So you've caught wind of the JET Programme and decided that a job as an assistant language teacher in the land of samurai and cherry blossoms is exactly what you need. You've taken the next step, gathered the necessary documents and submitted the hefty application to the Embassy. You've jumped around in excitement after receiving the confirmation notice that you have been chosen for phase two – the interviews and language proficiency test. So far so good.

And now that you've proven that you look good on paper, it's time to impress in person. You might feel that winging it is the way to go, but instead of playing Russian roulette with your Japanese dreams, its best to go over a few pointers.

Leading up to the day of the interview

Before you actually make your way to the Japanese Embassy on the date of your interview there will be a few weeks of excitement, nerves and anticipation leading up to the event. There are just three things you need to remember during this time: Preparation, preparation and preparation. And if you would like to add a fourth - preparation.

The JET interview seems to be designed to be a high pressure situation, and whether you think you're prone to it or not, you may find that you are quite nervous come interview day. You also may find the questions to be trickier than expected, and thinking on the fly and coming up with clever, thorough answers does not always go hand in hand with sweaty palms and a racing heart. The better you are prepared, the less nervous you will feel – and the more confidence you will portray.

Tip 1

If there are any documents that may be needed during the interview in any way, take them along. Maybe you mentioned on your application form that you are a writer or a poet – if this comes up during the interview and you find yourself talking about the joy that playing with words brings you, have an example of what you've done with you. Maybe you remembered a course that you've done that may come in handy as an ALT that you failed to mention on the application form – if you're going to bring it up make sure that you have a document of proof with you. Applied for the programme before your graduation date? Make sure you have a certified copy of your final results and graduation confirmation with you. Whatever it may be, if you have documents on you that you weren't asked to bring and it turns out that they are needed (even if they are not essential) – this creates a great impression. Just pick a few that are relevant to your application and keep them in a neat folder. A filing cabinet of useless information or a pile of loose notes aren't going to create the effect that you're going for.

Tip 2

Make a list of all the possible questions that you may be asked, and think of good answers to each one. Make sure you know exactly what you would say for each topic and have you're key points memorized. When you're sitting in that interview answering a barrage of questions, you'll be thankful that you did this. At the end of this article there is a list of questions that have been asked in a JET interview – go over these and think of good answers to each one. And remember, these answers need to come from who you are. You may know the questions, but there are no right or wrong answers. Think of answers that are unique to you, not answers that the interviewers may want to hear (and probably will hear over and over on the day of the interview). If you are applying to be a JET participant, you want to go to Japan and you have your reasons for doing so – so answer honestly and thoroughly from your own unique perspective (just leave out the parts about making good money and travelling for free – of course this is a great perk but it's the genuine excitement of going to Japan and experiencing a new culture that you want to tap into for the interview). The point of preparing questions is not only to come up with the most acceptable answer, but to make sure that the answer you do come up with is a reflection of yourself and flows freely and confidently.

Apart from the questions that have been asked to other applicants, think of questions that may be specific to you. Maybe you've taken up massage therapy as a hobby, volunteer at an orphanage or race motorcycles on the weekend – think about what you would say if asked why you do these things. The more passion and excitement in your answer the better.

Questions that previous JET applicants have been asked

The following questions seem to be asked in some variation to just about every applicant:

  • Please give us an introduction of yourself
  • Why did you choose *insert placement preference* as your number one choice?
  • Why do you have an interest in Japan?
  • Why did you apply for the JET Programme?
The following are examples of the types of questions that have been asked, some of them often, some of them in different variations. You may not get all of these, but knowing how to answer them should give you a solid foundation for other questions that are asked:
  • Have you taught before?
  • Are you comfortable with talking to and handling a large group (approx. 40) of young people?
  • If an old lady in rural Japan who has never seen a foreigner walks up to you and starts touching your face, what would you do?
  • If a young boy who believes he will never leave his village and won't need English and does not want to learn the language, how will you explain the importance of teaching English to the boy and motivate him to learn (keeping in mind that he cannot speak much English)?
  • How will you handle the 6 month hell (a difficult period that some people go through when adjusting to the new culture)?
  • You have a *insert qualification*, what can you take from this qualification that you can use when teaching a class of learners a new language?
  • Name what you feel is your main strength and main weakness.
  • What three objects would you take into a classroom to explain *insert name of your country* to a group of Japanese learners and why?
  • What problems do you suspect you will have as a vegan in Japan? (if you follow a particular type of lifestyle that had specific requirements, they will ask about this)
  • Can you tell me about any current news in Japan?

It comes down to one day at the Embassy

Now that you've gotten yourself in a state of total preparation, you're confidence should be way higher than where it started. And if it was already high, then you've already got one foot on the plane. All that's left is to show up for the big day and to do the interview and language proficiency test.

Contextual factors leading up to the interview on the day that you need to be at the Japanese Embassy can be as important as the interview itself, for advice on this stage see Part 2: The Japanese Embassy. For tips on the climax of the application process, the interview, see Part 3: The Interview. If you're wondering about what to do after the interview, see Part 4: After the Interview.