JET Program Interview Guide

Congratulations to everyone who passed through to the interview stage of the JET Program application process (especially Alyssa, who recently wrote for the blog)!  If you thought the wait between sending in the application and waiting to hear about the interview was bad, just wait for the absolute mind game that is the wait between the interview and finding out your results in April.  Welcome to hell!

The interview process is notoriously difficult, and more than a little intimidating, so today I’m going to share what I did to prepare for my interview last year, so hopefully you can go into your interview (somewhat) prepared for what’s about to happen.

First of all, let’s talk about the interview setup.  When you enter your consulate, you’ll hand a bunch of dumb paperwork over to a past JET, who will check you in.  You’ll sit there for a little while while you wait, trying not to shit your pants while other prospective JETs and the past JET who is also sitting there try to make small talk with you.  They will ask you normal questions like “where did you ask to be placed,” and you will answer with the stock answer you practiced after reading this guide, and the past JET will say to you, “uh, this isn’t part of the interview,” and you will think about that failed interaction every night when you’re trying to fall asleep for the rest of your life.  This part of the interview process is possibly worse than actual interview.

Finally, mercifully, you will get called into the interview itself.  You’ll be interviewed by a panel of three people, including one past JET.  I’ve read in many places that there will often be an interviewer on the panel that gives you a hard time, presumably to see how you react under pressure.  I’m not sure how common this is, but it didn’t happen to me.  My interviewers were extremely nice and pleasant to talk to, which definitely helped.  The interview lasts for around 30 minutes for ALTs, and I think a bit longer for CIRs.  It goes by faster than you think it will.

As for the interview itself, it’s usually a mix of answering questions, showing off your Japanese ability, and the dreaded mock lesson.

Interviews are difficult to prepare for, because you never really know what they’re going to ask you.  Here’s exactly what I did last year to prepare:

Step 1: Review your application, Statement of Purpose, and placement requests.

This is pretty much a no brainer, but still important.  They’re probably going to have questions prepared tailored to you based on your application and statement of purpose, so you’d better remember what you said.  It’s not hard to remember what’s on the application, as it’s mostly job history and whatnot, but you said a lot of words in that SOP, so it’s best to review it.  I went through my SOP, wrote down the main points, and expanded on them.  I knew they wouldn’t ask me to expand on these ideas directly, but was good to help me organize what I wanted them to know about me.

If you requested a placement, they will ask you why you chose it, so make sure you have a good answer.

Step 2: Practice Questions

This is a list of practice questions I compiled from searching around on the internet before my interview last year.  Literally everything they asked me in my interview (except the question about what I would say if a student asked me about Trump, true story) was on this list.  I was extremely prepared.
1. Why do you want to go to Japan? Why do you want to go on the JET Program?
2. Why JET vs. other channels? Would you apply to one of those if you don’t get into JET?  How did you hear about JET?
3. What would you bring to Japan to represent America?
4. If your students have very low level English ability, how will you communicate with them? How will you teach them?
5. What teaching experience do you have?  How is it relevant to working in Japan?
6. What kinds of negative experiences do you anticipate having and how would you deal with them?
7. What makes someone a good ALT? What have you done that demonstrates these qualities?
8. In your opinion, what is an American?
9. What makes you different from other applicants?
10. What do you think would make you a good ALT?
11. What international experience do you have?
12. How is your major related to teaching children in Japan?
13. What if you don’t get your requested placement, and are placed in a rural area?
14. What kinds of talents or special abilities would you bring to your students?
15. Why didn’t you study abroad?
16. Name the three most important people in American history
17. What would you say if a student asked you why America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
18. What are three distinctly Western things?
19. How would you respond to inappropriate comments from teachers or students?  How will you respond to possible prejudice and negative stereotypes?
20. In what ways do you expect education in Japan to be different than education in America?
21. If you had to give a presentation on any subject about America, what would it be?
22. What would you contribute to international understanding?
23. How will you represent your home country while in Japan?  At school? In the broader community?
24. How would you handle stressful situations at school?  A problem student?  A problem classroom?  Conflicts with coworkers?  How will you work together with Japanese colleagues?
25. What is a challenge you have overcome?
26. What are your best and worst qualities?

Step 3: Five Things

The practice questions are honestly enough preparation, but if you’re like me (aka anxious), you’ll want a little more preparation.  I came up with a list of categories that seemed to pop up a lot throughout the practice questions, and made a list of five for each category.
1. Reasons to visit my country
2. Personality traits (positive and negative)
3. Transferable skills I have
4. Things I would bring to represent my country
5. Interesting facts about my country/city
6. Famous Americans
7. Famous Japanese people
8. Current Events from my home country
9. Current Events from Japan
10. Things I want to do in Japan
11. Places I want to visit in Japan
12. Japanese food

Step 4: Mock Lessons

The next thing I did to prepare was come up with a list of possible mock lessons they might have asked me to do, and wrote down what I would do in that situation.  If you have a unique skill that you wrote about in your application, this step might be a waste of time for you, because they will probably ask you to do something with that skill.  For example, I used to be a dance teacher, so they asked me to teach them my self introduction using dance (on the spot I had no idea how to pull this off, so I literally just did a dance lesson.  I showed them the five ballet positions, then told them to get up and do it with me, which apparently people don’t do because they were very surprised when I said that).  On another note, I have heard of some people being asked to perform a dance or sing a song in their interview, even if they haven’t listed those things as hobbies or skills, I guess to see how well people do in front of an audience.

Anyway, if you’re boring and don’t have a special skill, here’s a list of possible topics that you might want to think of a mock lesson for:

1. Holidays
2. Sports
3. Self Introduction
4. America/American history
5. Household/Common Objects
6. Colors
7. Shapes
8. Numbers
9. Time
10. Animals
11. Family Members
12. Clothes
13. Directions
14. Weather
15. Seasons
16. Songs
17. Useful Phrases

Step 5: Misc.

1. Self introduction

I had (still have) little to no Japanese ability at the time of my interview, but they will ask you to speak a little Japanese in the interview, so I recommend practicing how to introduce yourself if nothing else.  In my interview they asked me if I could introduce myself, which, for someone who is not me, would be a prompt to do the introduction. I had A Moment™ and all I said was “probably!” in what I imagine was a panicked tone, and they didn’t push it.

2. Current events in Japan, Japanese Government, and Japanese International Relations

I looked all of these things up before my interview.  They didn’t ask me about it, and they probably won’t ask you about it either.  But you never know.

So there you have it–my extremely involved (too involved) interview preparation method.  Just preparing the practice questions is probably (definitely) enough, but I’m an overachiever and I’m assuming you are too.

After you leave your interview, you will get radio silence from the JET Program for about two months, other than random announcements about getting your FBI check done or whatever.  It is going to suck so hard.  You could have the best interview of all time, and you will still question whether it was a good interview at some point during that time.  I left the interview feeling extremely confident, and by the time I got off the train two hours later I was sure I didn’t get in.  The waiting game is a complete mindfuck, and you’ll probably have a mental breakdown.  🙂 Good luck!

2 Responses to “JET Program Interview Guide

  • I’m preparing for my JET interview now and I can’t tell you how helpful this was. Thank you so much for writing this and helping us out! <3 Bookmarking your blog to follow!

  • thank u for the support and assistance amanda-teacher

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