How to Teach Your ESL Students Job Application Skills: The Job Hunt

How to Teach Your ESL Students Job Application Skills: The Job Hunt

If you teach elementary ESL, you may not have much motivation to teach your students about looking for a job, but if your class is made up of high school students, college students or adult students you may want to walk them through the process of job applications. Since many ESL students take language classes to further their careers or open job opportunities, giving them hands on experience with the process will be beneficial to them both in your class and in the long term.

How to Teach Your ESL Students Job Hunting Skills

  1. 1

    Where to Start

    Hopefully your students have done some thinking about the kind of job they are looking for or might be interested in. If you have not walked them through the process of writing a resume, start there. Once the resume is complete, it is time to start the job hunt. In the past, most jobs were acquired through classified ads. Though not as practical today, they can still be beneficial to your students both in the job search and in their English learning process. If you can, bring in a selection of classified ads for your students to browse. They need not be current to be useful, but the Sunday paper is a good resource for classified ads. Point out that the classified section of the paper is divided into sections one of which is employment. The employment section is further divided by job category. Give your students some time to look through the ads and then to focus on the area that is most applicable to them. Ask your students to comment on the style of writing found in the ads. Are they written in complete sentences? Do they use abbreviations? Do they see vocabulary that they cannot understand? Are they able to find any jobs that might hold potential for them? If your students are having trouble understanding the ads, read through some of the more troublesome ones together and walk your class through piece by piece until they understand.

  2. 2

    Most Popular Jobs

    The newspapers have fallen a far second to online job applications in today’s world. Many people post resumes online each day and find connections with future employers. With this in mind, take your students to a computer lab so they can access some popular online job sites. is one of the largest online job communities. Point out to your class that the ads are organized differently for web applications. Your students will have to provide the key words for a search for their potential jobs rather than going to a particular section of the classifieds. Once your students are on the home page, have each person enter one or more key words or a location as search criteria. It may help to review some job titles that correspond with the type of work for which your students may be looking or group your students into those interested in medical careers, business careers, legal careers, etc. Once the search is complete, give your students some time to browse the jobs that are listed. Show them that they may need to only read the job title to rule out a position. If they see titles that are of interest, they may want to read the rest of the job description to gain more information. Ask each person to choose one job to investigate further. After clicking on one position, give your students time to read the lengthier job descriptions that they access. If you like, ask each person to print that job description to use in the next activity.

  3. 3

    The Qualifications

    Using the job descriptions that your students printed out from, give each person more time to read and review what the company has written. As they read, ask your students to list the qualifications that the company is seeking in its new employee. These notes do not have to be extensive or in complete sentences – bullet points will do. Your students should then compare their lists of desired qualifications against the qualifications he or she listed in his or her resume. How closely does the list match up with the experience your student has? You may want to have each person write a paragraph explaining how his or her experience falls in line with the qualifications the company is seeking to use later when writing the cover letter. If there are any qualifications he does not meet, challenge him to think of a way that can be viewed as a positive: he will not need to be trained out of bad habits; he is a quick learner; etc. Once your students have gone through the qualifications, make sure they note how they will need to apply for the job. Though many employers accept applications via e-mail, not all do. Make sure each person is clear about how he or she will need to proceed in the job application process for the position.

  4. 4

    The Application

    Finally, though not every job requires it, you would help your students to have them fill out a sample job application. You can find a free template at This form will ask for the general information that most employers require of their new hires. You can take this time to review any vocabulary on the form that may be unfamiliar to your students and show them what information they should include in each section. Each person should also identify three references that he or she would be able to use during a job application. Note, make sure your students understand that they should speak with each of these people before using them as references both as a courtesy and to make the individuals aware that potential employers may be contacting them!

If your students are clear about their own skills and can read a job description to determine an employer’s need, you will have your class well on their way through the job application process.

The next step will be to write a cover letter and send the information off in the hopes that the employer will call for an interview!

This article is a part of our ‘How to Teach Your ESL Students Job Application Skills’ series. See other articles from this series here:

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