Life on JET

The JET Interview-My Experience and How to Prepare

“The time has come,” the walrus said, “To talk of many things:of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–”

of the JET Interview–and how to prepare.

I want to share my JET interview experience, and all the anxiety I had the weeks leading up to it. My hope is that this will ease the minds of some applicants who are maybe nervous because they didn’t major in Japanese studies. There will also be some general advice in here too!


Just about this time last year, I was notified by the Japan Consulate in Boston that I was selected to interview for the ALT position. After lots of happy tears, calls to my mom, and celebratory sushi, it was time to get to work.

So how did I prepare?

I reread my statement of purpose dozens of times, wrote in my journal explicitly stating why I wanted to teach English in Japan, gave myself a crash course in Japanese geography and greetings, had my boyfriend and roommates practice interviewing me…and I also googled How to Prepare for the JET Interview.

That last part was a bad idea. I read all the horror stories about interviews gone bad and the difficult-to-answer questions that some interviewers may ask applicants, such as, “what would you say if a student asked you why America dropped a bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?” I PANICKED after reading the impossibly long lists of questions I could be asked  in the American interview. So if you’re reading this and you’re preparing for the JET interview and you haven’t googled Possible Interview Questions yet…my advice is DON’T! It’s as bad as WebMD-ing your symptoms!

And then there was my fear over not knowing any words in Japanese. And I really mean it when  I say I knew NOTHING. I didn’t even know domo arigato was Japanese until a couple weeks before my interview. Seriously.

I started second guessing myself. I knew I could hold up my teaching end of the bargain, but what if my interviewers were not convinced that I really wanted to teach English in specifically Japan?

So why Japan, Becca? What business do you have even trying to get on JET? I was so snervous! (scared+nervous=snervous. I’ve been using that mashup word since I was 14. I digress.)

The Interview
The good thing about being an anxious person means things aren’t always as bad as you imagine them to be. And this was the case for my interview. I walked into a room of three panelists. Two Americans (a professor and a JET alum) and one Japanese woman. Of course, the first question they asked me was “Why do you want to teach in Japan? Why not South Korea?” And I told them that I have always been curious to learn more about Japanese culture than any other Asian country. So if you’ve never studied Japanese history, language, or culture and you’re interviewing for JET…that’s okay! They also asked me if I spoke any Japanese, and I was honest and said “not yet, but I am willing to learn.” They responded, “You don’t need to speak Japanese for this program. But if you said yes, we would have given you a test.” So if you don’t speak any Japanese and you’re interviewing for JET…don’t lie!

Overall, my interview experience wasn’t bad. Here are a few examples of  some other questions they asked me:

-How would you handle culture shock?
-How would you approach a class full of students who spoke zero English?
-What is one item you would bring to Japan that is representative of your culture?
-Can you tell us a time you felt discriminated against as a female in the workplace? (A little weird but fortunately I was able to answer this since I had an issue or two when I was teaching college boys when I was only 23.)
-Are you reading any Japanese books currently?

That’s all I can remember from the general questions they asked me. There were no huge curveballs or supremely weird questions asked. But like they say on JET, every situation is different. If you have any friends currently or formerly on JET, I suggest asking them about their experiences too. That’s what I did.

How to Prepare
If you don’t have a suit, GET ONE! The interview is incredibly formal. You want to look your best. Ladies, make sure your suit is modest. I wore a knee-length pencil skirt, a black blazer, and a pale-rose blouse. Don’t forget stockings or tights! I wore black ones. And I think I wore flats.

Like any interview, they will ask you in the end, “Do you have any questions for us?” I spent so much time worrying about what they would ask me that I forgot to prepare questions for this! I was able to come up with two on the spot though. But make sure you have a few prepared…don’t ask about time off or salary though! You can find out those answers online anyways.

Don’t do anything that feels out of character for you. I agonized over whether I should bow or not when I entered the interview room. But when I walked in, my interviewers were all standing in the doorway waiting for me to greet them. So I went with my gut and shook hands with all three of them.  It wasn’t a problem.

Just be yourself! The type of person JET is looking for is someone they can just plop anywhere in Japan. Make sure you smile and know that it’s okay to make small jokes (we laughed a couple times in my interview). Don’t take yourself too seriously. Just be honest and be who you are. You made it this far–the paper application is arguably the most difficult part of the JET process to pass. So be proud!

I believe in you, and so does this tiny potato I found on the internet. Good luck!!

If you have any questions, please comment and I’ll be happy to answer. :)

14 thoughts on “The JET Interview-My Experience and How to Prepare”

  1. congrats on your interview!!! it sounds like it went well ^^ I already have anxiety over applying for JET and I’m only a sophomore. this was a really helpful post that I’ll refer to later on down the road. thank you so much for sharing your experience ^^

  2. Hi
    My name is Phumzile, I went for Jet interviews yesterday and even though I was so nervous I kept my cool.
    I answered all the questions, smiling and cracking some jokes where necessary, but my question is, now that they didn’t give me a chance to ask any questions means I have failed the interviews.?

    I think my panel members were very friendly and professional all that Scarry junk I read about wasn’t there.
    Hope to here from you soon.
    Warm regards

    1. Hi, Phumzile! Just because they didn’t ask you if you had any questions in the end doesn’t mean you failed the interview at all! From what you’ve just told me, it sounds like it went really well for you. :) Perhaps you and your panel members were having such a great time chatting that there just wasn’t any time left before the interview after yours. Not to worry. Please keep me posted when you hear about your results! Best of luck to you! -Becca

  3. Hello
    My Name is Zandi from South Africa and I have a JET interview coming up in two weeks. I won’t lie, I am very nervous because I have a lot riding on this. I’d like to think that I wrote a brilliant essay, which is why I probably got shortlisted. However I’m having nightmares about stuffing up the interview or just not being good enough.

    Please tell me if you eventually got in and how long did it take for them to inform you?…

    Gosh Im such a worry wart!

    1. Hi Zandi!! You sound just like me the weeks before my interview. I know this is easier said than done, but just try to relax. It’s going to be okay. It’s really amazing that you made it to the interview stage because not everyone does! Yes, I eventually got on JET. My interview was on February 5th, and I found out March 31st at 5 pm that I had been shortlisted. (I’m being really specific because I guess I will never forget that moment.) Congratulations to you for landing an interview. Please let me know it goes! And cheers to South Africa, my neighbor while I was on JET was from there. :)

  4. Hello! I loved reading your advice and your story with JET. I recently graduated college and I am having doubts whether I should apply or not. I have already studied abroad in Japan, and also recently came back in January 2017, but I was able to pick where obviously. Did you get the city/town you wanted? I have read a lot of horror stories from people who have gone to JET and return saying it isn’t recommended. Any advice? Also I have never taught before, so I am nervous to how to teach others something I don’t usually do.

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading my blog. :) I actually didn’t have any placements requests. It really is a toss up where you will be placed–but my advice is to make the most of it wherever you end up. I was on a remote island over 200 miles away from the mainland, but I would take the overnight ferry to Kagoshima City or fly to Tokyo for pretty cheap. You just gotta go into the experience with an open mind. I cried when I first found out I would be moving to a faraway island, but I fell in love with my placement. Also, you definitely don’t need to have teaching experience before doing JET. Just keep an open mind. Good luck!

    2. Hi Andrea! I am so terribly sorry for my delay in responding to you! I think you should absolutely apply. I didn’t have any placement requests, but applicants can post up to 3 places they would like to go. There is no guarantee your request will be granted, but it’s worth a shot! And don’t worry about not having any teaching experience…you will get some training on JET!

  5. Hello Becca,
    I enjoy reading your blog and do have some questions regarding JET. I have submitted my application this Friday and I’m now on the waiting game for a possible interview. I am from PH and there’s a part in my application form to enlist my preferred cities of assignment. As I read online, JET usually put their participant in the rural areas which I eventually wrote on my application. Do you have any tips should they ask me why I prefer such areas? It’s kinda weird since we all know rural areas are usually the place where they assign participants… and to still asked to provide some thoughts about it – mind boggling. Anyway, do you also have some advice as to what questions I can possibly ask during the interview proper?

    1. Hello and thanks for reading! If they ask you why you said you wanted a rural placement, you could say something about how you are looking to be immersed in “traditional Japan” as opposed to wanting to be a big city. There are a lot of benefits to being placed in the inaka over a major city. But be prepared to truly being sent anywhere–I knew someone who said he wanted to be in a rural part of Kyushu, and he ended up in Tokyo. :p As for questions to ask during the interview–you can be personal and ask what your interviewer’s favorite place in Japan is, or you can ask something about how JETs can get involved if and when they eventually return to their home country. Something like that to show that you are really interested in the program. Hope that helps. :) Good luck to you! Let me know if you get an interview!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s