forget to make a good impression by smiling and being conversational.

Step 1: Compare Programs with MyGoAbroad. Step 2: Rock the Interview!