February 3rd had finally arrived. For the first time, I felt nervous about my interview. It hadn’t been the cause of sleepless nights or any anxiety attacks, nor had it been on my mind every second of everyday since I received my confirmation email. It wasn’t until now that I was in the car, on my way to the consulate, that it hit me.
I looked in the mirror to check my hair and makeup, opened my black leather folder to make sure my voucher and release form were in there, went over some of the potential interview questions, and attempted to distract myself chitchatting with my mom. Then I did the whole process all over again, and again.
I left with enough time that I knew even a traffic jam wouldn’t make me late. By the time I reached the consulate, it was still 50 minutes before my interview time (which was at 10:30 am). I, personally, didn’t want to show up too early for my interview so my mom and I cruised around for 20 minutes. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life.
Despite my mom’s attempt to distract me, my mind kept wondering back to my pending interview. I just wanted to get it over and done with. That way the butterflies in my stomach would finally leave and I could relax again. As the time drew closer my mom parked, we said a quick prayer, and off I was entering the consulate building as nervous as I could possibly be.
I walked into the building and immediately went up the escalators to the main floor. I went to the nearest elevator, stepped in and looked for the button for the 32nd floor. Only there wasn’t a button for the 32nd floor. I got off the elevator and went straight to the person at the front desk. I wasn’t about to waste time trying to find the right elevator myself.
I asked him which elevator I took to get to the 32nd floor and he kindly pointed me to the right one. That’s when I noticed that the elevators were marked at the top stating which floors each elevator went to. I felt a little silly once I noticed that, but I blamed it on the nerves.
Getting on the right elevator, I pressed the button for the 32nd floor and watched as the numbers rose until they hit my floor. I tried to calm the fluttering butterflies in my stomach and gave myself a little pep talk. With a ding, the doors opened and I took a deep breath stepping out the elevator. I looked around for the sign that would lead me to the JET Interview waiting room. I found it quickly enough and began to follow the signs. On my way there I saw a guy coming out of the bathroom and begin walking in the same direction. The thought of going to the bathroom quickly passed my mind, but I decided against it. I didn’t want to waste anymore time.
Soon I reached the door label “JET Interview Waiting Room” and stepped in. I was happily greeted by the coordinator and her assistant and invited to have a seat at the long table. That’s when I noticed that the guy who I had seen come out of the bathroom was also an interviewee. He took a seat at the middle of the table and I took one a seat away from him.
We were immediately asked for our release forms and vouchers. After looking over our documents and making sure everything was in check, they gave us back our vouchers telling us that we would be asked for them during our interview. During this time another interviewee came in, this time a girl.
While we were waiting, the coordinator and her assistant were nice enough to make conversation with us, easing our tension. Unfortunately, the big guy that came in with me was hogging up the whole conversation. Seriously, he wouldn’t let me or the other girl get a word in. Heck, he hardly let the coordinator say anything. He was too busy talking about himself, where he was from, how he did drama in high school and college, what plays he had been in, how he had worked at some youth camp, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know if it was nerves that made him unable to stop talking, I mean he was sweating profusely, but all I know was that it was ANNOYING.
Sure, it’s a smart idea to not be the person in the room who looks petrified and doesn’t say a word. I mean you want to make a good impression on the coordinators too, not just your interviewers, but don’t be that annoying person who won’t shut up either. Especially if all you’re doing is trying to talk yourself up. We get it, you’re amazing, the most awesome person in the world. Please stop talking now.
The other girl finally got a chance to put her two cents in and then she wouldn’t let it go either. Making herself sound like a certified ESL teacher one second, then admitting she was a substitute teacher the next (not that there’s anything wrong with being a sub, I was one too). It seemed like this was a pissing contest, and I wasn’t about to join. When I was finally able to get my one sentence in, (that’s right, one sentence) it was, “You must be pretty busy this time of year.”
During my 30 minute wait, two more interviewees joined us and two other interviewees, who hadn’t been in the waiting room with us, stopped by the room to say goodbye after their interviews were over and to write some words of encouragement on the whiteboard for the future interviewees.
Then a former JET came into the room and called my name. It was finally my turn.
The girl took my voucher and walked me the short distance to the interview room. She opened the door and motioned me in where I saw my two other interviewers. My interview panel consisted of two females and one male. One former JET, one Japanese professor, and one Japanese embassy employee. I smiled and said my greetings, then took my seat. I was seated at a small table in front of a longer table where the interviewers were seated.
My interview started with the former JET going over my application, making sure everything was correct, asking me questions about my preferences (I had none). Once that was taken care of, it was time for the hard part, the interview questions.
The first question I received was from the Japanese professor and it was not a question I was expecting, at all. Of all the questions that I had read on blogs and forums, of all the interview stories I had read, I had never heard of anyone being asked about their religion, but that was what my first question was about. Maybe no one else had put religious activities on their applications, but I was asked something along the lines of how would I deal with a situation where my school invited me/wanted me to participate in something that wasn’t my religion.
After answering that out-of-nowhere question, it was pretty smooth sailing. I was able to answer their questions with no hesitation, despite the fact that the questions they were asking me weren’t any of the questions I had studied. There was only one question that really stumped me, where I faltered and I’m pretty sure my answer came out as a rambling mess with an actual answer hidden somewhere in there. It was something like, “Tell us how your time working at State Farm will help you working as a JET.” Heck if I knew! Selling insurance and teaching English have nothing in common so coming up with an answer was tough. But luckily I smile when I’m nervous so I think that helped.
I’m not sure how many questions I was asked as I felt like one question would sometimes stem into two, but I want to say it was somewhere around 10 questions. I felt like my interview flew by and before I realized it, it was over. I didn’t have to give a lesson demonstration, I wasn’t tested on my Japanese ability (stressing out for nothing), and most shockingly, I wasn’t asked one question about my time teaching in Korea.
Honestly, I thought my interview would revolve around my experience teaching in Korea, but they never brought it up. I brought it up though, twice, especially when I was asked how I would go about teaching English to students who could be very low level English speakers. My answer was basically, “Well I’ve had to teach English to Korean kindergarteners before so I do have experience with ‘no-level’ English speakers.” It made me wonder if they just completely ignored that part of my application and SoP.
Overall my interview experience was pretty good. For the most part my interviewers were nice. The only serious one was the former JET. The Japanese professor was all smiles the entire time, which I took as a good sign, and I think I might have embarrassed the Japanese embassy employee when I offered to sing him one of the songs I used to sing to my kindergartners (he politely declined). I left the interview thinking that I had done a pretty good job, but I didn’t allow myself to feel too confident because I had read of many a person who thought they did well and didn’t end up getting shortlisted.
I walked back to the waiting room to say my goodbyes, wrote on the whiteboard, and then made my way back to the main floor. I stepped outside and let out a sigh of relief, feeling a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I had done all I could, and now it was up to them to decide my fate.