So You Wanna Be A JET: Interviews

Hey JETsetters!

You’ve done a shit ton of paperwork and now you’ve got your invite to that exclusive JET Interview.  Now what?

This is the last hurdle for you to overcome.  This is the final stretch.

If you pass this, you’re in.  You’ll be on your way to Japan and living the JET dream.


Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on the JET Program or how its application process is done. All the advice and situations discussed in this series will be primarily based off my own experiences, as well as those of my friends and colleagues that are or were a part of the program.

Also, this is a pretty long post. Check all sections to get information on the entire interview process.


Timeline

You should hear from the JET Programme in January if you’ve been invited for an interview.  Interviews typically take place in early February, usually in the first week of February.  I heard back about passing the first stage on January 8th, 2019.  It felt like an eternity after submitting my application in November to the moment of first results, but I made it in.  The wait for initial results will be one of the less stressful ones if you make it to the interview stage, because all there is from here on out is more waiting…


Documents

You’ll need to bring along your interview voucher and a passport style photo with you to the interview. Without these you will not be allowed in.

Accept/Decline

When you receive your interview invite, depending on your consulate/embassy, you’ll need to confirm your acceptance of the interview.  You will do this either via an online form or via email, or both.  For US LA applicants, we had to do both.  In the online form you’ll fill out a few details and confirm that you understand that interview dates and times are non-negotiable. 

Keep this last bit in mind.  You will be assigned a date/time and will not be able to switch this around.  Make sure you plan accordingly if you will have to travel to your consulate/embassy and need to take off work/school.

Early Departure/Placement Candidates

If you applied for ED, you must bring in the following to your interview: Criminal History Report (FBI BG Check for US) and your completed Certificate of Health (Including TB Test).  You might be able to send this to your interview location, but it must be received by the final interview date.  Check with your interview location about additional details.

If you are normal departure, you should start working on the Criminal Record at this time if your consulate/embassy requests it.  LA sent out an email informing all interviewees to begin the process ASAP, as it can take a few months to arrive.  You will not be required to submit this until after your acceptance into the program, but it is good to have on hand as soon as you can.  If you want to wait it out until after results are out to avoid spending money, that is fine.  Just keep in mind the timeline of events.


The Interview Panel

The panel consists of 3 people. In rare situations, there be more than three, usually if there is a new panellist or if there is someone grading the panellists themselves.

One will always be a consulate member.

One will always be a former JET.

And one will typically be a Japanese professor.

Sometimes, the latter changes up and they’ll put 2 JETs instead. 

Also, usually, but not always, they’ll try to assign the alumni from whatever position you’re applying for.  Ex-ALT JET for ALT applicant and the same for CIRs.  This is not always guaranteed though.

In my case, I had 1 consulate staff and 2 alumni, one ALT and one CIR.  I’m assuming this is because I have a strong background in both IR/gov’t/diplomacy and teaching, but who knows. 

They’ll briefly mention the process of the interview.  20-30 minutes typically.

They will focus on trying to gauge your skills, persona, abilities, and fitness for the program.  They want to see that who you are in person matches who you claimed to be on paper and if they were correct to call you in.

The moment you step into your interview location, your interview “starts”.  Everyone is watching you.  If you are interviewing at an actual consulate/embassy, every single person there knows why you are there.  They know you are interviewing, and they are making mental notes.  Be genki.  Be positive and smiley the moment you step into the place and amicable to everyone.

If you are interviewing at a secondary location (LA had us interview at a conference building down the street from the consulate), the same can be said there.  The front desk staff will have an idea of you being in for JET.  When you get up to your level, they are all JET staff.  Big brother is watching.


Preparing

This is a job interview.  Some people seem to forget that being a JET is a job.  It might not be everyone’s career, but it is a job.  JET is also not your direct employer, but they are the ones to get you hired and placed with an employer.

Prepare for your interview just as you would for a standard job interview. Think about if you were called in for an interview at a major company for your dream position—you wouldn’t just walk into Apply, Disney, Sony, Google, etc, without a plan of action.

You can look up videos on YouTube of current/former JETs about their interviews or read various blogs and communities.  The JET reddit group is a good place to get a lot of assistance with questions and advice, as well as a “master” list of possible questions. 

You’ll want to try to get your hand on possible questions you might be asked—this might come from the aforementioned master list or make up your own.  You want to practice answering these questions as much as possible before your interview.  Keep practicing until you get sick of hearing/reading them.  You want to try to burn the Q&As into your head so that if a similar question pops up in your interview, you won’t waste time freaking out for an answer.  You should try to practice with others in a mock interview setting and with yourself in front of mirror.  Successful interview coaches recommend practicing in front of a mirror to not only practice the Q&As but also your facial expressions.  You want to make sure you remain amicable throughout the entire interview process.

DO NOT read answers to questions found on online.  Don’t do it.  You should only be looking up questions and creating your own answers.  The JET (un)official motto is: Every Situation Is Different (ESID).  Just because Person A got into the program with an answer does not mean that that is the “right” answer.  There is really no such thing as a “right” answer in such interviews, but there are “bad” answers.  An example would be if you found an answer to one of the more common questions and just rehashed the same answer out.  Nearly everyone gets asked “Why Japan/JET”?  You’ll want to tailor your answer to yourself as much as possible and not just give a generic answer that everyone and their great-aunt has given before.  Trust me, your interviewers, especially the consulate staff, will know if you give a generic or previously posted answer.  With the world becoming more digitalised, a lot of consulate/embassy staff are too.  I know a lot of JET staff that browse the web looking for posts discussing JET, to see how they are being received mainly.  Don’t mess up your chance by plagiarising an answer to a question.  They are looking for you, not another copy. 

Note:  Your interviewers don’t necessarily care about what you’re interested in [doing in] Japan, but what you can bring to Japan.  This is a government job and they take it very seriously.

Try to prep as early as possible for your interview and not wait till the very last minute to start getting ready.


Statement of Purpose (SOP)

KNOW YOUR SOP. I cannot stress this enough.

We’ve already covered how important the sop is in your application and what role it plays, but here is comes up again.  Your interview will consist of questions from your general application, but your SOP is what they will be focusing on the most.  You need to know this inside and out.  Try to remember why you wrote what you wrote, and what mindset you were in when you did it.  You tried to sell yourself on paper and it worked. Now back it up in person.  Think of this as a thesis defence.  It is vital for you to be ready for anything they might throw at you here.  They will be picking apart your SOP to see if it’s the truth.  Did you exaggerate anything here?  If you talked about a certain experience, be prepared to go into detail here.


UK/Commonwealth Applicants

You will more than likely have a grammar test along with your interview.  Do not panic.  This will be a very basic English grammar test lasting roughly 5-10 minutes.  Most people don’t even discuss this section because of how quick and painless it is.  You see a lot of people freaking out about this section pre-interview, but it is not a major part nor is it difficult.  They just want to know that you do in fact know basic English.

Two typical sections on the Grammar Test are:

Correct the mistakes

Identify correct spelling of the word


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