I cried when I got the email that said I was selected to be interviewed. I didn’t even care about the $500 plane ticket for a day trip to Vancouver either. I read somewhere that only 50% of people who apply (in Canada) get interviewed, and then only a further 50% of people interviewed get accepted. Of course this could all be made up numbers since JET doesn’t actually reveal their statistics.
But there I was, January 13th, bawling over the phone to my mother while also trying to check out flights. With only two weeks notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Thankfully I had started preparing on the off chance I did get an interview.
****MOCK INTERVIEWS ARE YOUR FRIEND****
Seriously, the best way to prepare yourself is mock interviews. Again, just like with your statement of purpose, get different kinds of people to interview you. Have them read your statement of purpose, give them a list of potential questions (just google, there are lists upon lists). Don’t just focus on your answers, also pay attention to body language and any nuances (like, ummm). If you can, record yourself. My biggest struggle was I waved my hands around like a little bird. I still ended up waving my hands in my interview, but being aware of it helped decrease how much I did it.
I was interviewed by three people — a Japanese man affiliated with the JET Programme some how, a previous JET who lead the interview, and a Japanese teacher who seemed very intimidating but was actually really sweet.
I walked into the building with my best genki face (super happy, outgoing, friendly)(I swear the word “genki” will one day make it’s way into frequent use in Western societies). I made small talk with everyone — other candidates, other interviewers (which set up a fun tone with my actual interviewers). I’m pretty sure I was a little delirious by this point — I’d been awake since 2 am Saskatchewan time, and my interview was at 3pm Vancouver time, about 5pm Saskatchewan time. I had flown in from Saskatchewan that morning and basically wandered around Vancouver the entire day. Maybe my exhaustion added to my genki-ness?
Anyways, so while I was waiting for my interview, a couple other interviewers went to get coffee and chatted with my interviewers. One of the men, when he came out, jokingly told me to watch out for the “sensei” (teacher). This was great because it created a connection with her once I entered as she laughed when I told her the man’s warning. I was ushered to a side table to put my things down, show them my ID (don’t forget this) and shake hands with everyone. I sat down at the lone chair in front of them. Not gonna lie, this was super intimidating. Everyone was super friendly though, and most of the questions they asked me were found on the lists I’d seen online.
-Why your placement and what will you do if you don’t get it?
-How would you deal with misbehaving students? (Bonus, read the ALT handbook on the CLAIR website)
Some questions that weren’t on the lists
-If a JET close to you gets better benefits (better apartment, subsidized, car, more holidays, etc) how would that make you feel?
-Say you bought a ticket to a once in a life time event on the weekend, but the school needed you to come in, what would you choose?
My most memorable question was if I knew of any recent events in Japan. I read the Japan times every weekend, but for some reason I completely blanked at this question. The only thing I could remember was a story I’d read a few months before about a 40 year old man tormenting the guys who bullied him when he was 10 by sending over 500 pieces of garbage in the mail. The best part? He put their address as the return address so he didn’t pay a cent for shipping. Surprisingly this story went over very well and everyone was laughing a lot. I’m pretty sure the more your interviewers laugh, the better your points will be.
I also had to do a mini lesson on a song I would teach to elementary school kids. I picked “Head and Shoulders” and got all the interviewers to stand up and participate. Thankfully I only had to go through it once, because the room was large and echoed and it was just a super awkward experience trying to teach adults pretending to be children, children songs.
Overall the interview was actually a lot of fun. Typically, interviews are supposed to be between 20-30 minutes maximum but I ended up staying for over 40 minutes (good sign?) and after I walked out, I was really glad that I was just able to be interviewed.
Until March hit (when results are announced), and again the refresh button on my email became my new best friend.