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English Teacher Interview Cheat Sheet: 10 most common questions

Are you an aspiring English teacher?

Perhaps you’ve applied to several schools and English courses, and now you’re waiting for a call back?

Maybe you’ve already gotten the call for an interview, and now you’re on an interview prep frenzy?

Landing a job interview can be both exciting and nerve-wracking…

Trust me, I know! I was once in that position!

One thing I’d advise people to do to prepare for their interviews is to practice answering some of the most common questions that will probably be asked.

And today, I am going to share 10 of the most common interview questions for ESL teachers and some sample answers!

Of course, you have to tailor your answers to match your own qualifications, experience, and personality, but this can be a good starting point for you to prepare for the interview.

So, let’s dive into those questions, shall we…?

1. Why did you choose to be a teacher?

I am willing to bet that in 9 out of 10 interviews, the interviewer will ask this question or variations of it.

The purpose of this question is to understand your reasoning behind pursuing a career in teaching, particularly teaching English as a second language. 

Of course, I can’t answer this question for you because we all have different reasons for wanting to be teachers

However, there are some important points to keep in mind. 

Firstly, show that you are passionate and enthusiastic about teaching! 

Perhaps you can share a nice memory of your former teachers, saying that their kindness inspired you to be a teacher. Or perhaps you can say that you want to make a difference in students’ lives. 

Since you are applying for an English teaching position, don’t forget to tailor your answer accordingly. For example, you can share how your own fluency in  English  has helped you get more opportunities.

Here’s a sample answer:

“Teaching has always been something I wanted to do. I used to have  a fantastic English teacher who always found creative ways to teach us grammarFor me, she was proof of what difference a great teacher can make  in a student’s life and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to be that kind of positive influence on others too. 

English fluency is an invaluable skill to have, especially now with the world being so interconnected. I want to share this skill with other people and hopefully help them achieve amazing opportunities too!”

2. Tell me about your teaching career/experience?

Whereas the previous question asked you to share the reasons behind your decision to get into teaching, this question asks you to describe how your teaching journey has been so far. 

In other words, the interviewer wants to know your experience! 

This is your chance to brag! Name drop all the well known courses you have taught in! Throw in all the ESL abbreviations to the mix as well. You know, IELTS, TOEFL,TOEIC, TESOL, CELTA, what have you… 

All jokes aside, this is where you should sell yourself! So, make it count! 

Here’s a sample answer to get you started…

“I have been teaching English for the past five years. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Education and I have also completed a TESOL certification. 

Previously, I have worked in X course for three years where I taught students of all ages and levels, ranging from young learners to adults. One of my key responsibilities was to assess my students’ progress and provide feedback on their development. I used a variety of assessment tools to get an accurate picture of my students’ progress and I built and maintained rapport with parents and emphasised on their children’s strengths and growths during parent- teacher meetings. 

After that, I worked in Y course for two years, focusing on teaching IELTS and TOEFL.. One of my most important accomplishments was helping my students significantly improve their test scores. Through my guidance, my IELTS students were able to increase their IELTS scores by as much as one full band in as little as three weeks. 

I also collaborated with other instructors to develop additional resources for our students, such as writing IELTS and TOEFL handbooks. 

Overall, I believe that my past experiences have given me a strong foundation of skills and knowledge that are directly applicable to this position. I am confident that I can use these skills to help students achieve their English learning goals and I believe I will be a valuable addition to your team”

As can be seen from the example above, you should highlight your achievements as it sets you apart from the other applicants as you provide proof of your performance. 

Putting your past experiences in the context of what you can do for the company that you are applying for shows that you can see the big picture and know how to use your skills and experiences to benefit the company. 

This shows that you are not just focused on your individual success, but also on contributing to the success of the company as a whole. 

3. Why did you leave / why are you leaving your current job?

The goal of this question is to understand your motivation in seeking new employment. 

If you’ve already worked as an English teacher before, the interviewer probably wants to know whether there were any challenges or issues that made you want to leave your current job. Your answer can provide them with an insight into your work style, personality, and career goals. 

It is important to be honest when answering this question, but remember to still keep it positive. NEVER badmouth your past employer or company, even if they are problematic and are the reason that you want to change jobs. It would just make you appear unprofessional. Keep your answer diplomatic! 

As always, here’s a sample answer to get you started… 

“I had a wonderful time working for X course. I learned a lot from my colleagues, and I loved teaching my students. However, I felt like I had reached a plateau in terms of professional development, and I am ready for a new challenge and an opportunity to grow my career. 

Eventually, I would like to become a director of studies and I believe that this position offers me the opportunity to work towards that goal. I am excited about the opportunity to join a course that values the contributions of its teachers and offers opportunities for professional growth and development. 

I want to emphasize that I left my previous job with the utmost consideration for my colleagues and the school. I provided ample notice and worked with the administration team to ensure a smooth transition for my students and colleagues. I maintain positive relationships with my former colleagues, and I would be happy to provide a reference from my previous school if necessary.”

This is a great answer because it clearly addresses why the applicant left their job and shows their long-term goal. The answer also shows that the applicant left their last job with courtesy and respect for their last school by giving the right amount of notice so that their students and coworkers could have a smooth transition. 

4. How do you deal with behavioural issues in the classroom?

This is also one of the most common ESL interview questions that you should be prepared to answer.

This question is intended to assess your ability in handling disruptive behaviors among students. This will give the interviewer an insight into your teaching methodology. 

Essentially, the interviewer wants to make sure that you are not handing out harsh punishments willy nilly and that you have some knowledge of classroom management. 

Let’s go straight to the sample answer, shall we?

“I believe that it’s important to have a proactive approach that emphasizes positive reinforcement and clear communication. I make sure to set clear rules and expectations from the first time I meet a new group of students to prevent disruptive behaviors from occurring. I invite my students to discuss and share their thoughts on what rules we should enforce in the classroom and I put the result of this discussion in a visible place so they can always refer back to it anytime they need. 

If a student exhibits disruptive behavior, I first try to address the issue in a non-confrontational way by speaking with the student privately. I make sure to listen to the student’s concern and understand the underlying causes of the behavior. I then work together with the student to find a solution. 

Ultimately, I believe that creating a positive learning environment is key when it comes to addressing behavioral issues. By building a strong relationship with my students and making sure that each of them feel valued and respected, I find that behavioral issues are less likely to occur. When issues do arise, I work to address them in a calm and non confrontational way to ensure that all of my students have an enjoyable learning experience.” 

This answer is good because:

  • You demonstrate your proactiveness – you take steps to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place by establishing clear expectations and creating and maintaining a positive classroom environment 
  • Effective communication skill – you know how to communicate with students to find an effective solution in a calm and non confrontational manner
  • You have sound classroom management techniques – You know how to use positive reinforcement to help your students thrive in their learning journey 

5. What would you say are your biggest strengths as a teacher?

You might be tempted to answer, “Well… everything!”

But don’t do that! 

This question is meant to assess your self-awareness and how confident you are in your ability to teach. 

So, you don’t want to sound cocky or dismissive!

An example of an effective answer would be… 

“My biggest strength as a teacher is creating a fun and positive learning environment, which has made me popular among students and led to excellent feedback. I am organized, using a planner and detailed lesson plans to manage my time and provide timely feedback. I handle administrative tasks efficiently and am committed to ongoing professional development in ESL education.”

Overall, the key to answering this question is to be honest and specific. By demonstrating your strengths, you can gain the trust of the interviewer and show that you are a competent and confident teacher.

6. Can you tell me about your weakness?

Oh boy…, I hate this question. 

But alas, many interviewers ask this question, so there is nothing we can do but march on!

Some people go the I-don’t-have-any-weakness route, they may say something along the lines of “I can be a perfectionist” or “I can be an overachiever”. This is an absolute no no! Rather than showing that you’re a perfect person, it just shows that you lack awareness and critical thinking skills to assess your weaknesses. 

Essentially, the interviewer wants to know two things:

  • Are you self aware enough to identify the areas where you need to improve?
  • Are you taking any steps to actually improve?

To answer this question, it is important to be honest but strategic. You should avoid mentioning weaknesses that can harm your chances of getting hired, such as saying that you are unable to manage a classroom (unless you want to kiss the job goodbye!) 

As always, here’s a sample answer to get you started.

“One area where I’m always looking to improve is my time management skills. I tend to be a perfectionist and often find myself spending too much time on individual tasks, which can lead to other responsibilities getting pushed aside.

However, I’ve been actively working on improving my time management skills by creating daily to-do lists and prioritizing my tasks. I’ve also been working on delegating responsibilities where possible and seeking feedback from colleagues on how I can better manage my time.

I understand that as a teacher, managing my time effectively is extremely crucial, particularly when it comes to delivering lessons and assessing student work. I’m committed to continuing to improve in this area and ensuring that I’m using my time effectively to support my students’ learning and success.”

Again, answer the question honestly but strategically, and show that you have been taking steps to overcome your weakness! 

7. Several students are using their mobile phones in the classroom. What would you do?

Definitely one of the trickiest questions out there! 

Different schools and courses have different opinions when it comes to dealing with students who use their phones in the classroom. 

While some might think that it’s okay as long as those students don’t cause any disruption in the classroom, others have adopted a strict no cellphone use in the classroom policy. 

So, answering this question is a bit of a gamble. I’d advise you to answer honestly, based on how you have handled the situation in the past, but of course, back it up with reasons! 

Here’s a sample answer:

If I notice that several students are using their mobile phones in the classroom, I would remind them of the classroom rules, which should include policies of the use of mobile phones in the classroom. I’d firmly but gently explain to them that using mobile phones can be distracting for other students who are trying to pay attention.

If the behavior continues, I would explain the consequences, such as reduction in participation points. I would also try to redirect students’ attention by engaging them in the lesson or asking them questions related to the topic being discussed. I would make sure to keep the lesson interactive and engaging to keep students focused and interested.

I find that this is usually enough to stop students from using their mobile phones. 

However, if the behavior persist, I would seek support from the school administration, which might involve telling the students’ parents or guardians about the issue and involve them to find a solution”

8. How do you assess the English proficiency level of your students?

As an English teacher, of course, assessing your students’ understanding is an extremely important part of your job! Accurately gauging your students’ understanding will allow you to tailor your teaching method and materials to suit your students’ needs and goals. 

Here’s a sample answer:

“Well, I think the easiest way  to check my students’ language level is to have a casual conversation with them. I would choose a topic they are familiar with and it will open them up to speaking. In this way, I can measure many of their skills at once such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and listening. I would also get valuable information on how confident they are since it significantly affects their learning style and pace.”

9. What is your approach to lesson planning?

Pssstttt… we have an entire article on what NOT to do when it comes to lesson planning. 

So, basically, avoid the things on the list and you’re golden! 

But back to the question at hand….

Essentially, this question aims to assess your ability to develop and deliver effective lessons that fit the needs of your students’ needs and goals. 

The interviewer wants to understand the candidate’s process for planning and implementing lessons, and how they approach creating engaging and effective learning experiences for their students.

As always, let’s go right on to the sample answer…

“My approach to lesson planning involves defining clear learning objectives, selecting appropriate materials and activities, and structuring the lesson considering class duration and learning styles. I continuously monitor students’ progress, adjusting activities as needed, and assess their learning at the end of the lesson. By focusing on learning objectives, materials, activities, and assessment methods, I create engaging and effective lessons tailored to my students’ unique needs and interests.”

10. What are your long term goals as an ESL teacher?

When an interviewer asks you this question, they are trying to assess whether you’ve done some self-assessment and career planning.

Essentially, they are asking “is this position even remotely close to your long-term career goals? Are you just applying for this job because you need something? Have you considered your long-term professional goals? Are your long-term career goals compatible with what we see for this role?” They want to know your commitment to the company and the industry. 

By asking this question, the interviewer can evaluate your passion for teaching and your motivation for pursuing a career as an English teacher. They can also assess whether your long-term goals align with the goals of the school, and whether your aspirations can benefit the institution in the long-term.

As always, here’s a sample answer…

“As an English teacher, I want to make a positive impact on the lives of my students by supporting them to achieve their English learning goals. I am committed to continuously improving my skills and staying up to date with the latest teaching methods and research. 

I am excited about the opportunity to work at this school where I can work with colleagues who can help me grow as a teacher. I have done some research on this school and have noticed that it places a high value on innovation and professional development, which is exactly what I am looking for in a teaching position.

In the long term, I would like to become a more senior member of the faculty and take on leadership roles within the school. I am interested in mentoring other teachers and developing new teaching materials and programs that will help students achieve their English learning goals. Ultimately, I hope to contribute to the school’s success and reputation as the leader in English education.”


Phew… this was a long one! 

Congratulations on making it through the end and I hope you find this article helpful! 

Remember, the key to acing your interview is to showcase your passion for teaching, your experience and skills, and your ability to adapt to new challenges!

Best of luck! :) 

Do you want to develop yourself as an educator?

At IELC, we give you the opportunity to join a great team, develop yourself, and make a difference to Indonesia’s future by teaching English the right way to the next generation of English learners. 

You will also get access to continuous training and professional development and get to meet fantastic, like-minded colleagues and team members. 

Take the first step to enjoy a supportive and fun working environment, develop yourself, and get a rewarding job with IELC.


Anthony McCormick 

IELC Managing Director