Archive for April, 2008

The Interview

April 12, 2008

The application process for JET is pretty lengthy, beginning in November the year before one departs for Japan.   The initial paper phase is simple enough:

  • Fill out an application booklet
  • Write the standard “why I want to teach in Japan” letter
  • Get two reference letters (high school teacher + university professor is usually a good combo)
  • Photocopy the information page from your passport
  • Mail the package in

If you’re lucky enough to pass the initial screening, a letter will arrive in the New Year telling you how great you are and that they would be thrilled to have you for an in-person interview.  Ok, ok, perhaps the Japanese are a little more reserved than that, but the important part is that you’ve made it to phase two: the face-to-face interview.

Now, interview questions and tactics will vary, so take the following as just a rough guide. 

They will say you need to arrive at the interview site (in my case, the University of Toronto) about 45 minutes early, but I’d recommend 60-75 minutes.  There are two JET movies playing in the lobby, so if you arrive a bit earlier, you’ll be able to watch both.  They can seem a bit dated, but they do have some good info (such as clubs, leagues, etc… you can join while working in Japan).

For the interview itself, there was a team of interviewers (three, in my case).  They seem nice, but it becomes evident pretty quickly that you’re basically getting tripled-teamed for 30 minutes, and they will ask hard questions. 

Some of the ones I encountered:

  • Describe your co-workers from Job X (this being a job I left nearly 6 years ago)
  • How do you handle being the centre of attention? (JETs most non-urban cities get minor celeb status)
  • Who are some famous Japanese people that you admire?
  • How do you deal with stress? Loneliness?
  • What stories have you read in the news about Japan lately (be careful here!)

This part will have considerable variation, but the basic format is the same: you have to give an improvised lesson on topic X to a group of students (the interviewers) who have X level of English.  Everyone I spoke to concurs: they will rake you over the coals on this part to fluster you.

Some final tips:

  • Smile a lot
  • Know your resume and cover letter inside-out, because they will ask questions about it
  • Ask questions

If all goes well, up next comes the acceptance letter in April.

More to follow…