Job interview being conducted.

30 ESL Teacher Interview Questions and How To Answer Them Well

Interviews are perhaps the most stressful part of a teacher’s career.

That’s why it’s important to anticipate and prepare for common interview questions that are asked over and over in ESL teacher interviews.

We’ve gathered 30 of the most commonly asked interview questions so you don’t have to. Read them, consider each one and plan a good answer so you’ll be a step ahead in the interview process.


1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

It’s safe to assume that every interview will start with this question. And while it seems like a straightforward question to answer, your interviewer probably doesn’t want to hear about your astrological sign or how pizza is your favorite food. Instead, they want to know more about your personality and how it relates to the position you’re applying for.

By asking this question, your interviewer really wants to know about the skills you have that are relevant to the job. For this reason, you need to frame your answer in a way that tells them you’re qualified for this particular position.

For example, let’s say you’re interviewing for an elementary school position in South Korea. 

Example answers:

  • I enjoy trying new things and learning about new cultures, and have taken the time to learn a little bit about Korean history.
  • I’m a very active person, which is why I enjoy planning English lessons with a lot of hands-on activities.
  • I like working with children and have experience volunteering at my local recreational center

2. Why do you want to be a teacher?

This is another common interview question, and is one that a lot of unprepared people answer wrongly or ineffectively.

If your interviewer asks you why you want to be a teacher or why you want this job in particular, you need to construct your answer in a way that shifts the focus from you onto the job itself. You never want to answer this question by saying you simply want a job, that the pay is good or because you want to travel abroad.

Instead, focus on answers that really let the interviewer know that teaching is your passion. Tell them that you enjoy helping people or that you want to use your skills to empower students by teaching them how to succeed in an English-speaking environment.

Example answer: I’m a passionate advocate for learning and I believe that helping people is one of the most noble pathways you can take in your career. 

3. What’s the best way to teach English?

Let’s face it: there is no “best way” to teach English. People learn differently and what works for one student might not be the best approach for another. For this reason, you shouldn’t answer this question by talking about specific teaching methods like drilling vocabulary or reading and writing. You should give a tour, so to speak, of ways and methods that have worked well for you in the past.

Answer the question by saying the best way to teach English is to create a number of different activities to appeal to various types of learning styles. That way, everyone can understand and enjoy your lessons.

Example answer: There’s no best ways, but there are many very effective ways, such as communicative activities like role plays and information gap activities.

4. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in the classroom?

You’ll want to be careful when answering this question. If you talk about being unable to control problem students, your interviewer may think you have poor classroom management skills. Rather than speak about behavioral and academic challenges you’ve had with particular students, talk about actual classroom challenges like teaching without state-of-the-art technology, using outdated books or having under-resourced classrooms.

Also, make sure that you spin your answer into a success story. An example would be teaching at a school that had minimal resources, and how your solution was to create your own props, flashcards and other teaching aids with paper and markers.

Example answer: I had an issue with several students from the same country grouping together in the back of the class and not participating. They were always speaking to one another in their native language, so it wasn’t helpful for them, for me, or the rest of the class. Because of this situation, I had to assign seats, which I carefully did by mixing up students according to their first languages.

5. What are some successful teaching methods you use?

A good way to answer this question is to focus on creating lessons that involve a multitude of different activities that get your students talking and participating in class. The goal here is to showcase your versatility and flexibility, so your interviewer knows that your teaching methods extend beyond worksheets and textbook activities.

Example answers: 

  • In-class debates and presentations.
  • Role-playing exercises.
  • Arts-and-crafts activities.
  • Teaching with television and music.

6. How do you handle a problem student?

As a teacher, you’ll encounter problem students from time to time. You interviewer understands that, which is why they’re not interested in whether you’ve had problem students, but how you’ve handled them.

As an ESL teacher, it’s rarely your role to act as the disciplinarian. Native teachers often take care of that simply because they’re able to better communicate with the students or their parents.

When answering this question, don’t focus on being punitive. Instead, talk about how every student has the potential to excel in English, how problem students aren’t being engaged properly and how devoting more time to helping them overcome their challenges motivates them to participate in the classroom and not be disruptive.

Example answer: By being kind but firm, and letting them know that disruptive behavior wasn’t only hurting them and me, it was hurting the learning experience of the rest of the class.

7. How do you make sure your students understand you?

Having your students understand you is an important part of being an ESL teacher. That’s why you should answer this question in a way that shows the interviewer you go the extra step to check your students’ understanding.

One way to do this is to elicit responses from your students instead of spoon-feeding them answers. 

For example:

  • How would you describe the task that I’ve just assigned?

You might also want to mention that you frequently give your students quizzes and assessments designed to check their understanding. This can be done through a number of different exercises such as matching vocabulary words to definitions, fill-in-the-blank exercises and short writing activities.

Another thing to consider adding in your answer is the importance of teaching students how to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something.

8. What are your qualifications?

Most schools you apply to are going to want some sort of qualification that proves you’re a competent teacher. Universities, prestigious private schools and high-paying positions in some countries often want a master’s degree in either teaching or linguistics.

At the very least you’ll need a teaching certification or post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE).

There are also other programs like DELTA, CELTA and TEFL certifications that many schools accept as a teaching qualification.

While it’s ideal to have one of these degrees or certificates, you can still land a good job without one if you’re able to sell yourself. And in order to do that you’ll need to answer this question in a way that ties your work experience into teaching.

Example answers:

  • I’ve worked as a one-on-one tutor for five years.
  • I’ve volunteered at a youth outreach program each summer for 10 years.
  • I’ve worked as a camp counselor for two summers in a row at Rocky Creek Camp.

Each of these positions requires the same skill set that you need to be an effective classroom teacher, like building rapport and helping individuals overcome various obstacles in their way.

9. Why do you think students need to learn English?

How you answer this question will help your interviewer gauge what you think your students’ needs and expectations are. For this reason, you shouldn’t give a brief answer talking about how English is everywhere. Instead, focus on how learning English can empower your students.

For example, traveling abroad becomes much easier once you’re able to speak English since it’s a global language. There might be situations where hotels, airports or tourist attractions don’t have a native speaker in your students’ first language—but there’s a greater possibility that an English speaker will be available.

Example answer: I believe that English is a valuable key to opening up a world of opportunities, including international jobs and degree programs that require English proficiency.

10. Have you ever lived in another country before?

Regardless of whether your answer is yes or no, you want to answer the question in a way that tells the interviewer that you’re agreeable and flexible.

Talk about how you love stepping out of your comfort zone, learning about new cultures and experiencing new things. That way, prospective employers won’t be afraid of you abandoning your position because of culture shock.

Example answer: Yes. Not only have I traveled extensively in Europe and Africa, I also did a six-month internship at a bilingual high school in Costa Rica, where I lived with a local family.

11. How do you adapt your teaching methods to meet the needs of different students?

This question is meant to assess your ability as a teacher to change up your teaching methods to meet the needs of the various kinds of students. They want to know that you’re not too set in your ways, and that you’re willing to try, for example, a communicative activity instead of only using rote grammar drills. Here, it’s important to seem willing to change, and also on top of new teaching methods.

Example answer: I believe in employing a student-centered approach, assessing each student’s strengths and weaknesses and tailoring my lessons accordingly. I incorporate a variety of instructional strategies, such as visual aids, group activities and hands-on exercises.

12. How do you handle students who struggle with proficiency?

For this question, the interviewers want to be assured that you don’t leave behind or abandon a student who has fallen behind the others. One thing to say that often works very well is that you will assign the lower level student with a higher level partner on class projects. This higher level student should be a volunteer and you could possibly offer extra credit for their help.

Example answer: I provide additional support to struggling students by breaking down concepts into smaller, manageable parts, using simplified language and providing extra practice opportunities. I also encourage them to ask questions and offer individualized guidance when needed.

13. Describe your approach to lesson planning.

Most interviewers want to know that you are a careful and creative lesson planner when you answer this question. Mention times that your lesson planning as worked out very well, and don’t be afraid to mention a time when it hasn’t worked out so well. Do you plan every minute of the class, or do you allow for diversions when something comes up that it seems like the class needs to address? Often, a mix of these two approaches will sound the best to the person interviewing you, because it shows you’re flexible.

Example answer: I begin by setting clear objectives and selecting appropriate learning materials. I organize my lessons in a logical sequence, incorporating a mix of activities to engage students. I also ensure that my lessons align with the students’ proficiency level and learning goals.

14. How do you integrate technology into your ESL lessons?

Most schools want to use the most advanced technology that they can afford. So if you’re experienced with a digital whiteboard, video editing software or any number of other tech-assisted teaching techniques, you’re going to provide the school (and the students) with more value in our internet-connected world. It’s a good idea to also mention that you’re open to learning new technology when they are released or acquired by the school.

Example answer: I utilize various technological tools, such as interactive whiteboards, educational apps, and online resources, to enhance the learning experience. For example, I might incorporate multimedia activities or use online platforms for language practice and virtual communication.

15.  What strategies do you use to assess students’ progress?

Assessment is an important part of teaching that many teachers don’t particularly enjoy, but you don’t have to say this in the interview. Instead, talk about new ways of assessing student progress. Do a bit of research beforehand on this one to read about some new assessment strategies and methods that you could mention, even if you haven’t actually used them yet, you can say that you’re looking into them for future classes.

Example answer: I employ a combination assessment tools. This includes regular quizzes, assignments, and projects to gauge understanding, as well as ongoing observation and feedback to monitor student progress and provide guidance. I also like to have students grade their classmates’ papers as a class in order to foster more assessment understanding.

16.  How do you promote an inclusive classroom environment?

This is where you get to espouse your philosophy about the positive effects of equality and diversity in your classroom. I would suggest including an example of a time that you faced adversity, or when you made your own class more inclusive. Perhaps mention when an issue came up (the European students weren’t talking to the Chinese students), so you assigned each group to do a presentation on the others’ culture. 

Example answer: I create a supportive atmosphere by fostering open communication, respect and cultural sensitivity. I encourage students to share their thoughts and experiences, promote collaboration among peers, and celebrate diversity in the classroom.

17. How do you differentiate instruction for advanced learners?

Unfortunately, many ESL classrooms have different levels of students grouped together, and there’s not much you can do about it as a teacher. One method I like to mention here is the idea of pairing students of lower/higher abilities together, so they can each learn from each other. While providing support and assistance, the paired students often become quite close, which creates a healthy learning relationship.

Example answer: I provide enrichment activities and challenging assignments that go beyond the standard curriculum to keep advanced learners engaged and motivated. I also encourage them to explore topics of personal interest and incorporate higher-level thinking skills into the lessons.

18. How do you involve parents in the learning process?

I like to ensure my interviewers that I always consider the parents of my students when teaching and planning lessons. I suggest asking their parents a couple of biographical questions and then reporting to the class on how they answered. It’s also a good approach to talk openly and honestly about their parents’ language abilities because often, it’s the child who has to “work” as the translator for their parents.

Example answer: I maintain open lines of communication with parents through regular progress updates, newsletters, and parent-teacher conferences. I also encourage parents to participate in classroom activities and provide them with resources and suggestions to support their child’s language development at home.

19. Describe a time when you adapted to help students with diverse learning needs.

This is where you demonstrate your empathy and openness to change up your teaching styles if you have students with learning issues. For example, if you have a non-hearing student, you may have to add subtitles to films you show and use more visual teaching techniques. Most schools want to know you can handle this situation when and if it arises in your classroom.

Example answer: In a mixed-ability classroom, I differentiated instruction by providing various activities at different difficulty levels. By offering individualized support and challenging opportunities, I helped each student progress according to their abilities while maintaining an inclusive learning environment.

20. How do you encourage language practice outside the classroom?

If students are only speaking English in class, it will take a lot longer for them to learn. Here is where you get to share your ideas for getting students to practice outside of the classroom. This can be extra credit homework of a language learning app or assignments that require research in English. 

Example answer: I recommend resources such as language learning apps like Duolingo, language exchange programs and authentic media like news websites. I also assign homework that encourages real world application of language skills, such as writing emails or journal entries in English. All of these combined really help with language progression.

21. What professional development activities do you engage in?

Interviewers want to know that you didn’t stop educating yourself when you graduated from your teaching program. They want to hear that you attend TESOL workshops and conferences, you read the latest articles in the academic journals and that you’re a member of your local ESL teacher group. 

Example answer: I regularly attend workshops, conferences, and webinars related to ESL teaching. I also participate in online communities and engage in self-study by reading educational literature and staying up-to-date with the latest teaching methodologies and technologies.

22.  How do you promote cross-cultural understanding?

Interviewers want to feel that you understand that you will likely have students from many different cultures and that miscommunication or misunderstandings can result because of different cultural backgrounds. Describe a time when you got a Korean student to take an Icelandic one to dinner, explaining each course. Or share your own experience with cultural understanding, perhaps with an anecdote from when you stayed with a local family in South Africa, for example.

Example answer: I incorporate authentic materials, such as literature, films and music from various cultures into my lessons. I encourage students to share their cultural backgrounds and perspectives, fostering discussions and promoting empathy among classmates.

23. How do you handle classroom time management?

A good teacher needs excellent time management skills. Your interview will likely include a question on this because it tells the interviewers if you’re an organized and efficient teacher. It also tells them if you have the time management skills to make each class session both fun and effective by varying activities and learning approaches, all in the given time.

Example answer: I carefully plan my lessons to ensure that each activity has a designated time slot. I use timers and visual cues to help students stay on track. If a task requires more time than anticipated, I make necessary adjustments to accommodate the students’ needs without sacrificing important content.

24. How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic as an ESL teacher?

Teacher burnout is real, and school officials want to feel assured that if they spend the time to hire and train you, you’ll stick around a while. This is why this question is very common in ESL teacher interviews. To answer this effectively, tell them how inspired and motivated you find teaching. Perhaps include an anecdote from your last semester that really motivated you to keep teaching.

Example answer: I find inspiration in witnessing my students’ progress and accomplishments. I continually seek new teaching strategies and resources to keep my lessons engaging and relevant. Additionally, I actively collaborate with colleagues to exchange ideas and experiences.

25. What is the most important quality for an ESL teacher to possess?

This is one of those questions that fools you into talking about someone else, but you’re really talking about yourself. To answer this effectively, think about what makes you a great teacher. Is it your enthusiasm, your patience, your understanding when students don’t grasp a concept right away? Include an example from your current classroom, too: “what seems most important for me this semester is patience.”

Example answer: I believe empathy is crucial for an ESL teacher. Understanding and connecting with students on an emotional level allows me to tailor my teaching to their needs and provide the necessary support and encouragement for their language development.

26. How do you incorporate speaking and listening skills into your ESL lessons?

Many teachers talk too much. And it ends up being both boring and ineffective for students. That’s why interviewers want to know that you’ll include all learning types in your lesson plans. Using a true mix of activities from rote grammar to role playing helps ensure them that you’re a creative and dynamic teacher.

Example answer: I integrate a variety of activities such as group discussions, role plays and listening comprehension exercises to provide ample opportunities for students to practice and develop their speaking and listening skills.

27. How do you assess students’ pronunciation and intonation?

This is one of the most difficult skills to teach, but students often care about pronunciation the most. That’s why your interview is likely to have at least one question about your approach to pronunciation. This is another question where a bit of research will really help. What are the latest methods and approaches? Go over these briefly and explain why you’d like to use them in your class?

Example answer: I incorporate pronunciation exercises and drills into my lessons. Additionally, I provide individualized feedback, use audio recordings for self-assessment, and encourage students to practice pronunciation outside the classroom through activities like shadowing or language exchange.

28. How do you create a balance between grammar and communicative practice?

Many students dislike grammar, but you still need to teach it. That’s why a question about how you balance grammar and perhaps more exciting communicative exercises will surely come up. To answer effectively, express how you like to combine the two concepts, to keep each more interested and context-based.

Example answer:I believe in teaching grammar in context and integrating it into communicative activities. I introduce grammar concepts through real-life examples and provide opportunities for students to practice and apply them in meaningful conversations and writing tasks.

29. How do you incorporate critical thinking skills into your lessons?

Beyond learning English, many ESL classes also function as critical thinking skills building classes. Interviewers want to know that you know this, and then they want to hear some methods you’ve used in the past to teach critical thinking skills. Again, a bit of research could really help you answer more specifically here, especially if you’re a newbie teacher.

Example answer: I promote critical thinking by incorporating problem-solving tasks, open-ended discussions and analysis of authentic materials. I encourage students to think critically about language use, cultural perspectives, and the connections between different topics.

30. How do you integrate reading and writing skills into your lessons?

Reading and writing activities are something many students are reluctant to do, so interviewers want to know that you’ll include reading and writing in your lesson plans. One very effective way to answer that interviewers seem to love is to say that you’ll include authentic texts—texts written by natives for native speakers. This can be news articles or even articles from a fashion or business magazine, depending on your students’ interests.

Example answer: I incorporate authentic texts, such as short stories, newspaper articles or poems to develop reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. I also provide opportunities for students to practice writing through various activities like journaling, creative writing and formal essays.


Before your next interview with a school, college or university ESL position, use this list to anticipate potential questions and come up with good responses for them. That way, you’ll sound more confident and knowledgeable throughout your interview, increasing your chances of getting the job!

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