Sunday, 5 February 2012

The JET Program / Programme Interview

Hi guys! I hope you are well in your part of the world! Today I am writing to the current applicants for the the ALT position with the JET Program. Your interview is looming and I hope you are not driving yourself too crazy fretting over what to do. To help you out, I will share my experience of the interview as an interviewee at the Brisbane Consulate for the 2011-2012 placement. As my interview was quite enjoyable, I am hoping that my experience closely resembles the one that you will have :)

I truly believe that the interview is nothing to be nervous about! I know that may seem impossible because by this point you have already vested a decent chunk of time waiting for the opportunity and have probably been raising your hopes high for the position. (In Brisbane) the atmosphere was actually relaxed, our interviews felt like a nice chat. They definitely didn't try to make us feel in the hot seat, allowing an opportunity to really show off our personality. I had a smiley academic, a friendly Japanese lady, and a former JET, a roster that I would pretty much expect at your interview (with smiley-ness being at your interviewees' discretion, of course).

So what do you need to prove to them? What are your important qualities? Well, your personality, flexibility and adaptability (PF&A) are important, as is your drive to EXCHANGE culture and language. Sell the fact that you want to not only introduce your country (and others*) to the Japanese, but to learn a lot from them and BRING that knowledge and those experiences back home. If you haven't already, commit to memory that the E in JET actually stands for exchange, not education (so many people make this mistake, lol.) This is your theme for the interview. So how have you been involved in cultural activities in your community? What knowledges can you bring? How can you introduce your country's customs and culture to your future Japanese community? Are you going to dive in and demand a booth at your future school's culture festival? Are you going to do a traditional dance of your country's indigenous people during your introductory lesson? Have fun coming up with your own ideas.

*you get a good opportunity to teach about other countries through the Eigo Noto textbook if you work at elementary school. 

Aside from proving your ability to be a cultural ambassador, you will be proving your PF&A through reciting past experiences and explaining how you handle hypothetical situations. You will inevitably get asked a question about how you would deal with feeling down in a foreign country. Basically I said it was important to keep in contact with friends back home, fellow foreigner friends and any Japanese friends or mentors you feel comfortable with communicating your problems with. I didn't, but you can probably mention that your future prefectural CIR will be invaluable help to you when trying to solve problems. Additionally I threw in other coping strategies such as doing exercise as it is a great way of bucking me up. I would go for a run to clear my mind and they liked that answer a lot. Whatever works for you! Cleaning your room? Eating a big cookie before the run?

It is likely that they will ask you of any situations where a cultural misunderstanding took place and how you dealt with it. A pretty testing question, especially so for those of you who will be going overseas for the first time. Do your best to think of an interesting experience you have had or else you are going to have to think of a plausible fib (hopefully it won't come to that though, haha). My answer was lame, but they thought it was funny so it kinda worked out for me. I mentioned slurping in a soba shop in Kyoto as being a big shock for me and I, heh heh, 'dealt' with it by asking my learned travel buddy about the etiquette of eating in Japan....:) Dressed it up a touch, but they seemed to dig it. "Oh I couldn't believe it! Was I in a particularly bad part of Kyoto? Why were there so many rude customers audibly slurping their hearts out at this particular establishment?" etc.

Also try to anticipate your future working culture and role. Basically consider that  (1) you shouldn't feel that discipline is your job because as an assistant language teacher it really should be up to the home room teacher* (2) you will try your best to keep the channels of communication open and make yourself available in the limited meeting time you are afforded, and (3) you will gladly enjoy becoming a member of the school (and local) community and from time-to-time get out of your way to join in school (and local) events and club activities.

*You should certainly never go over the HRT's head and discipline a problem student unless it really adds up to being a necessity. Also consider that there may be different standards for behaviour in your country versus those in Japan.

Those are probably the main things to dwell on. Additionally you should spend a little time thinking of a couple of reasons for why you chose your preferences (e.g. the experiences you may be able to get, the foods you want to try etc.) That's about all I can think of. Make sure you dress the part (yes to suits and ties for the guys), show off your personality and be ready to address the above questions/issues I have outlined and you should rock it. No need to be nervous, just be comfortable with being yourself. Unless you are a particularly unsavoury character, you have no reason to apply any pressure on yourself :)

Once it is all over, please don't go crazy waiting for the results to come out. Don't pay too much attention to (or even better, be blissfully ignorant of) any 'interviews results' and 'placement' threads on any JET-related forums. In my experience of last year, the mass of unhealthy speculation and misinformation generated on these threads (notice I said 'threads', not 'forums as a whole') verged on being, oh stuff it, WAS ACTUALLY a bold neon-lit shining example of how silly people can be behind a keyboard.

With all that said though, enjoy the limited time you have left in your part of the world. Until next time!


  1. thanks a heap for your advice daniel, i had my jet program interview in melbourne last week and this post was very helpful :)

  2. My pleasure, I am glad to help out. Now, as you have a long wait for results, keep as occupied as you possibly can! Good luck.

  3. good post! I totally agree with you on the "crazy waiting" part. I find that too many people get too hung up about their interviews and the release of results. I mean, fair enough, the program is much sought-after, but ultimately I feel it's basically like any other job application. I applied for the program in the most relaxed way, since I was already employed at that time, and I have something to fall back on. I think that actually helped me during the interview, and I didn't keep refreshing my email or JET forum pages.

    happy blogging! :D