After completing a very complex application procedure between November and December 2013 (in which 4 copies of all my academic records, references, passport, medical assessments etc. had been posted to the Embassy of Japan in London), I was e-mailed to say that I had been invited to interview (which I had to confirm my prospective attendance again by e-mail) in late January 2014 at the JET Office in the Embassy of Japan in London. I had applied for the ALT position with a friend and we both were given a 1pm interview time so we traveled down to London together by coach the day before and stayed in a cheap hotel about 20 minutes away and on the day arrived at the Embassy at around 11.30am so we had plenty of time to check-in to the Embassy which was also quite a complicated procedure. Then a previous JET member guided us around the building (who had completed two years of ALT teaching in the city of Sanda in Japan), we completed a 5-minute written English test prior to the interview, then talked to other previous JET members to find out about their experiences whilst watching a sample video of the experiences of teaching in Japan, then I was called to be seated outside the interview room with a large sign placed in front of me which I had to read before entering the room (it said in large letters that if I went into the interview room before I was called in by an interviewer then my interview would be cancelled and I would have to leave - it's just so that I don't overhear anything that would give me an advantage over other candidates prior to interview, but it felt like I was waiting for a long time, possibly 20 minutes to be called in), then when I was asked to come in I shook the hand of the English interviewer who led me into the large interview room to be seated in front of a grand wooden desk, the English interviewer sat next to a Japanese interviewer at the desk, and there was another Japanese man seated separately like myself and he was judging how well the interviewers interviewed me. I shook everyone's hands both when I arrived and when I left the room, and I was asked questions as to why and how I could bridge the gap between science and teaching? why Japan and JET specifically? to which I answered I was very interested in science communication which I could possibly add to this programme and it would give me an edge over other candidates, and I have always been interested in Japan but not for the animé more specifically for the culture/food/hobbies that can be carried out in Japan, the humbleness and hospitableness of the people of Japan and the fact that I knew somebody who had previously been involved with a JET-like activity and who had said they enjoyed it (they actually applied to JET but had to cancel as they didn't graduate in time for the programme but have since participated in the Interac programme which is very similar; HOWEVER, please if you mention you do know somebody who has participated in the JET programme find out what specifically they enjoyed about the TEACHING ASPECT of the programme as I was grilled on this but didn't actually have an answer - so I sort of tried to bluff my way by saying something I thought they might like to hear, but they may well have seen through my bluff, please be prepared!!!), the interview lasted around 20 minutes like they said it would in the interview letter and I think overall it went quite well but I find out in April 2014 whether I have the place outright or whether I'm on the reserve list or whether I don't have a place at all.
Most difficult question
Could you demonstrate for us how you would teach a class of Japanese children? and I had to stand up and pretend to be a teacher (bare in mind that I have had no formal teacher training whatsoever, but this didn't matter as I wasn't expected to have any, apparently I found out later from friends who had previously applied that they were testing me to see how I cope under pressure / the unexpected)
Just be yourself, apparently they seem to want you to be humorous and be able to story-tell and be interesting, but just do your best as many of the questions were unexpected as they asked me about my previous cultural experiences and if your previous jobs aren't compatible with teaching, they really drill down to the specifics as to why you want to change into teaching from your previous area of expertise (mine being science) and how you would be a good candidate because of your previous experience / how you can apply it to teaching? ... I would also urge applicants to not focus too much during the previous JET member questioning period (just before being interviewed) as it could cloud your mind if you think too much about things that interest you about the JET programme e.g. social/extracuricular activities as they are not exactly related to the teaching job you will ultimately have, so pose a few questions to the previous JET members but don't lose track of your thoughts / prepared answers to interview questions as it could negatively affect your interview performance if you become too engrossed in what previous JET members did.
Experiences at the assessment centre
As I said the check-in procedure to the Embassy is very complicated, me and my friend had to place our baggage on a conveyer belt and step through a metal detector (similar to the security in the airports), then we walked up a flight of stairs to reach reception where we had to hand in our interview vouchers (which had our names on, details of the assessment which we had previously filled in, an attached passport-sized photo of ourselves), plus our passports (which we needed to bring along for verification purposes), we then had to sit and wait for around 20 minutes in a separate see-through-glass-seperated exhibit room (which contained Japanese artifacts / pieces of art/literature of importance to the Embassy) which already contained two other applicants to the JET programme who were interviewed around the same time as me and my friend, then we were called upon and guided through a set of electronic lock-operated wooden double doors by the previous JET member who was wearing an earpiece to receive instructions from JET interviewers/officials within the building, we left our phones etc. in lockers and then went up in a lift to complete the written English test (there were 5 grammar/spelling/proof-reading questions which had to be answered in 5 minutes, both me and my friend only answered the first 4 questions - it is very difficult to complete in such a short amount of time as each of the questions were fairly detailed / require a good amount of concentration), then we spoke to previous JET members about their time e.g. where were they placed in Japan? did they get involved in AJET? (= like universities have an NUS organisation in England, the JET programme has AJET for job-related issues, extracurricular activity organisation etc) What level of Japanese speaking / writing proficiency are they now at following the JET programme? etc. ... it was quite useful and completely different experience to the interviews I have had in the past.
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