The Interview

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…

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