For students studying English as a second language for career purposes, job applications will be waters they will have to navigate. There is no need to throw them to the sharks, though, once they have completed their English study program. ESL teachers can help prepare their students for the real world of job applications, a difficult enough in one’s first language and even more intimidating in a second language, before they leave the classroom. Here is how you can help your students boost their confidence and get ready for the one on one meeting that can change the course of their lives.
For most ESL students, the interview will probably be the most intimidating part of the job application process. Often, a student’s English education has focused more on reading and writing and less on listening and speaking, so a real life situation that demands fluent speech and can be nerve wracking. Not only that, when a nonnative speaker becomes nervous or emotional, speaking accurately in a second language becomes even more difficult. You can help your students by giving them a chance to practice the interview process before a job is on the line. As a bonus, you will give your class listening, speaking, reading and writing practice throughout the process!
How to Prepare Your ESL Students for a Job Interview
Know the Facts
If your students have already written a resume, done some job research and submitted an application, they will likely know a fair amount about the company to which they are applying (even if it is only for a class assignment). Having this research under the belt is good since it is very important in a job interview to know about the company to which you are applying. An interviewee should know what that company does, what their philosophy is, what the company is all about and what sets them apart from others who do the same kind of work. Before practicing the interview with your students, send them to the company’s web site one more time to solidify their understanding on the company they are applying to. Each person should be able to explain the company to his classmates, and after the research time is complete have your students do just that. Pair them together to explain the company with whom they will be mock interviewing.
Once each person has explained the company to his partner, have him also explain the job for which he is applying. Each person should take some time to read and internalize the job description before the interview. If your students cannot explain the positions to which they are applying, it is time to return to the job description and really understand what the job entails. Once your students know and can explain the company as well as the specific positions to which they are applying, it is time to think about what the interview will entail.
Each of your students now has a firm grasp on the company and the position to which he is applying. What kinds of questions will the interviewer ask of the applicant? There is no way to know with complete certainty, but any job applicant can try to anticipate those questions. Ask your class to imagine that they are the companies hiring for their position. What do they think the employers will want to know about each applicant? Give your students some time to think about the interview questions they might be asked and to write those questions down. Each person should come up with ten questions that they would ask the interviewee if they were hiring for the position. These questions should be open-ended questions, that is, not questions that can be answered with only one word. After each person has come up with his list of ten questions, pair him with another student to compare lists.
Now that your students have composed and compared their own lists, give them a copy of this article, which lists the ten most common interview questions. As each person reads the article, he should look at how his list of questions compares to those presented in the article. In the same student pairs, have students talk about which of these questions they included on their lists and which they missed. Working together, have each pair compose a final list of ten to fifteen interview questions to use during the mock interview.
Once the lists are complete, ask each person to think about how he would answer the questions on his list. It may help your students if you let them compose written answers to the questions, but point out that they should not seek to memorize those answers. An interviewer will be able to tell when an answer to a question is being recited from memory, and that will make a bad impression since it communicates that the interviewee cannot speak fluently in English. Instead of memorizing the answers, encourage your students to use those written answers for inspiration and to help them remember the content of their answers, not the exact wording.
Now that each person has questions that he would ask if he was conducting the interview and has answered those questions for himself, give him the chance to ask them of another student. Pair each of your students with a different member of the class to conduct a mock interview. By matching each person with a new partner and her set of questions, the interviewee will still have to think on his feet as he answers the questions. Once the interviews are complete, debrief with your class. How did they feel answering the questions? Did they have to answer any questions they did not anticipate? How did it feel to have to think on their feet?
The final step in preparing for an interview is to think of some questions that you, the interviewee, will ask the interviewer. Once again, give your students some time to think about what they might like to ask a potential employer. Each person should have about five open-ended questions that she would like to ask of her potential employer ready for the interview. She should also think about what answers she is looking to receive for those questions. She is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing her, and by asking those questions she can be sure she will be happy with a position at that company. Point out, though, that questions of income should wait at least until the second interview. Bringing up the topic of money too soon can sabotage their chances of getting the job they desire.
Your students have done everything that they can to prepare for the job application process.
They should feel confident that they can and will navigate those waters successfully once they pursue employment in the English-speaking world. Encourage your class to walk through each of these job application steps and they will see success throughout the process as well as at the end of it.
This article is a part of our ‘How to Teach Your ESL Students Job Application Skills’ series. See other articles from this series here: