As far as I know, every consulate does things a little differently, but the basics stay the same. I chose Houston as my consulate for my interview and departure place. It wasn’t the closest consulate to me, I’m from Kansas, but it was the most convenient since I have family that lives in Houston. Just remember that whichever consulate you chose as your interview place, will also be where you will have your mandatory pre-departure orientation and where you will leave to Japan from (if you pass the interview).
Okay let’s get started!
I received an email on January 11th stating that I had been accepted to partake in an interview (yay!), along with a list of the available times and dates, and further instructions. I had four dates to choose from, along with the option of a morning or afternoon interview time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my first choice, but I got my second choice so it was okay.
Now that the date was officially set, it was time to prepare for the interview. I had a little less than a month to prepare and to be honest, I felt like it was more than enough time. So like the procrastinator I am, I put off practicing interview questions until about a week before the interview.
My first concern was my interview outfit 😛 I read so many forums and blogs, only to realize that most people just needed to chill out. Here’s my rendition of some of the “advice” I read:
“Don’t wear ANY makeup! Remember Japanese people don’t wear makeup so go bare-faced.”
“You HAVE to wear pantyhose! No pantyhose = instant failure.”
“No matter what, don’t wear black pantyhose. It’s the biggest fashion faux pas you could ever make.”
“No tight clothing! Buy your suits/dresses/shirts/skirts two sizes bigger just in case.”
“All skirts and dresses must reach beneath your knees. Showing knees = scandalous.”
“Avoid all bright colors and any patterns. Grey and black are your only friends.”
“Don’t you dare to be different! Conform, conform, conform!! Blending in is the key to success! Standing out is forbidden!”
Overall, it was a whole bunch of over exaggerated nonsense with only little nuggets of helpful information. The only good I got out of it, and the only advice I took, was to dress professionally. The problem is that everyone’s definition of “professional” differs. I took it to mean, nothing too short, nothing too revealing and make sure to wear a business jacket/blazer. Also, I probably shouldn’t wear any of my 6-inch heels.
I decided on a light grey business dress and a dark grey blazer. I matched it with black pantyhose and black 2-in heels. I thought it looked professional, despite it literally killing my inner fashionista (I think everything looks better with high heels). It was definitely not something I would regularly wear, but for JET we do anything right? But just in case I ended up hating my chosen outfit the day of the interview, I had my back up outfit. A black button-up blouse with some lace detailing on the front, a black skirt, and a pink and black polka-dot blazer. Again with black pantyhose and black 2-in heels.
In case you don’t like my outfit ideas, here’s what I saw in the JET interview waiting room while waiting to be called for my interview. The JET coordinator and her assistant both only had bb cream on, both wore blazers (one black, one grey), and both wore white button down shirts. The JET coordinator was wearing a skirt with her outfit (also grey) and her assistant was wearing slacks (also black). One of the other interviewees chose to wear no makeup, a black blazer, black slacks, and some neutral color shirt (poor girl was so bland I honestly can’t remember much about her). The other interviewee also wore black slacks but matched with a colorful, patterned blouse, and no blazer. She did wear makeup and even winged her eyeliner, but not dramatically. The former JET who was on my panel of interviewers, however, wore nothing remotely close to what we’re advised to wear so I won’t bothering sharing her outfit. The fellas all wore similar clothing consisting of dark color slacks and matching blazers (I only saw one who forwent the blazer), muted colored button-down shirts, and most wore ties as well, again muted colors. (As a disclaimer: I have no idea whether or not any of the other interviewees were accepted into the JET Program.)
With only a week left for the interview, I decided it was probably time to start looking up some interview questions. I had previously looked into it, but there were so many lists of questions that the thought of making my own list and answering them was daunting.
Here is the list I compiled based on the questions I saw mentioned most frequently and what I thought would apply to me:
- Why do you want to go on the JET Program?
- Why did you go to (country) first if JET was your #1 choice?
- What did you gain from your international experience?
- If you had a great time abroad, what made it great? Specifically, what people made it great for you?
- What makes someone a good ALT? What have you done that demonstrates these qualities?
- Tell me about your teaching experience.
- Is there anything that could bring you down while living in Japan? How would you handle difficult times or situations in Japan?
- How would you handle stressful situations at school?
- How would you handle a problem student? A problem classroom?
- What would you do if a student had a violent outburst?
- How would you handle conflicts with co-workers?
- How would you deal with working with an uncooperative Japanese Teacher of English? An uncooperative principal?
- What would you do if a teacher at your school used you like a tape recorder in class and asked you to sit in a corner when you weren’t being used?
- What would you do if your principal started making sexual comments to you or touching you inappropriately at a work drinking party?
- How would you react if you were told as a female teacher that you were expected to serve tea to the males teachers?
- How will you represent your home country while in Japan? How will you represent it at school? In the broader community?
- We can see that you love living in Japan and are anxious to work there, but what will you give back to the community?
- What do you hope to get from your experience in Japan? What do you hope to give back?
- What goals do you have for your time in Japan?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- How does JET factor into your future goals?
- How do you hope to promote cultural exchange while in Japan?
- What do you know about the Japanese education system?
- What are some differences between Japanese schools and American schools?
- What would you do for games and lessons in Japan? What examples can you give?
- If your students have very low-level English ability, how will you communicate with them? How will you teach them?
- What if your students don’t want to learn English? How would you get them interested in your class?
- How would you motivate disruptive students?
- What would you do in the situation where the Japanese English Teacher doesn’t show up for class and you’re alone in the classroom?
- What would you answer if an elementary school student asked you why the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
- How would you handle being harassed in a public place, like on a train?
- What would you do if you were walking down the street and an elderly Japanese person started yelling racial slurs at you?
- What would you do if you were receiving unwanted attention/being harassed?
- You listed X position as work/volunteer experience on your application. How do you think this position could help you as a teacher on JET?
- X, Y, and Z are listed as your hobbies and interests on your application. How do these relate to your culture? How would you teach people in a Japanese community about your hobbies?
- How would you present your culture in a lesson?
- What 3 props would you use to teach about your country?
- What is an American ideal you would like to share with your students?
- If you could present one great American, who would you talk about and why?
- What is your favorite part of Japanese culture?
- What are some famous places in Japan that you know?
- Who are some famous Japanese people that you know?
- Can you name two Japanese celebrities?
- What are the 4 main islands of Japan?
- Who is the Prime Minister of Japan? The emperor?
- Are you familiar with the current economic situation in Japan?
- What’s happening in Japanese news?
- Describe current (your country)-Japan relations?
- How can JET help (your country)-Japan relations?
(It is also advised to have some short sample lesson demonstrations prepared as you will mostly likely be asked to do an impromptu lesson. I, personally, didn’t bother to do this because I’m lazy and overconfident ^^;)
It took me about three days to actually buckle down and answer them all. Although, I must admit I didn’t practice them until the day before the interview. I was more concerned about studying as much Japanese as humanly possible.
You see, on my application I put that I knew some basic Japanese. The only reason I put that was because I studied one semester of Japanese at university, which shows up on my transcript, so I felt like I couldn’t say that I didn’t know anything, even though it had been years since I lasted read/wrote/spoke in Japanese. So I was studying my butt off, as much as I could between work and life, but Japanese is not an easy language and I was petrified of being unable to answer even one question that they asked me in Japanese.
The day before making my 12 hour drive to Houston, I made sure to pack my interview outfits, my photos for the voucher, my release form, and my voucher. Naturally, I double and triple checked that I had the my voucher, my release form, and my photos, even though I knew that I could always print them off again in Houston if I needed too. I just couldn’t help worrying about them.
And then I was off, embarking on a long and boring 12 hour drive that would bring me to my destination: the Consulate-General of Japan.