Whether in IELTS or Business English lessons, students may need to know language relating to hiring and firing. Work is a common IELTS topic, and it’s useful to know how to talk about starting or ending a job. I made a few simple exercises intended for intermediate level students (IELTS 5-6.5) to help teach vocabulary for hiring and firing.


I like to start with this image:

It is from the website Human of New York, which I have used before. First, I show the image and give my students 1 minute to speculate on the relationship between the two people. Then I ask them to read the passage. I ask a few simple questions:

  • Why is everyone worried?
  • Why is he terrified?

and so on. General comprehension stuff.

Then I get my students to underline or note down any words or phrases related to employment.

They will write write down:

  • laid off
  • quitting
  • losing my job

I then ask them which of these words have similar meanings. That is “laid off” and “losing my job”. I ask why quitting is different. Hopefully, they will explain that I choose to quit, whereas if I’m laid off or lose my job, it wasn’t a choice.

Vocabulary Exercise

Next, I write these words on the board:

  1. dismiss
  2. resign
  3. recruit
  4. redundant

and give my students four sentences with blank spaces. Let them know they may need to change the tense of the verbs.

  1. If a company tells its employees they must leave because they need to cut costs, the employees are made ____.
  2. If an employee is told to leave a company because he or she has done a bad job, they are ______.
  3. When someone gets a job at a company, they are ______.
  4. If I am unhappy at my job and decide I no longer want to work there, I _____.

Answers: 1) redundant 2) dismissed 3) recruited 4) resign

You can draw attention to the fact that “redundant” is always used in the phrase “make redundant”.

Further Practice

Bring students’ attention back to the language from the picture above. Ask if any of those words have similar meanings to the four new words.

  1. dismiss =lose job
  2. resign = quit
  3. made redundant = laid off

You can throw in some more vocab here. Here are some ideas:

  • fire
  • sack
  • take on
  • let go
  • hand in notice
  • walk out
  • become part of the team

Ask your students to match these up with the four categories. You can then ask them which are formal and which are informal. For me, this was in total a 20 min exercise, but if you had to stretch it further, you may want to have them fill in blanks on an email or even write a whole email, choosing the appropriate words for the register.