10 Tips to Pass the JET Interview

When I applied for the Jet Program, I had no idea it was so competitive and I did zero research. I simply applied, showed up for my interview, and I got in. You are probably smarter than me and that is why you are here looking for advice on how to get into JET. So how did someone so unprepared make it into JET? If you ask me now, five years later, I would tell you the secret to getting into JET is confidence sprinkled with a bit of charisma. Here are my 10 veteran tips to pass the JET interview

CONFIDENCE: I already mentioned this, but I want to elaborate. Be confidant in who you are. There is not one ideal JET prototype teacher. JET hires people from all around the world. People from different cultures, backgrounds, educations, and with different teaching experience. I didn’t study education. My degrees are all in the fine arts and business of fine art, but I still got in. Focus on who you are and what you bring to the table.

DON’T BE NERVOUS: When you are nervous you make mistakes. You say stupid stuff. You talk too much and you may even start to sweat. I understand it’s natural to feel nervous in these sort of situations. One of the things I do, is turn those nervous jitter bugs into exciting butterflies! How do I do this? Well, whenever I am about to give a speech, teach a new class, or go in for an interview, I tell myself, “This is so exciting”! I feel like telling yourself how you feel, actually does something in your brain. Another thing I tell myself is, “I am here to teach! These people don’t know what I know. They need me”. I am sure some of you guys are rolling your eyes, thinking this girl has got an ego. But, this isn’t an ego thing. The JET Program needs you. That is why they are recruiting and hiring. THEY NEED YOU. And, what is an interview? It’s potential employers trying to get to know you. Who knows more about you, than you? Exactly. You are the expert in the room on you.

WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THE TABLE?: What makes you stand out? One of the biggest mistakes people make in an interview is only talk about why the JET Program will benefit them. This applies to your application as well. Trust me, the JET Program knows how awesome the JET Program is. Why are youawesome?  It is definitely okay to show that you are excited and interested in the program, but what makes you stand out? Every question they throw at you is an opportunity for you to show them why they want you. We know they need you but why do they want you.

Here is an example question: “Why do you want to join the JET program?” Here is a sample answer, “Well, since substitute teaching this last year, I learned that I really like how teaching children brings out my silliness. It’s a lot of fun connecting with my students and I found that I can do that and engage them with humor. I think that this ability of mine to have fun will help me a lot in a Japanese classroom, especially with lower level or weaker students. I think they can become more interested in learning English and listening to me if they enjoy being in the class with me”.

What did I do in this example? I showed them I have teaching experience, I showed them I have a fun personality, and I showed them that I understand how important my role is as an ALT to engage my students and motivate them to care about English. Because let me tell you, many of them do not care.

CHARISMA: What is going on with you face and your body during the interview? This is basic stuff, but it’s very important. Make normal eye contact, use intonation in your voice, don’t put your hands in your pocket, sit with good posture, relax your shoulders, breathe, and most importantly, smile! If you are talking about how fun you are, and yet you don’t crack a smile, am I gonna think you are fun? No, no, no!  I think JET wants fun. Fun doesn’t mean stupid, fun doesn’t mean lazy or not serious, fun means you can engage your students!

DON’T BE INTIMATED BY THE NON-SMILING BAD COP: There will be three people in the room asking you questions. I remember when I got into the room, they first asked me to tell them about myself. Well, at the time I was doing very exciting design work. I was making a collection for breast cancer survivors for Oklahoma Fashion Week and I was telling them my story and before I could even get to my teaching on the side bit, the only man in the group cut me off and said, “Well do you want to be a designer, or a teacher?” That is a pretty easy scenario where you can plummet into a spiral of doom. The “oh no! I’m not gonna pass this job interview”, but did I feel that way? No, instead I took it as an opportunity to show off and I fired back with, “Actually, I think the arts and teaching have a lot in common. They both involve a lot of problem solving, so I think my experience as a designer makes me a better teacher because I can adapt to different situations and people. And, I can find creative solutions”. Ka-ching

THE JAPANESE TEST: When I applied for JET, I put no Japanese language ability or beginner Japanese on my application, and I still got asked to try and read a paragraph. Granted, I did study abroad in Japan for a semester and I took a beginner Japanese class, but it is not like I remembered any of it; however, it was still really important for me to take a crack at it. Why? Well what is the goal of this part of the interview? Is it to see if you can in fact speak Japanese? Or, is it to see if you understand how language learning works and how your students may feel? The answer is both. If you are a CIR, you definitely need to know your stuff, but for ALTs, Japanese is not a requirement. During this portion of the interview, I tried to read the sentences and more importantly I tried to sound out the words I didn’t know, because that is what we want of our students. Which is exactly what the exJET who interviewed me said after I had finished.

WHAT TO WEAR: Now you probably already know that business attire in Japan and for JET is super boring. Black suits with a white shirt. Did I mention I was a fashion designer before JET? I wore a professional, beautiful, yellow and black knee length dress with a professional black cardigan over it. I had my hair down and wore some black closed toed shoes. Now if you are going for the CIR position, you should probably wear the boring black suit, but if you are going for an ALT position, don’t be scared of color, just make sure what you wear is professional and that you don’t look like a rainbow.

Gentlemen and gentlemen identifying people should wear a tie and a dark colored suit. I like standing out, so I would wear a colorful tie. Ladies and lady identifying people could wear the same or, (and I think that we get more wiggle room since our professional wear has more options) something along a suit. I wouldn’t wear a bright red suit or dress, but you don’t have to be scared of color either. The key is to have your shoulders and chest covered. Nothing too short neither. I would follow the dollar bill rule: If there is more space than the width of a dollar bill between the hem of your garment and the tip of your knee, it is too short.

SHOW UP ON TIME: If your interview starts at 10:00 and you show up at 10:00, you are late my friend. In Japan, when I would arrive to school a couple minutes before the first bell rang, people noticed. Show up with ample amount of time, cause if you are late, your chances of getting in go basically to zero.

WHEN DOES YOUR INTERVIEW START?:
 Well, when do your classes start? The moment the bell rings or the moment your students first see you? That’s right, the moment you enter the office, sign in, and sit in the waiting room, big brother is watching you. I had no idea about this before I got to Japan, and who knows if it’s really true, but apparently part of the interview is to see how well you do meeting new people. So they have someone in the waiting room watching your interactions while you wait. I guess it could be true because who wants a grumpy JET that doesn’t acknowledge others? A big part of Japanese culture is “aisatsu”, which means, “greetings”. In Japan, when you walk into your office or your school, you always greet everyone. You say, “Ohayo gozaimasu”, and people respond to you. When you leave, you do the same, “Ssakini shitsureishimasu”, and people respond. So, it is probably a good idea, especially for CIRs to say, “Hello everyone!” when you enter the waiting room and when you enter the interview room. You should also remember to say, “thank you” and “goodbye” at the end.

HAVE FUN: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. JET is a great program and I highly recommend going to Japan through JET, but it isn’t the only way to get to Japan and it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get through. I also don’t think your interview outcome is an accurate measurement of your worth as a teacher. There are some people that get into JET that end up doing very poorly and are not that great of teachers. There are also a lot and I mean a lot of people that didn’t get into JET that teach through other organizations or companies and they are incredible at what they do. So just be your authentic self, do your best, and be proud of yourself for all the effort you put into this process.

I’m wishing you all luck! I hope my 10 tips on passing the Jet Interview gave you some extra confidence. Now go out there and crush it! If you have any more questions please comment or contact me. Don’t forget to like and share this blog, and if you want to get more useful information about JET/nonJET alternatives/teaching ESL stick around for my other posts or subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thank you and Ja ne!

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