Tags: ALT, interview questions, interviewing, Japan, teaching abroad, teaching in Japan
This post might be interesting for you if you are applying to work abroad, want to work for the JET Programme, or want to work in Japan for another language company.
Everyone’s JET interview is different. Some people feel challenged and some coast by. Some people are asked easy questions, some detailed (politics, culture), some personal. You can expect 3 interviewers on your panel, seated at a table before you while you sit in a chair a few feet in front of them. There will be a government representative, a former JET, and an academic rep. I had a founder of the JET Programme, a former ALT, and a professor of Japanese studies from a nearby university.
Questions I think you can count on:
-Why did you request your placement?
-Why do you want to be on the JET Programme?
-What do you have to offer as an ALT?
-Do you have any questions for us?
(They’re going to want something good, thoughtful. When I asked about deadlines and housing, information they didn’t have or knew I could get online, they got bored. But I won them back when I asked “Since the Japanese school year begins in April, how do we begin our jobs as ALTs without disrupting the flow of the school year?” they loved it. I directed this mostly at the former ALT.)
*Know your application inside and out. They are notorious for grilling on small details. Especially any experience with teaching or Japanese knowledge you stated you had. I’ve heard they may even ask to have you write or read at the level of Japanese you claim to know.
*Know the roles of the JET Programme. The government runs it to encourage “grassroots internationalization” and to make English language learning more interesting and authentic. There are JETs all over Japan in different prefectures (prefectures are like the states of Japan) and at junior high school and senior high school levels. A very few are in elementary. Each region has a CIR too, a person whose job it is in part to help ALTs (assistant language teacher) share their culture with their surrounding community and learn/experience more of authentic Japan. ALTs are expected to “team teach” with their JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English). This is the principal method of teaching for the JET Programme–cooperative teaching. You are their assistant. You are an instructor, they are a teacher. Teacher is an honorable role here, one we are not really entitled to.
Common teaching questions:
-What 3 things would you show students to teach about your home country?
-Give us a 5 minute self-introduction.
-How would you explain Halloween?
-How would you respond to a student misbehaving?
-What do you envision team-teaching w/a JTE to be like? What problems can you anticipate?
-What do you have to offer Japanese students/teachers/schools?
-What would you do if a female student showed you inappropriate attention? Followed you home?
-What interests you about Japan?
-Would you drink a bowl of fish in vinegar? (I got asked this question)
-What are the names of the Prime minister and Emperor? What’s the DIETs role in government?
-references to current news in Japan
-issues of suicide, bullying, patriotism in Japan schools right now
-Who are 3-5 Japanese celebrities?
*While I killed myself memorizing stuff, a friend of mine was always prepared with “I might not have that answer now, but I look forward to learning/studying/discovering that answer in Japan.” I think that works well for general questions, but I think for something you claimed as an area of interest you should know it (art, literature, etc.).
-How would you respond if you, as a female ALT, were expected to serve tea to your male coworkers?
They bring in groups of 5 or so at a time.
The room is divided by partitioning walls and get a little loud.
Speak clearly, show off your ability to enunciate and project your voice appropriately.
It’s good to be modest and enthusiastic.
-Remember to respect the Japanese norm of valuing the group over the individual.
-Maybe come up with a key theme to make yourself memorable. (like I tried to engrain myself in their brains as the eager teacher who wants to observe education in Japan and study more about their art.)
–Show up early!! Like an hour early is a good idea. The secretary is rumored to take notes on the promptness and behavior of the candidates. Show up late, or even just on time, and expect to be discarded as a candidate. In Japan, on time is 15 minutes early.
-Try to talk with the other interviewees. It’ll put you at ease and look good.
-Look as tidy and professional as possible. Remember, they love conformity. “The nail that sticks out gets pounded down” is a favorite Japanese saying. That said, you do want to be memorable…but from your answers, not your appearance.
Overall, like any job interview, be yourself. Be confident about your ability to do the job of an ALT. Be modest about your knowledge of Japan, but express your exuberance and excitement over living there and teaching there. Ganbatte kudasai! がんばってください。
Feel free to post any of your own helpful hints, experiences, or questions.