It has come to my attention that the time for JET Interviews have arrived! I can’t believe it’s that time already! I wanted to write a post about this, mainly because I spent hours scouring the internet for advice and help on my pre-interview practice as well. I applied to the Japan Consular of Anchorage, Alaska, so everything I will be writing is about my personal experience there; I promise you that your situation will be drastically different than mine as there were only 15 people that applied when I did and got accepted to the interview stage (largest group in years). Out of those 15, 7 of us made it to Short List status.
I’ll try to cover all the important bits; I remember a fair bit of my initial interview, so here goes nothing! I’m hoping this doesn’t find anyone too late!
Preparing for the Interview
First things first; congratulations for making it to the interview stage! I know when I got my notification, I was beyond shocked! I wasn’t expecting to make it and what a surprise it was to see I would be interviewed! Take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back! Now, down to business! Something I did for hours upon hours a day was research any and all possible questions that could be asked to me during this interview. And I’m really glad I did because many of them were actually asked to me. Here’s a something I also found helpful: READ LAST YEARS GENERAL INFORMATION HANDBOOK. Specifically portions about working in Japan. It can be found on the JET and CLAIR website; it’s a great tool to get an idea for what JET is looking for.
Scour blogs (like this one) for advice. You can pick out the things you want to focus on. I’ll give a small list of possible questions later on in the post. Anything you can find will help you.
Practice answering questions to yourself; kind of like a mock interview. Are your hands moving too much? Do you fidget? These things come into play! (we’ll talk a bit more about it later in THE INTERVIEW).
Practicing your answers will help you hear how they sound and how you sound. Be confidant in your answers! And give them some thought too. If your questions is “Why do you want to work in Japan?” Don’t say, “Because I like anime.” That’s a one way trip to the reject pile. If you want to say it’s because of anime (and really, no problems if so) don’t just say that; give them a story. Explain WHY anime is so interesting to you. Why do you like it so much? How did you get into it? Straight answers aren’t the way to go; the more detailed you can be, the better.
Time yourself; how long does it take to answer each question? Which ones are you finding it difficult to answer?
Writing down your answers helps too. Sometimes it’s a good way to process what you want to say. There was a particular question in general that had me stumped when I saw it on a blog and writing it out really helped me.
Check, double check, even triple check that you have your interview voucher. I had to fly to get to my interview and that would have SUCKED if I had forgotten it. In reality, my form had printed off wrong so I had to run around last minute to find a printer and reprint it before my interview.
Getting Ready for the Interview
Dress like you’re going to the last job interview ever in your entire life. Get those pants pressed, dry clean that suit jacket, the whole package! I wore a black suit skirt with a black suit jacket and a black and white blouse.
Ladies, if you do decide to wear a skirt, WEAR TIGHTS. You’ll have to wear them in Japan, so do it at your interview. They don’t approve (Japanese workforce) of wearing skirts without tights or pantyhose underneath. Keep that neckline in check too; don’t have it dip down too much as too much skin here is a really bad thing. You can keep your hair up or down, but keep it professional and classy!
For guys, I enlisted the help of my JET friends who are guys: suits are the way to go! Three piece is a bit much but a suit jacket and slacks are key! Clean shaven and neat hair; easy on that cologne.
If you have piercings, its okay leave them in, but express you’re okay taking them out for work (I did) Also nothing too flashy (none of that hoop business). I have five piercings: two on each ear lobe as well as a cartilage piercing on my right ear. I left them all in, but only wore simple studs.
If you have colored hair, that’s fine, it really shouldn’t hurt your chances, but be aware that if you ARE chosen you will most likely have to die your hair to a reasonable color. For example, one of the girls I came to Hamamatsu with had fire engine red hair but had to dye it back to brown before starting work. I have blonde and caramel highlights (almost like an ombre) but my school doesn’t mind that. Just keep in mind, that if you have a color that isn’t considered “natural” you may be asked to change it.
Bring copies of EVERYTHING. Your application, your birth certificate, your transcripts, anything and everything they might ask you for.
Have questions ready to ask the panel; I don’t think this is a deciding factor, but it shows that you’ve done your homework on the program.
And here we are! The long awaited interview! Generally speaking, your interview can last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. The person before me took 35 minutes whereas my interview took 25 minutes. After meeting the accepted shortlisters, I found out that one girls’ interview took 45 minutes!
Arrive to your interview a few minutes early, 10 minute at the most. As the Japanese say “Being early is on time; being on time is late”. It gives you a chance to ground yourself and focus as well. Converse with other people waiting (if there are any). They’re probably just as nervous as you are and some peer support might be appreciated!
There are lots of stories out there ranging from traditional interviews, to super fun interviews to interviews that are reminiscent to a firing squad. There is a common phrase said with JET and you should probably get used to hearing it: ESID; Every situation is different. Just because one person’s interview went swimmingly doesn’t mean you will have the same experience. How your interview will go won’t be clear until you’re already there. The point to doing this is to make you panic and see if you break; do you crack under pressure? Do you get flustered or angry? As a job interview for becoming an ALT, a teacher, you need to be able to handle difficult situations and challenges. They’re doing it for your betterment if anything.
During the interview, there will be three to four people on your panel. There were four for mine; a JET Alum, an embassy worker, a professor from the University of Alaska and another person from the embassy (representing the Japanese side; he also administered the Japanese test at the end). When you’re brought in, shake everyone’s hand. EVERYONE. It leaves a lasting impression, believe me. When they ask you questions, make sure to look at everyone, not just the person who asked you the question
Relax. If you’re too stiff or rigid, they’ll notice. Have fun with it! Make them laugh! Don’t feel like you have to be prim and proper and perfect through the whole thing. I managed to make the Japanese guy laugh during my interview; whether or not it was because he was overly tired (I was the 13th applicant that day interviewed) or if I was genuinely funny can be debated, but I did it. Remember, you’re going over to be a teacher; they want to see that you can have fun and go with the flow.
Of the questions they’ll ask, sometimes they will ask you something or say something that contradicts what you may have originally said in your application. For example, one of my interviewers said that I had asked for a large city in Aichi as my first choice placement; I did not. In fact, I had asked for anywhere in Aichi as I had lived in Aichi previously for school. They were firm in saying that they were right, so I asked for a moment and pulled out my copy of my application and gave it to them, showing them that maybe it had been a mistake written on my interview sheet, but that I had indeed asked for Aichi as a whole. My second choice had been Nagoya City. Seeing I had my ducks in a row, they moved on. Most everyone I’ve spoken to has said they got a contradicting question; this is why it’s a good idea to know your application inside and out.
For Questions, here are some things I was asked and that I came across when scouring the blogs online:
Why do you want to work in Japan? Why not a different country? (I was asked this question)
Why do you want to work in the JET Program?
Why do you want to teach English? (I was asked this question)
What makes you stand out from other applicants?
Why would you make a good ALT for Japanese students? (I was asked this question)
If you were placed in a location that was the complete opposite of what you asked for, how would you react?
Will your medical history or current medical condition(s) hinder your work in anyway? (I was asked this question)
How do you deal with conflict in a work environment? (I was asked this question)
Gender roles are still somewhat separated in Japan (only women serve tea at the schools); how does this make you feel?
How do you feel about punishment in class?
A teacher is verbally scolding a student in front of the entire class; how do you react or feel?
(As a woman) if you were asked to serve tea, would you? (I was asked this question and actually have had to serve tea during a school event)
Give two weaknesses and two strengths; explain how you would overcome your weaknesses.
Who is the current Prime Minister of Japan? (I was asked this question)
Name two current events happening in America (insert your country name) right now that you could use in school.
Name three things you would bring to Japan to represent your state/country. (I was asked this question)
Name three facts about your state/country.
Talk about any previous exposure or experience in Japanese/Japanese culture (I was asked this question)
Talk about your hobbies
Teach us a 5 minute lesson on (insert topic)
The list is honestly endless of the question that you could be asked or might be asked. My list is honestly nowhere near as comprehensive as some, but it will at least give a ground work for you to use until you build up your bank of questions and answers. When the interview is over, shake all their hands again.
And you did it! You successfully finished your interview! Well what do you do now?
This is quite possibly the hardest part of the entire process because now you’re just hanging out there waiting for someone to tell you if you’ve been accepted. My interview was on February 5th; I was told of my short list status March 31st which is really early according to their timeline. Keep your head up and know you did the best you could do!
If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to message me!