Long time no see guys. Sorry about the radio silence. However, my sources (and by sources I mean Facebook) tell me that the results for JET interviews have been released and those chosen are beginning to freak out a bit. I thought I’d put up a post about my experience with and advice for the interview process.
1. Dress Purdy
Firstly, there’s a lot more to the interview than the interview itself. You need to appear as professional as possible. That means a suit and tie for the men and a pants suit or skirt and jacket for the ladies. It gives off a very professional tone to the interviewers, conveying that yes, you really want this and you’re willing to be uncomfortable to get it. For me I had a black jacket and pants with a white button down. Boring, yes, but professional.
I also don’t know if this helps, but I decided to paint my nails purple and have a purple purse with me, just so I wasn’t too generic. Maybe that worked against me, but I also had other things working against me, so it can’t hurt too badly.
Another note, if you have long hair or medium hair, or any hair for that matter, bring a brush. You have no idea what the weather’s going to be like and you probably shouldn’t have it strewn every which way.
2. Leave Early, Leave Often, and Know How to Park Your Car
Here’s where we get to the other thing that worked against me, but I’ll get to that in a second. You want to know where you’re going for your interview. Make sure you print the directions (print? who does that in this day and age?). The reason I say print is because there is a chance you won’t have service, like on a subway. I interviewed in DC and took the metro, so the paper was a must.
Secondly, leave early for your interview. In the states, you really can’t depend on the public transit system to arrive on time. I managed to get an interview right after Snowpacalypse 2010 and the buses were not running on schedule (not that they ever do…). I left 3 hours prior to my interview, with about 1.5 hours of travel time, yet I was still late (see next paragraph). I’d say that’s pretty sufficient, to give yourself at least an hour of time to get lost on your way.
Ok, here’s the deal with parking and why I mentioned it. As far as the DC interviews go, there is no good parking around the embassy. I planned on parking and taking the metro in. That’s all well and good. The problem was that I did not bring a map of the station area, just the way to the station. I got terribly lost down one way streets and wasted an hour of time, and ended up being around 10-15 min late for my 30 min interview. Bad stuff, I know. Anyway, the point is that if you’re parking in an unfamiliar area, or even a semi-familiar area, print the freakin’ map. Print it of the area around where you’ll be parking because on interview day–you’ll be nervous and make stupid mistakes and get lost three times
3. If something goes wrong, fake that smile like you mean it
As I mentioned in #2, I was terribly late and s was pretty sure I was not going to be accepted, dashing all of my hopes I had built up for 4 years of college (yes, die-hard, I know). However, you cannot let the interviewers know how rattled and nervous you are. Slap on that smile, sit tall. If it’s something like being late, you want to apologize once, give a short explanation, and drop it. They’re not there to hear why you’re late; they just want to get as much info from you in the time they’re given.
It’s the same if you kind of mess up a question. I had one question where I completely missed the point and my save was equally lame, but we just kept going. Only when I got outside the embassy gates did I seriously break down hardcore (and I mean hardcore). You’ll be faced with situations in the position that will frustrate you and make you want to cry if you’re an easy crier (like me). I’ve heard from some people that they purposefully put someone into your group that won’t smile, laugh, or react to anything you say or do. Don’t worry about it. They’re there for a reason.
4. The Format (aka, what you’re actually reading this for)
Although every situation is different (abbv. ESID within JET, it’s a running joke), I’ll let you know the format of my interview.
First things first. In my 10-15 min lateness, the interview was a little shorter than most, though I think they went past 4 o’clock since I was the last interviewer of that day. Someone will bring you to the interview room and you will be introduced to your three interviewers. One is a previous JET, one is a Japanese official, and I don’t really know what the third one was. I think mine was a professional educator. Note: Although this is an interview for a job in Japan, you really shouldn’t attempt any Japanese actions, such as bowing or saying はじめまして. Your job on JET is not to assimilate, but to be a bit of an ambassador for your country. See Rachel’s post on that here.
After that you will be seated facing the interviewers. They’ll ask you the generic questions: Why JET? Why are you interested in Japan? Why should we pick you? I got asked about my time spent abroad at Kansai Gaidai and any hardships I had with my host family and how I dealt with them. JET wants you to be able to adjust to your environment. They’re looking for people who aren’t going to flake out after the first year because they couldn’t deal with a different culture. One question I would say to tread lightly around is the, “how did you get interested in Japan?” question. For me it started with anime, to be honest. When I was asked that, I didn’t hide it, but I did point out that the shows got me interested in the culture and made me want to learn more about it (which is completely true). Don’t lie to the interviewers about your “otaku” past, but make sure that they know that is not the focus of your life.
After these basic questions, the interview got a little more unique. I think at least one of the questions is just a softball one. Mine was “If you could go back and see an era of Japanese history, what would it be and why?” I was also asked by the Japanese man if he could ask a question in Japanese, to which I replied yes. Messing up is okay with that, too. You don’t need to know the language, but making a concerted effort when asked shows that you’re flexible to a different culture. For those who are curious, he asked me about my time abroad in Japan. I didn’t understand one of the words he said to me, and we switched back to English when the ALT said she wanted to hear my answer in English.
I’ve heard tell that some interviews have you doing a mock lesson. As ESID points out, that was not the case for me. I was asked what I would do to explain a certain holiday and target it toward cultural and language learning. Expect a question like this. They want to know how creative you would be in the classroom.
I can’t really remember any other specific questions. I’ve heard of a couple times where they throw a hard question at you, like “You’re offered whale meat to eat at a party. What would you do?” or “Would you ever strike a student? What if the teacher you are teaching with struck a student in front of you? What would you do?” I didn’t get any of these, but here is a crazy collection of interview questions. Skim them if you’d like. Not all will be asked (obviously).
5. Parting Advice
Be Confident: You have to convince these people that they want you for JET. It’s the same way in any interview. Although this won’t take you all the way, if you believe that you are pretty awesome, they’ll believe it too, even if in the back of your mind you think you’re the worst person ever. Stand tall, smile, sit up straight, and sell yourself (but not your body, though that might get you a job…)
Know Your Stuff: Make sure you come to the interview knowing who the PM of Japan is, who your governor is, and who the president of your country is. You should also at least know a little bit about Japan (and if you’re reading this blog, I hope you at least have a slight grasp on where Japan is).
Stand Out: While it might be hard to stand out in fashion, bring your personality to the table. Don’t hide your quirks. If you are pretty awesome at games, tell them that you can connect with your students in that way or incorporate it into your lessons. If you’re into sports, tell them you’ll participate in the school teams. If you’re into music, tell them you’ll help out with music events at school (I’ve been tapped to play the piano for a vocal competition). Think a bit about this before you go to your interview and how you can connect with students.
If you have any other pressing questions, leave a comment and I’ll either edit this post or make another one answering those questions. I’m sure I missed something or I wasn’t clear enough. Good luck to all of you this year! JET’s getting more and more selective, but don’t let that get you down! Work supa hard for it!
Jennifer Cammarn graduated from Gettysburg College in 2010 with a BA in Japanese Studies. She served on JET Programme as an ALT and is teaching in Hakuba, Nagano, site of the ski jump, downhill, and cross country ski competitions in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.