The JET interview is designed to put you under pressure. The format may differ slightly from country to country and year to year, but there are three things that everyone stepping into the interview den can expect. One, a long table occupied by three people â€“ a Japanese representative, a previous JET, and someone involved with the Programme at your local Embassy. Two, a chair placed a few meters in front of the table. Three, a large empty room or hall to complete the intimidation context. As expected, the table and chair arrangement is placed at the end of the hall or room and you sit on the lone chair - the smallest thing in the scenario. Each of the interviewers then get their turn to ask you questions, and 15 minutes later you walk out knowing whether you aced it or need to be posting the interviewers Belgian chocolates and bottles of wine (don't do this, it won't help).
Before following these tips read over Part 1: The Build Up (which offers preparation advice and lists some questions that you may be asked) and Part 2: The Japanese Embassy (which goes over some tips of what to do at the Embassy on the day of your interview).
Show confidence. Whether you have it naturally or have to act it out, do what you must â€“ but confidence is key. You're there because you want to be, so calm down, enjoy the experience and be confident in your ability to ace the interview and secure your spot in the JET Programme. When you walk into the room, don't go directly for your chair â€“ approach the panel of interviewers and greet each one with a handshake and a smile. This creates an immediate impression of confidence, professionalism and respect for the interviewers. One applicant sat down and before the interviewers asked him any questions, he spoke up and asked them if they didn't mind introducing themselves and mentioning how they are involved with the JET Programme. He showed genuine interest in each interviewer's answer. Before any questions had been asked, the power in the room had balanced out and he clearly showed that he was a confident applicant.
When answering questions, speak loudly and clearly. You're applying for a job in which you will be teaching English â€“ the quality of your voice alone may get you through. Even if you have to slow down you're speech or if it feels like you're shouting â€“ do what you must to show them that when you speak to a room full of learners, everyone will hear you.
It's also important to keep eye contact at all times â€“ if you're about to break eye contact do not look down or around the room â€“ shift your gaze towards the eyes of a different interviewer. The majority of your eye contact should fall upon the interviewer who asked the question that you were answering, but give the other two a brief moment every now and again to indicate that you are including everyone in the conversation â€“ just be sure to end the answer looking at the one who asked the question.
When someone is explaining something, smile, nod, look attentive â€“ and when answering, smile as much as is possible. If you are confident without smiling, this can seem arrogant. If you are confident and keep smiling, it looks like you're enjoying yourself, and this is the type of confidence that will see you doing well in the interview. Going back to the initial example of the confident applicant, he smiled as much as possible â€“ the opening tactic would not have come off as planned if he had asked the question with a serious expression and without showing genuine interest in each answer that the interviewers had given. Lastly, exit the room with the same confidence that you entered it. Shake each interviewers hand once again and thank them for their time.
Speak clearly, shake the applicants' hands, smile, maintain eye contact and come prepared â€“ these are the ingredients to a recipe for interview confidence.
Show enthusiasm. If you can show genuine enthusiasm at the prospect of travelling to Japan and being a part of the JET Programme, you've already half way there. This is where you show your energy â€“ if your eyes light up at the mention of life in Japan and you smile as they ask you questions about the country and why you want to go, you're the type of applicant they're looking for. The point of the JET Programme is to promote cultural interactions between Japan and the rest of the world â€“ so showing no interest in interacting with the Japanese and immersing yourself in their culture will see the interviewers showing even less interest in putting you on a plane to Japan. You don't have to shift around in your chair and look as if you're about to burst from excitement, but showing some enthusiasm and a willingness to answer questions and discuss all the points about Japan that interest you will go a long way to getting a position as an ALT. This is another aspect where preparation comes into play â€“ the more you know about Japan (and why you want to go there) the more your interest in the country will shine through, and the easier it will be to answer questions with enthusiasm. You've applied for the JET Programme for a reason, and now is not the time to hold back â€“ show them how much the prospect of becoming a JET excites you. And remember, everyone is different â€“ the interviewers know this, we don't all show excitement in the same way. If you're more reserved, then rely on thorough explanation to flesh out your smiles â€“ if you're very outgoing, then maybe your expressions will do the trick on their own. Don't let the idea of forcing enthusiasm affect your confidence, just relax, be genuine and do it your way.
Have an answer for every question. This is where you'll be most thankful that you prepared for the interview. If you are well prepared, you should have a decent answer to just about anything that the interviewers ask.
When you're asked a question, don't take forever to get to the point, but rather say too much than too little. Never decline to answer a question, never say I don't know, and never answer with just one word. Perhaps you're asked "have you taught children before" or something of the like. If you haven't, don't say no. Say something like "Not formally, but I have had to train people how to use the till and cash up in my previous job, and I found that I have a knack for explaining things". Obviously this would have to be applicable to you, but the point is, no matter how stupid or insignificant it may seem to you â€“ relate any relevant experience that you can think of to an answer to a question that you seemingly have no good answer for. Questions can be tricky, and its best to smile at the challenge of the question rather than look at the interviewer as if you're a deer caught in headlights. If you really don't know the answer to a question and can't think of a single bit of relevant information, just explain that you don't know at the moment but that you would be more than willing to find out, learn, prepare etc. if it was required of you. This is a great statement to fall back on, but if you find yourself saying it for every second question, you'll look as unprepared as you're going to feel â€“ so don't underestimate the importance of preparation when applying for the JET Programme.
Use nerves to your advantage. Sometimes you may feel that nerves are stifling your performance no matter how well prepared you are. Some people like to end the interview with something like "I don't think I expressed myself to my full capability during this interview but would be much more expressive and comfortable in the actual working environment". Don't do this. You might as well end the interview with "Before I go, please allow me to take the confidence that I may or may not have been portraying during this interview and flush it down the toilet along with my chances of being a JET". Don't draw attention directly to a problem that you feel you may have been having â€“ the interviewers know that people get nervous. And you don't know how they were seeing you, it's easy to overlook your good points because you were focusing on how nervous you were. Use the tips for showing confidence to balance out nerves, and if you want to indicate that you're nervous, work it into an answer. The same candidate who asked the interviewers to introduce themselves used this tactic. He was asked what his main weakness was, to which he replied "I can get stressed and anxious in some situations, even if it isn't that noticeable". He was then asked in which situations this might happen and he paused and replied "interviews actually". The interviewers laughed and just like that, his nerves became an advantage. Even if you pause as you're struggling to think of an answer and say "it seems that nerves are getting the best of me" to give yourself a breather â€“ this is much better than an apologetic statement at the end of the interview. Whatever you do, don't let nerves ruin your interview â€“ you will be nervous and that's completely okay, just let yourself be nervous and get on with business.
A job well done
Once you've completed the interview, it's time to congratulate yourself on getting past the climax of the JET application process. Nothing that comes after the interview is as important or potentially difficult as the interview itself â€“ unless you are required to wrestle a professional sumo to the ground, but to date â€“ this has not been required of any JET applicant in any country.
The hard parts over, all that's left is to read Part 4: After the Interview and look forward to that moment in time when you realise that you've completed your interview and its gone amazingly well.