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