This is the third article in a series about the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) and about life in Japan in general. My goal is to “demystify” Japan and encourage anyone with an interest in teaching abroad to consider JET. Read my first post, Transition Japan: Your Apartment, here, and my second post, Transition Japan: Your Town & JET Placement, here.
An aspiring JET recently e-mailed me regarding her interview for JET. She asked for some advice about how to succeed, so I thought I’d share some general tips for anyone interviewing for the program. Although my memory is fading a little bit from my interview four years ago, my understanding is that all JETs will be assessed by a panel of three (likely consisting of two former JETs and a Japanese representative). These tips are aimed at those applying for the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) position.
1. Be professional and on time. Consider the JET interview to be like any other job interview. Wear your best suit, groom your hair carefully, and arrive early. I arrived about 30 minutes early after hearing, “In Japan, if you’re five minutes early, you’re considered late.”
2. Practice answers to basic questions. An obvious question that you’ll likely be asked is, “Why do you want to become a JET?” Be sure to have an honest and thoughtful response showing that you are knowledgeable about the JET Program and enthusiastic.
3. Show flexibility. I think in general, those interviewing JET candidates want to see someone who is flexible — that is, someone who can handle challenges. Living in a foreign country and immersing yourself in a foreign culture is incredibly rewarding but also incredibly difficult. With JET, you’ll likely have no say in where you’ll live and what ages you’ll teach. Show that you’re interested in the program, not just living in Japan.
4. Don’t babble solely about your love of Japan. This is only a personal opinion, and let me preface this by saying that having an interest in Japanese culture is vital for any successful JET. However, solely talking about your love of the country may not be the most successful interview strategy. Remember, you’re competing against thousands of other applicants who may have also minored or majored in Japanese studies. Showing that you have interests and hobbies beyond Japan will make you seem like a more dynamic applicant.
5. Emphasize past work experience. Even if you’re a recent college graduate, demonstrate that you’ve succeeded in past positions and understand how to be professional. I think part of the reason I was successful was because I had a lot of work experience prior to applying for JET, including a lot of positions that required working with individuals from foreign countries. I was honest in my interview and said that I understand no job is perfect but I know how to work hard. Ultimately, I think this helped me become a JET.
In part two, I’ll discuss the specific questions panel members asked me during my interview.