HomeEnglish for Specific PurposesBusiness English teachers - Getting through those interviews

Business English teachers – Getting through those interviews




A woman and two men on an interview panel looking seriousEvan Frendo works in corporate language training. Here he describes the sorts of things potential employers might be looking for when hiring Business English trainers to work in-house.

One of the things I sometimes do as a Business English training consultant is help HR departments recruit freelance trainers to work in-house. The whole job involves deciding, often within a short space of time, just how suitable a teacher might be for a particular position. Teaching qualifications are a useful start, but they rarely show evidence of someone’s ability to work in an in-house training context. Experience counts too, of course, but just because a candidate can boast years of experience does not mean that the person necessarily knows what they are doing – there are a surprising number of experienced trainers out there who lack elementary knowledge and skills. What we are basically looking for during a job interview is evidence of a person’s competence as a trainer, as well as potential for development. This is where models like KSA (knowledge, skills and attitude) can be particularly helpful, because they provide a framework within which to work.


Here we are looking for evidence that the candidate has theoretical knowledge not only of the teaching / training world, but also of the business world. Here are some questions we might ask:

  • How do people learn languages?
  • How would you explain the difference between training and teaching? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each in a corporate context?
  • Can you describe a recently published course book aimed at ESP / Business English learners? What do you like / dislike about it?
  • What would you understand by the term “business process”?
  • What can you tell us about our industry and our company?


Here we are talking about the practical techniques that a competent trainer would need to be able to use in a corporate training context.

Here are some questions we might ask:

  • What do you understand by the terms “needs analysis” and “course design”. Give some examples from your own experience.
  • Can you describe some materials you designed or adapted to suit a particular group?
  • Can you explain some different ways of evaluating a course? Give some examples from your own experience.
  • How would you explain the difference between role-plays and simulations? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each in a corporate context?
  • How might you adjust your training style to suit a group of executives, a group of factory workers, and a one-to-one client?


Here we are talking about things like the mindset and the manner that a successful trainer would need to have. Here are some questions we might ask:

  • What can you tell us about your own professional development?
  • What do you think a client might expect from you as a trainer?
  • What is the difference between a good trainer and a great trainer?
  • Who is most responsible for training success – the trainer, or the trainee?
  • Can you describe an awkward moment in some training you were doing? How was it resolved?

Do you have the KSA to get that job? Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or experiences below.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Dear Evan,

    As I’ll soon be looking for new companies to work for when we move to Berlin, I found this guide very helpful. Though most of the questions are really excellent, I’d personally be hard pressed to speak about ESP coursebooks. I have many on the shelf, but tend to work with materials from journals or newspapers or the helpful stuff at Business Spotlight, and of course with my student’s materials. Most of the companies I work for have been vaguely interested in books, but when I brought specific books along, say Legal English for a group of bankruptcy lawyers, or Financial English for an asset manager, or HR for headhunters, they’d generally want to do maybe one or two chapters and would say, “But the rest of this is too specific/ too general. We’ll take one copy just for reference.” I’d like to know how other trainers deal with this. I also wonder whether publishers are going down the route of modules these days.

    Thanks again for this helpful list.

    • Hi Anne

      I think you’ve touched on something for BE training that I have noted for a long time: BE learners are a very fragmented market—much more fragmented than regular ELT.

      Not only can we divide BE learners into the usual intermediate / upper intermediate / advanced categories, they can also be divided into various business interests: accounting / marketing / finance / sales / etc. / etc. It’s obvious each learner would want to take BE courses with his or her own specialty.

      Then we can divide these groups further into how in-depth they want to get into the training. My experience with my own material was that I lost about a third of my learners because the material was too hard for them. Yet if I had watered down the content, the top third would have thought the material was too simplistic.

      I would say that it is very hard to find an economical classroom of learners with similar language abilities, business specialties, and attitudes towards learning.

      As an upstart BE publisher, I would like to tell you my innovative material could solve all these fragmentation issues. But I know it can’t.

      I think success will come to those BE instructors who have wide range of approaches and material, can adapt these approaches and material to a very changing customer base, and be willing to tell prospective customers: “No, I can’t give you exactly what you want because it will cost too much, but I can give you some very rewarding and beneficial training that will fit many of your needs.”

      I don’t see any magic wand! On one hand, the BE instructors should always be learning new skills and trying new ideas. On the other hand, learners need to lower their expectations of what can be practically accomplished in a classroom with other BE learners.

      • Hi Dave

        Thanks for this – yes BE is definitely a fragmented market, which is why needs analysis has always been so fundamental to what we do. And of course you’re right – as soon as you form a group of learners you are going to have to compromise on needs.


  2. Hi Anne

    Great that you’re coming to Berlin 🙂

    Yes, I agree. I think that question is just aimed at finding out if the person being interviewed is aware of / has opinions about available course books, so I suspect what you have written would be more than adequate. The less impressive candidate would say something like “What does ESP stand for again?”



  3. I once worked in a school that ran a training course on ESP. A guy called up one day, very excited and enthusiastic, but wanting us to confirm that we really could teach ESP. After some confusion we had to disappoint him – extra sensory perception wasn’t part of our syllabus.

  4. Giggling so much at Ms. Hollet’s addition that I’m not sure what I wanted to say, except, wow – and good luck with finding those magic candidates: both good business knowledge and language training skills!

    I might get stumped with question one though, it sounds silly, but once you really have some time under your belt, you start to wonder, don’t you? Is there really an answer to that question? People are such individuals.

    The rest are super questions, I have to bookmark this page if I’m ever again in a recruitment situation (or know of someone who is).


Leave a Reply

Recent posts

Recent comments