Celina, January 16 2020

The Interview | The JET Programme

Congratulations! You’ve gotten through the application process and you’ve been invited for an interview. You’re halfway there, and on to arguably the most important part of the application. The coordinators have shown their interest in you and now it’s up to you to keep it, and impress them.

To help you nail the interview, here’s a  guide of the most important things to know before you walk into the interview room, as well as my personal interview experience and what I did to prepare and land myself the job.

My Interview Experience

For me, interview day in general was kind of a mess. Due to a series of totally bizarre events I ended up 10 minutes late to my  interview, even after leaving my house 3 hours early! I was horrified to say the least and definitely super anxious walking into the interview, but regardless, I ended up having a great interview and being shortlisted! So, my first piece of advice for you is this; if you think you will be late to your interview for any reason, please call your consulate immediately. Of course, I would highly recommend being on time and saving yourself the stress, but things do happen. If something comes up that is out of your control, the coordinators will likely understand. They are human too after all. 

But whether or not you’re on time, the most important factor in landing the job is to be confident. While a big part of being a JET is teaching English, or doing the mysterious work of a CIR, another arguably even more important part is being a cultural ambassador and representing your country. So as much as the coordinators are looking for people who have the ability to teach, they are also looking for people that are interesting, passionate and able to step out of their comfort zone. The best way to show all of those things is by walking in there confidently and with a smile. 

Interview Structure and What to Expect

The interview for the JET Programme is a panel style interview, so expect to be interviewed by two or three people. My interview was conducted by two people, the programme coordinator for my consulate, and another woman that worked within the programme as well. Other people have had past ALTs, or Japanese English teachers on their interview panel. The interview is 30 minutes long and is roughly broken up into three sections; The Classic Q&A, The Mock Lesson  and The Japanese Proficiency Test.

Part 1: The Classic Q&A

First is the question-and-answer portion of the interview. This is basically just like any other interview you’ve ever done; they ask you questions, and you answer. Take a look at some common interview questions to get a feel for what the interview might be like, but don’t over study or get too caught up on practicing answers! You want to give genuine responses that don’t sound rehearsed. Think of it as a conversation, and if you need time to think don’t be afraid to take a few seconds before answering! Thinking is fine and won’t hurt your chances so don’t let a tough question phase you.

My interview was a bit of a blur due to how anxious I was, but here are the questions that I remember being asked:

Part 2: The Mock lesson

This seems to be the part that people worry about most, especially those with no teaching experience. You’ll be asked to give a short mock lesson, in which the panelists are the students and you are the teacher. In my case, there was a white board behind me for me to use and the scenario they gave me was as follows:

“Please give a short demonstration of how you would teach in the following scenario. You are teaching   elementary school – grade 3/4 – and the topic is 'fruit'.”

Your mock lesson scenario will follow a similar formula. You'll be given a grade (elementary school, Junior-High school or High school) and a topic . The most important point to remember during this part of the interview is to speak slowly and clearly, as if you were really teaching students that are just learning English. It’s best to keep your mini lesson very simple, so don’t worry too much about having to come up with some great concept on the spot. What they're looking for in this interview portion is your general language ability, ability to convey the topic at an appropriate grade level, and confidence. While teaching your mock lesson, the panelists may also begin to chatter in Japanese in order to see how you handle distractions.

Part 3: The Japanese Test 

In the last part of the interview the panelists will ask you a few questions in Japanese based on the level of proficiency you indicated on your application. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese! It is definitely not necessary, and it won’t ruin your chances of getting into the programme, but it is good to have some basic phrases under your belt for this portion of the interview if you can, as they may ask you if you know any.

These are the questions I was asked in Japanese, based on indicating that I had an intermediate understanding of the language.

            “Please introduce yourself to us.

            “What kind of place do you prefer? A big city or a small town?" “Why is that?”

According to some insider information, the entire interview is determined through some sort of a point system – the people with the most points at the end of the interview, are the people who will be accepted. The Japanese test scores you some extra points, but points will not be deducted for not knowing the language.

Be Confident

The interview may seem very big, long and scary but rest assured, if you’ve been called for an interview they already like the way you look on paper, and you already have the experiences and qualifications that they want in a JET Programme participant. The interview process is your chance to set yourself apart from others in terms of personality, passion, your desire to share your culture and your willingness to educate and be educated. 

Show them that you are interesting, passionate, and excited by the challenge, and you’re on the right track!

Good luck aspiring JETs! <3

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