21. Job interview role play

Task details

Name of oral assessment task Job interview role play
EAL curriculum level range  B3, C2, C3, C4
Text orientation Persuasive
Task type Interaction and negotiation


Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to interact in the context of an interview about themselves and their personal qualities.
Description Students role play a job interview for an imaginary job.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: familiarity with a job advertisement and criteria, and application for that job
  2. Text type, genre: formal job interview
  3. Linguistic structures and features: 
  • Ways of describing one’s experience capacities and attributes
  • I have (done)
  • I can…
  • I am able to…
  • I have experience of…
  • Capacities to act in a hypothetical situation: I would…, I could…

4. Vocabulary: relevant to the type of position involved in the roleplay


Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class Mainstream class – EAL Support
Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes  English, Workplace education
Topic/teaching unit Applying for a job
Resources A job advertisement and letter of application – see Writing Task 11 for possible examples.
Assessment conditions
  1. Individual activity
  2. Formal/informal: formal, spontaneous speech
  3. Time limit: Within a lesson, the role play should go for between 4 to 8 minutes.
  4. Teacher intervention:  Intervention limited to assisting the panel to make their questions clear and appropriate.
  5. Access to resources: Students might have prepared a CV, references and a letter of application they can refer to in the interview.
  6. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): independent
  7. Accommodations: The job interview task should relate to a job in a workplace outside the school (for example a retail situation) that students can relate to. If studying different occupations this may open up a wider range of possibilities. Students not involved in a study of occupations or workplaces may be involved in a job interview for a role within the school, such as a sports monitor, library monitor, class or activity (such as drama) captain. The interviewer could be a fellow student, provided they are provided with appropriate questions, and briefed about how to respond to interviewees.
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended as appropriate for the learners.
  • Recording the role play will allow the teacher make a focused assessment of the students’ performances, and provide focused feedback.

Task implementation

Pre-assessment activity
  • In previous lessons students have explored job selection procedures including how to write a letter of application.  Students respond to a written job advertisement, and write a letter of application.  (For examples, see TEAL writing task 11)
  • Students can be involved in discussions about job interviews. Discussions could consider the purpose of the interview, for both the interviewer and interviewee, and the sort of language that might be used. This may involve ways of describing oneself (I am…), describing abilities (I can... I am able to...), and ways of describing what they may do in hypothetical situations (conditionals: If…I would; modal verbs: I could, I might, I would). Culturally appropriate ways of ways of confidence and self-assurance, without appearing boastful or over confident could also be explored.
  • Students may be involved in role plays with their peers.
  • Let the student know when the interview is planned, and allow them to bring brief notes to look at in the interview, if desired.
Assessment activity
  • The interviewer (most likely, but not necessarily the teacher), welcomes the student and thanks them for attending the interview. The interview can cover the following topics:
  • saying a little about themselves and their interest in the job
  • their attributes that are relevant to the position
  • how they may deal with situations that might arise in the job.
Post-assessment activity
  • The interviewer and applicant role play a meeting or phone call in which the applicant is informed of the outcome of the interview and the application, and gives feedback on how the student performed in the interview.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five


Purpose and value of the task

This task involves an interactive and relatively spontaneous performance in which students are interviewed about themselves in relation to a hypothetical job. It assesses several areas of English language use, including the use of simple present tense to talk about themselves, their qualities and attributes (such as I am a creative person), use of the past tense or present perfect to talk relevant experiences (such as I was.. or I have played…etc.), modal verbs to talk about the skills they have (such as can or verb phrases such as I am able to…). It also assesses students’ abilities to discuss hypothetical events (such as using conditionals (if… I would.., and ways of expressing modality, such as adverbs like probably, maybe, or modal verbs such as I might or I would…).

The situation also requires students to use culturally appropriate ways of talking about themselves in a positive way, without being judged to be over-confident, conceited or to be bragging. Indeed, it is a delicate balance, for interviewees are expected to sound positive about themselves, yet not overly confident of their own abilities. The task also provides teachers with information about their students’ fluency and spontaneity in an interview situation, in which they may be ‘put on the spot’ by unexpected or difficult questions, within predictable parameters.

This oral task is related to TEAL Writing assessment Task 11: Writing a job application


The five video samples were collected from two groups of students in different schools. In one school (Samples 1, 4, and 5) some Year 9 students were video recorded in the role-play interview with their teacher, towards the end of a unit of work on occupations and applying for jobs. These interviews related to imaginary but ‘real world’ jobs, as the students had been prepared with relevant background knowledge and language. For these students, therefore, this task involved an element of assessment of achievement in learning in the context of the unit of work. In the second school (video Samples 2 and 3), some Year 8 students were asked to participate in the role play at short notice, with only a small amount of time between being asked to participate in a role play for a position of drama captain in the school, and a short verbal notification of the topics to be covered in the interview. They were interviewed by a member of the TEAL team, who they had previously met, rather than a class teacher. In this context, the task had a more diagnostic assessment purpose; to identify the students’ current capacities and weaknesses in the oral language relevant to the task.


The task elicited varied performances among the students, which illustrate differences in their oral language capacities. However, performance in this type of task is also affected by the students’ personalities, self-confidence, the degree to which they are gregarious or reserved, the nature of their previous experience in the interview situation, and the extent of their knowledge relevant to the job for which they are being interviewed. So in this context, personal attributes as well as the oral language knowledge and skills of the students affect the performances of the task. Cultural factors can also influence the students’ performances. The task also provides information about the ways in which students may have adapted to the expectation in Australian culture that people can talk about and project a positive (but not overconfident) image of themselves in this sort of situation. For some students, such as in video Sample 1, this does not appear to be a cultural issue, but for some students talking explicitly and positively about themselves may involve moving away from cultural norms in which such behaviour is not seen as appropriate, especially in younger people. The differences in the ways the students in the videos talk about themselves may reflect such cultural factors, as well as idiosyncratic differences between the students.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five

Sample 1

Biographical information

Year level: Year 9

Home language: Russian



This student is generally confident in her approach to the task. She is generally effective in communicating her interest in the job, and her skills and attributes, but her communication breaks down in discussing future or hypothetical situations. She struggles to explain her answer to the question about what she can bring to the company. She realises she is unable to express her ideas in this part of the interview, explains she can’t express this in English and after a number of attempts, whispers a request to move on to the next question. She goes on to answer the remaining questions she is asked. The student maintains eye contact for most of the interview, and uses body language appropriate to the situation. She also uses some expressions common to conversational discourse which help the interaction to flow, such as Yes, of course, and As I said….

The student’s confidence is not completely matched by her linguistic skills in English. She successfully uses a number of linguistic structures, including simple present to describe her skills and attributes, such as I’m well organised, or I like singing and dancing, and simple past to describe her experiences, such as I came here from Russia, I worked as a volunteer in kids’ camp, or even the future I’ll always be on time. She also uses present continuous appropriately, I’m thinking about a part time job.

The student uses the modal verb can to describe her skills, such as I can work under pressure, and I can interest people. However, her grammatical structures are not always correct or sometimes break down, such as I can give people good organisation. Other errors, such as article omission, are evident, as in I’m honest person, or errors of tense like I been here for half a year. Her language becomes more fragmented in the second part of the interview, raising the possibility that her successful language use in this context tends to be in more formulaic, prepared or related to well-used expressions, and she tends to be less proficient in constructing more novel or complex meanings, which she is trying to do in this part of the interview. It is also possible that she did not fully understand what the teacher said, and she is trying to guess and bluff her way through.

The student’s pronunciation is quite intelligible throughout the role-play. Despite the noticeable home language influence on her accent, this does not interfere with the intelligibility of her speech, and is not a distraction.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 1 shows that in some dimensions of language use the student’s performance is consistent with descriptors on the criteria sheet across levels 1 and 2.

The language use of this student is consistent with the descriptions of Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 21 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1

Sample 2

Biographical information

Year level: Year 8

Home language: Mandarin



This student is also quite confident in her approach to the task, and she is quite fluent in the interaction. She is able to communicate effectively in most topics covered in the role-play. She communicates her interest in the job, describes some relevant experience, attributes and skills, and how she would approach the role. She achieves this communication partly through her outgoing and self-assured manner, and partly through the use some basic English structures, like present tense, the use of adverbs such as probably and maybe to express modality and hypothetical actions, and basic subject-verb-object word order. She also uses some modal verbs, I can, it would be good, and multi-verb phrases such as I think I’ll just… and Try to make friends.

However, these communicative skills are limited by some difficulties in pronunciation, related to her first language. The most noticeable is a tendency to omit final sounds in words such as I’m interest for I’m interested and bring two friend together instead of friends. This illustrates a difficulty in assessing the linguistic structures of EAL students who tend to omit final consonants in their speaking. This relates in particular to linguistic structures that are marked by final consonants, such as plural and third person singular ‘s’, the sounds at the end of regular verbs in simple past ‘ed’, and contracted modals such as I’d (for I would). The issue is whether the assessor is hearing a pronunciation error only (and the student is aware of, but not always pronouncing the relevant structure), or whether the student does not have yet control of the relevant structure. In this case, it is difficult to tell whether the student is using simple present or auxiliary will to express the future when she says So I probably just go and talk to them… I probably uhm try to make friend with teachers in class. In the first instance, there may be a very weak /l/ after ‘I’, but there doesn’t seem to be in the second. At another point in the interview, she does use I think I’ll just…, which suggests she can pronounce some final consonants, so it is possible her use of I, rather than I’d in the example above is a pronunciation issue. In order to check this, comparison of her pronunciation with a written task that elicits the modal verbs can clarify whether the error is one of pronunciation or grammar.

Her grammatical structures and vocabulary break down at times, and are not adequate to fully convey the complexity of her ideas, such as in I’m a sort of open-wide person, and It takes longer for me to become close to some students, so I probably…just uhm…ahh, uhm…. yes, I think just like that.

While the student’s pronunciation is generally intelligible (despite the omission of final consonants) she does say some words that are very difficult to identify, such as when answering the question about motivating students, I think I will just xxxxx (sounds like ‘Chai’) everyone, and give them those good positive xxxx (sounds like ‘LOTE’).

The student uses gestures such as smiles and movement of the head to support her in spoken communication. There are some stress errors, which make her speech sound less fluent in places.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 2 shows that in most dimensions of language use the student’s performance is consistent with level 2 descriptors on the criteria sheet, while some are at level 3. One descriptor related to difficult to identify words is at level 1.

The language use of this student is consistent with the descriptions of Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 21 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2

Sample 3

Biographical information

Year level: Year 8

Home language: Mongolian.



This student is also very confident in his approach to the task. He has some relevant previous experience, and is able to combine this with his control over a range of linguistic structures and vocabulary to communicate effectively in the interview situation. He uses simple present and the modal verb can to talk about skills and attributes, such as Overall, I’m quite a cheerful person; I think I’m an OK actor, and I can talk to people quite well. He uses simple past tense and present perfect to describe his previous experience, I was in Ratbags the musical and I’ve been in quite a few main roles. He uses modal verbs and adverbs in describing hypothetical actions, I can always cheer them up and I would tell them…; maybe take them to some sort of food store. He also uses adverbs such as actually and just to add to or downplay emphasis in his answers, and he has control over some terms relevant to school drama productions, such as character and lead role.

However there are also times when his English language resources are not quite adequate to express his intended meanings, such as the use of some sort of food store when talking about where he would take a student to talk, and See who’s available and what you can do for this time, when talking about working with teachers. He makes occasional errors with basic structures, such as I was also a few main roles back in Mongolia. He is explicit in expressing uncertainty in answers, such as I’m not quite certain about that. However later in the interview he seems to avoid giving an answer, which may indicate a strategy of avoidance. This may be achieved by giving a minimal answer, or by not answering a question he doesn’t think he has the language resources he needs to give the answer he would like to when he is talking about his emotions as weaknesses. In the end, the interviewer rephrases for him.

He demonstrates quite strong cultural skills in the interview. He uses gestures and smiles, which adds to the effectiveness of his answers. He can state his skills positively without overstatement, such as I think I’m an OK actor. His speech is clear and intelligible, and presents little difficulty of comprehension for his audience.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 3 shows that in most dimensions of language use the student’s performance is consistent with level 3 descriptors, while some related to cultural conventions, and those related to phonology are at level 4.

The language use of this student is consistent with the descriptions of Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 21 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3

Sample 4

Biographical information

Year level: Year 9

Home language: Dinka.



While this student appears confident in her involvement in the task, she is more reserved and reticent in the interview compared to the students in video samples 1, 2 and 3. While she gives some longer responses early in the interview, she also gives a lot of short answers, sometimes single words, or short phrases, sometimes, or yeah. The interviewer uses a lot of relatively complex language, which the student appears to understand and responds to appropriately. The student’s longer answers generally contain grammatically correct and appropriate structures, such as I have a big passion for helping people and feeling happy and healthy and I want to be a personal trainer… that’s what I want to become. In this way she conveys meanings about her attributes, her interest and aspirations for the future. However this range of meanings is expressed with a relatively limited range of grammatical structures, which she mostly uses accurately. Her short answers are appropriate and competent, such as No too bad, I guess, Sometimes and Probably.

The high number of short responses given by the student makes it harder to precisely assess her language skills than if her answers were more complete or extended. One apparent issue in the student’s language skills is her grammatical structures for marking hypothetical events. She successfully discusses this in the interview, but responds to the interviewer’s questions that directly try to elicit a modal response with a statement that begins with the lexical verb that normally comes at the end of the verb phrase, omitting auxiliary verbs, including the modals:

Q: What skill do you think you could bring to our workplace?

A: …Hardworking umm to … like … support people.

Q: What would you do in that situation?

A: …Try to make them feel better and try to get everybody involved and happy, and finish the work in time.

The nature of these answers (with verbs omitted), while providing acceptable answers in the context of the interview, raises the possibility that the student is either not aware of, or not confident in using modal verbs as structures for discussing hypothetical or conditional future events, and so she deliberately avoids trying to use them. While she understands the questions (the modal verb is prominent in the second question), she gives no evidence of capacity to use modal verbs in her speech. Her answers show the likelihood that she understands modality, as does her use of Probably in one of her short responses.

The student’s pronunciation is intelligible and clear, and she uses intonation for emphasis, such as in her answer Plenty!, and gestures, such as nodding her head and smiling, to good effect in parts of the interview.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 4 shows that the student’s performance is spread across a number of levels of performance for different dimensions of her language use. Most descriptors are at level 2 and 3, but her clear pronunciation means she meets level 4 descriptors in phonology.

The language use of this student is consistent with the descriptions of Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 21 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4

Sample 5

Biographical information

Year level: Year 9

Home language: Dinka



This student appears reserved in the context of the role-play, but he participates with quiet confidence. He uses a range of linguistic structures to convey a range of meanings about himself, including simple present tense to describe attributes and experience, I’m really interested in basketball, and I play for the school basketball team, and simple past for past experiences, I bought Jordans. Some of his comments are more elaborate and use more complex structures successfully, such as Have a better understanding of what the customers want, and communicate conditionality, If I get there… I can… He also has good control over modal verbs, and uses them effectively in discussing hypothetical events and situations in the job being discussed, I would understand that if there are shifts to do I can take over for themI would recommend other shoes…and I would call my staff team to help me with this situation.

The student occasionally smiles and uses gestures, but he is not very animated in giving his responses. He is able to present himself as suitable for the job, I think I’m the most qualified person for this job, which is a very confident answer, perhaps a reflection of the preparation the class was given for the task.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 5 shows that in most dimensions of language use the student’s performance is consistent with descriptors at level 4 on the criteria sheet, while some are at level 3.

The language use of this student is consistent with the descriptions of Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 21 – Criteria sheet – Sample 5


Using the assessment for future learning


  1. Discuss the ways in which confidence can be conveyed in an interview such as this. The factors that contribute to a sense of self confidence may include:
  • being able to talk fluently and clearly about you own capacities and skills
  • being willing to acknowledge limitations of your skills, and some potential weaknesses in relation to your skills, or gaps in your experience
  • using structures like I can…., I am able to…., I am…, I have…,
  • being able to talk about what you would or could do in hypothetical situations
  • the way you sit; upright, facing the interviewer (not slumped or hunched over), making appropriate eye contact at points of transition between questions and answers (but not constantly looking at the interviewer), and speaking clearly, not too softly, nor too loudly.

Ask the students to focus on two of these factors, as they review the video of their interview. Ask them to identify what they did well and what they could improve in these two areas.

  1. ‘Verbs in questions and answers’

Explain that usually when someone is asked a question in a particular tense, the answer will normally use the same tense as the question.

Give the students a blank table asking as in the example below.

Verbs used in questions Verbs used in answers

Question and answer verbs match?

Y(es) or N(o).

Answer using same tense as the question (ask your teacher to check these)
Why are you interested..? Because I am… Y  
Have you worked in a shop before? Yes, I did.. N Yes, I have…

Ask the students to review the video or audio recording of their interview, and note the tenses used in 5 to 7 questions they were asked and the verb tense they used in their answers. They should look at questions on different topics, for example:

  • questions asking about themselves, their interests and skills
  • questions about experiences
  • questions about what they would do in particular situations
  • questions they are asked about availability for work

They should note some answers they gave where the tense used in the answer was different to the tense used in the question.

Where the tense is different, ask the students to rewrite the verbs in the answer, so that the tense matches the tense used in the question, and show these to the teacher for checking.

For example, the table below presents how this could be done for video Sample 1:


Verbs used in questions Verbs used in answers

Question and answer verbs match?

Y(es) or N(o).

Answer using same tense as the question (ask your teacher to check these)
Tell me about yourself?

came here from Russia


like singing and dancing


am creative


tried to paint










I am from ..








I try to paint

What skills can you bring?

I’m well organised,


How do you feel ..?

It’s good practice


What could you bring..?

Together we can make some celebrations


N We could make some celebrations
What are your key strengths..? I’ll always be on time. N I am always on time



Peer review and interaction

  1. Discussing hypothetical events.

Review the use of modals in describing hypothetical situations. Put students in pairs. Student A describes an unreal or unlikely event following the prompt what would you do if… Student B responds in a single sentence using a modal verb I would, I could, I might, I should etc. the students audio record their interactions, listen to them and suggest other responses they could have made.

  1. Using adverbs to add emphasis or to qualify.

Give students a list of adverbs arranged in two columns.


(strengthening the action mentioned)


(moderating or limiting the action)






sort of




See if the class can add more adverbs to each column.

Discuss when it might be useful to use emphasising adverbs in an interview, such as to sound positive, and when it might be useful to use qualifying adverbs in an interview situation, such as not sounding overconfident or too uncompromising. Ask the students to alternate between the role of Student A and Student B. Student A asks a typical interview question, and Student B replies using an appropriate emphasising or qualifying pronoun in their answer.

  1. Interview coaching.

Put the students in pairs, with a student they feel comfortable with. Ask them to watch the video of their partner’s interview, and make some notes about what they think their partner could do to improve their interview performance. Suggest that ‘coaches’ focus on two main elements, such as modals, tenses, or cultural aspects such maintaining interaction, or how confident students sound. Ask the student and coach to discuss what the student did in self-reflection activity 1, and how that compares with the coach’s notes. Then ask the ‘coach’ who has taken notes to watch the video with the student, and discuss the coach’s suggestions for the student to improve their interview performance. Repeat this for the second student.

It may be necessary to model or discuss with students what interviewers are looking for in an interview. The use of an appropriate video could be helpful.


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