B1/B2 – Job interview – Soft skills

During my time teaching online, one of the most commonly asked things was to have a pre-job interview class. This happens frequently, especially on online platforms, such as Preply. The demand for these lessons made me sign up for a Preply webinar, “Preparing students for job interviews”, which served as an inspiration for this lesson plan.

Sometimes all stars align, and everything falls into the right place. It happened recently when immediately after the webinar on preparing students for job interviews, one of my current students messaged me saying that she’d received a job interview invitation and needed some practice. I immediately got into planning. Firstly, I went onto Preply and checked out their newest course on preparing for job interviews. I usually don’t follow their learning plans, but I enjoyed their structure and decided to adapt it to my needs.

This lesson plan focuses on differentiating between soft and hard skills by reading authentic material Hard Skills vs Soft Skills by Indeed.com. It is followed by learning about the STAR technique, analysing example questions and answers on soft skills adapted from 10 Soft Skills Interview Questions and Answers, authentic text from Indeed.com. At the end of the class, students should feel confident organising their answers using this method. You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post. Also for the first time, you can get an editable copy of the presentation made in Canva so you can adapt this lesson to your needs – click here to get access!

Start the class by looking at 12 words shown in alphabetical order (bilingual, creativity, database management, dependability, empathy, organisation, programming, problem-solving, SEO marketing, statistical analysis, teamwork and typing proficiency). Divide students into pairs and ask them to divide the words into two categories and justify their logic behind it. Reveal that the words can be used to describe hard and soft skills.

If this is the first time that your students hear these expressions, you can ask them to predict their meanings. Read definitions of hard and soft skills and discuss which one they think is more important to get a job.

Check the understanding of these two skills by looking at different actions that can be done at a job interview which may highlight soft and hard skills. For example, showing up on time or early to the interview highlights soft skills by proving that we are punctual and responsible. Once you divide and discuss all the actions, you may want to elicit more examples.

Ask if your students have ever heard of the STAR technique, which is frequently used at job interviews. Students work in pairs and decode the acronym. Say that STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. This technique allows job candidates to organise their answers while discussing their soft and hard skills.

This class focuses on soft skills and the rest of the class will deal with developing perfect answers to questions about these skills. To further highlight the STAR technique, students read a sample interview question Can you discuss a time when you had to manage your team through a difficult situation? supported with an example answer. Students work individually and underline different parts of this answer that best match each point of the STAR technique.

Now it’s time for the students to try and develop their answers. Show a question What is the most significant problem you solved in the workplace? and provide them with a short example that will facilitate them with writing their answers. Students work individually and respond to this question. Monitor the activity and provide students with writing feedback.

Students should feel more confident with the STAR technique. To further help them with answer organisation, give them two more questions and some time to plan their answers following the technique. Once again monitor their writing and provide any help as necessary. Share the answers as a group, and if necessary, think about different ways of improving them.

The final part of the class is answering five more questions about soft skills and responding to them on the spot while following the STAR technique. If you have a bigger group of students, this can be done in pairs. In one-to-one classes, listen to your student and give them speaking feedback as needed.

If you enjoyed this lesson, click the links below and get your free versions now! How do you prepare your students for job interviews?

(ESL) job interview red flags

Imagine that you are a brand new ESL teacher. You sent your CV literally everywhere and now you just wait. Finally, it happens! You got a job interview. You go to the academy full of energy and hope, but…it’s nothing like what you had imagined. Sounds familiar?

As a first part of becoming a freelancer, I decided that I will look for a part-time job only to support myself during my transition process. I sent a bunch of CVs and I got a call! I went for a job interview and…a disaster! In my whole life, I’ve been to many job interviews and only twice I felt like I don’t want to be associated with the company. This was one of those times. In a way, I am very thankful for this experience because it inspired me to write a set of red flags that you should be aware of when you enter this field.

I present you with a list of red flags that raise my guard and give me a general bad feeling. Feel free to share your stories with me! There’s nothing better than a good bad job interview story!

Soooo…how old are you?

It goes without saying that asking someone about their age is a little bit strange. I used to have my date of birth on my CV but I removed it, as I don’t think it’s in any way relevant to the teaching job. My age shouldn’t decide whether I am fit for this job. It was one of the first questions I was asked on my last job interview and I immediately sensed that there’s something not right. The reason an employer may want to know your age is to assess your young years without any commitments such as family or children (in my opinion).

Are you in a relationship?

Again, I was asked this question on my last job interview and I frankly could not believe it. I was under the impression that I came here to talk about myself and my experience and not about my partner and his job. This question was asked to check if I live on my own and if I’m can support myself with their low salary.

No, I don’t need to see your certificates. Are you a native?

I was once indirectly asked about that. The person interviewing me couldn’t care less about my certificates, experience and references. They were more interested in my nationality, and the time and place I learnt English. I normally can conquer this question without any issues as luckily for me I learnt English at an international school and I took English as a first language. This gives me some kind of leverage. However, I had a lot of non-native English teachers, and you know what? They were incredible and as knowledgeable as the natives. It goes to show that some academies choose natives over experience.

Many of our teachers leave after one year

This was said to me at two different job interviews and it immediately made me feel like I probably don’t have a huge future over there. In the first case, the academy was quite far and the owner told me that people don’t like the commute and find jobs somewhere else. In the other case, I was told that there are many teachers coming and going because of the low salary that forces them to look for second jobs or change their career completely. As much as I appreciate their honesty, I think that I’m not the only one trying to sell myself during a job interview. You need to impress me too!

Do you have any disabilities?

I was asked this question at my very first job interview. I remember everything going well until this point. I was shocked. I truthfully said that I don’t have any disabilities, neither physical nor mental. Now thinking about it with some perspective, I should have got up and left. It was one of the most intrusive and insensitive questions anyone can ask. I understand that there are certain benefits a company can get for hiring a person with disabilities, but it should be discussed at a different moment with a different person.

Do you have any children? Are you planning on having any children?

Run! They want to see how much they can use you. That means, calling you outside of your working hours, asking you to come whenever they feel like, working at the weekends… It also means that the second you announce your pregnancy, you can say goodbye to your workplace. I always thought that it was illegal to fire a pregnant woman, but apparently, it has happened before in some Spanish language academies.

We have a lot of financial problems

I was informed at a job interview that the academy brings more losses than profits, but since they’ve already invested so much into the equipment, games, renovations… they need to keep on going! The person, a boss of this academy, sounded so sad and regretful that it made me feel sorry for them. I left this interview not with hope, but with a lot of pity that they need to run this place. Again, I appreciate your honesty, but as much as I need to convince you, you need to convince me too.

We are like a small family in here

Except you aren’t. You can say that this is one of my pet peeves. I hate when an employer tries to sell his workplace as a happy family gathering. From my personal experience, you should stay away from certain colleagues and you shouldn’t get too close with your boss. I think it’s nice to have a friendly relationship but unfortunately, normally no one cares about you and your needs. Once you become a burden to the company, demanding too much or asking for things that are seen as inappropriate (for example, asking to alter your contract), you are out of that place. To many companies, you are just an employee and there are many people like you, waiting to take your spot.

There was a time in my life that I would completely ignore all the red flags and take any job, only to get experience. I feel like this is not the case anymore. If you get a bad feeling or if you feel like there was no chemistry between you and the boss, just leave it. There will be many other opportunities that you may miss if you work elsewhere already.

As for me right now, I keep on looking! I am collecting private students, researching the world of online teaching platforms, applying for jobs and blogging! Let’s see how the situation changes in a month!