We’ve covered the school stats and the application requirements, but let’s be honest: those ain’t what most people are worried about. The award for “most pants-pissingly stressful stage of the Japanese job hunt and probably of your life as well” goes to the interview, that little slice of Hell wherein one or more stern-looking people you’ve never met judge you based on how well you manage not to soil yourself in front of them.
Interviews sure are freaky! That said, knowing what to expect beforehand can take some of the sting out of the ordeal. Let’s break the interview process down a little bit, shall we?
(P.S. I wanted this post to be a multimedia extravaganza. Therefore, please enjoy these pictures I found in two seconds on Google Image Search.)
The JET Interview
Some time in February, you’ll receive an announcement that JET has finished sorting through all the year’s applications. You’ll also receive a special number that allows you to check whether you scored an interview. If you made the cut, then congratulations! It’s time to schedule an appointment at the nearest consulate.
Note: You have to interview at the consulate to which you sent your application. If you sent it from another country, then…well, prepare to hop a plane back home, ‘cause there’s no way they’ll let you interview anywhere but your country of citizenship.
When you reach the consulate, you’ll most likely be waiting alongside a couple other interviewees. If you’re lucky, they’ll be cool. If you’re unlucky, they’ll give you an earful of false confidence: “I know I’m getting in, I studied classical Japanese at UC Berkley.” “I know I’m getting in, I studied abroad in Japan and received a high-five from the Emperor.” “I know I’m getting in, I love Naruto and met a Japanese person once.” Don’t let anyone psych you out! They’re only talking themselves up because they’re scared sh*tless.
When your name is called, you’ll enter a room and find three interviewers staring you down. It’s pretty much always three, and they tend to use a little bit of good-cop bad-cop: one interviewer will be super nice and encouraging, another will act like he’s got something up his butt, and the third will look like she doesn’t really care one way or the other. I’m not saying it’s always like that, but you should prepare yourself for a little bit of fronting on their part. It’s just their attempt to see how well you hold up under pressure.
As for what they’ll actually ask you, well, it really varies. You can bet there will be the typical getting-to-know-you queries, and a few questions about stuff on your application. If you indicated on your app that you know some Japanese, they’ll probably ask you to speak it. (Don’t stress about this — remember, you don’t have to know any Japanese to be an ALT.) Occasionally, they’ll give you a topic and ask you to come up with a model lesson off the top of your head. If that happens just do your best. “Composure” is the name of the game.
By the end of the interview, you might have some inkling of how well you went over. However, you can’t necessarily trust your gut on this one. Sometimes they’ll make you think they hate you, then send you an acceptance notification a few months later. All you can do is wait and see! :D
The Amity Interview
The Amity interview is a little bit diabolical in that they lull you into a false sense of security before yanking the rug out from under you. This happens in three stages:
The Group Interview
When you first show up at the interview location, you’ll find yourself in a conference room with maybe sixty other people. After playing one of those goofy ice-breaker games, you’ll all settle in and watch a multi-hour presentation on the charms of Amity. This can be a bit of a drag, especially since you’ll only get one break. That said, the recruiters try to keep the atmosphere really upbeat. By the end, you may be thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all!”
Model Lesson Presentations
It’s so bad after all. At the end of the group interview, you’ll be split into smaller groups of 8-10. Each member of your group will have five minutes to perform a five-minute model lesson (the rest of you will act as his/her students) while one of the recruiters scribbles furiously on a notepad. The key here is GENKI — be genki as heck, and make sure you speak slowly and clearly. Try to have some fun with it. Yes, this part is frightening, but five minutes goes by in a heartbeat, and you’re being graded more on attitude than technique.
The Individual Interview
If you came through the model lesson ordeal relatively unscathed, you might get a call from the recruiters asking you to come in for a personal interview the following day. This is where they spring their dastardly trap on you! At the start of the individual interview, one of the recruiters will ask you to rate your performance on the model lesson.
“Er, six?” you’ll say, trying to be modest.
“Actually, we gave you a four,” she’ll tell you, and you’ll try not to cry.
Then she’ll ask you what you think you could have done better. Then she’ll hand you some flashcards and tell you she’s going to leave the room for ten minutes. Your task is to throw together another model lesson by the time she gets back. After ten minutes that feel like ten seconds, the recruiter will return and ask you to teach her. By the way, she’ll be acting like a little kid. (A thirty-something woman acting like a six-year-old! If that doesn’t throw you for a loop, then nothing will.)
Each recruiter has her own established “kid personality.” The lady who interviewed me was extremely shy. The one who interviewed my fiance was extremely hyper and spent the whole lesson running around the room yelling “SUGOI!” and not paying attention. Then, after the simulation ended, she insulted his shoes. Ouch.
Ultimately, you won’t know what sort of impression you made for at least a month. Hang in there, tiger!
The AEON Interview
AEON’s interview process is basically identical to Amity’s (though, to me, it seemed slightly more laid-back.) The one fantastic difference is that AEON shows you a video about life as an AEON employee, and said video opens with a guy eating cereal with a really intense expression on his face. This kid is f*cking focused, man. He don’t give a number 2 about the cameras — he’s eating his cereal, damn it, and he’s eating it proper.
The Interac Interview
(Isn’t this like, the worst picture ever? Just two pieces of MS clip art slapped together on a black background that renders one of them nearly invisible. It makes me really happy, for some reason.)
Like AEON and Amity, Interac conducts interviews in stages. Three of them, to be precise.
The Phone Interview
This one’s really no big shake. Some dude in Utah calls you up and talks to you for maybe twenty minutes about why you want to work for his company. You’d have to be pretty thick not to figure out what answers he wants from you. I’ve honestly never heard of anyone being rejected at this stage. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of any being rejected by Interac, period.
Isn’t “webinar” a goofy word? What it means, basically, is that you’ll be hopping on voice chat with some other applicants and one or two Interac representatives. It’s primarily an informational meeting, although you may be asked a couple questions here and there. The webinar isn’t something you can fail, so don’t worry too much. It’s all over in two hours or so.
The In-Person Interview
Assuming you passed the first two stages (ha!), you’ll be summoned to the nearest large city to give a face-to-face interview. The questions themselves are easy. The recording is another story.
“Recording?” you ask. “What the…?” Yeah, they want to film you singing, teaching a model lesson, and introducing yourself in Japanese. (If you don’t know Japanese, don’t worry. They’ll give you a paragraph to memorize ahead of time.) I don’t know who ends up watching this stuff, but he or she must find it a laugh riot.
After that, you’re free to go. They’ll let you know in a few weeks if they want to offer you a job. (Hint: they will!)