So You Wanna Be A JET: Interviews

Mock Lesson

Not everyone has to do a mock lesson.  Some CIRs might have to do one if they are willing to be an ALT if not selected for CIR, but this is mainly for ALTs.  Even then, ESID.  Some consulates/embassies focus more heavily on this than others.  As a CIR applicant, you might have to give a mock meeting/culture event.

Keep an eye (ear?) out for this.  They might not come out directly and say to give a mock lesson or to teach them something.  They might word questions along the lines of: “What is X?”  “What would you say to ABC?”  “Can you explain Y?”  “How would you teach Z?”  “What is your teaching style?”  “What if someone wasn’t understanding you?”

If you hear questions such as these, relax and try to switch gears slightly.  You want to speak slowly and clearly, but not insanely slow.  Don’t use extremely difficult vocabulary.  If they straight out tell you to teach something, you can ask what age/year group your audience is.  However, you should just assume that you are speaking to a lower level audience and try to get a simple point across. 

If you’ve never taught English before, relax.  It’s not the end of the world.  Again, most JETs have no prior teaching experience.  They are putting you on the spot for a reason.  As a Jet you might have to come up with lessons on the fly.  They want to see how you can handle the sudden pressure while outside of your comfort zone.  Take a deep breath and smile.  Maintain eye contact with your audience.  Use repetition a lot—if explaining a new word or phrase, repeat it 2xs slowly.  Make sure you are smiling and approachable.  If you are teaching young children, they might panic if you look “scary”.  Gestures are your best friend too.


Business attire is required.  This is not in any way, shape, or form optional.  Some consulates/embassies will straight out deny you entry to your interview if you do not look professional.  Hell, if you get accepted, you won’t be allowed to attend Tokyo Orientation (Day 1 at least) without a blazer.  They aren’t messing around.

Japan is a country that does not make exceptions for people.  You either follow the rules or get penalised for it.  The hammer that sticks out the most gets hammered down is a very common Japanese expression.

That being said, you do not need to show up to your interview exactly as you would to an interview in Japan. 

If you do not know Japanese business/interview attire, pretty much everyone looks the same…  You need to wear a black suit and white collared shirt.  If you are a woman, you should be wearing a black knee length pencil skirt.  Hair should be neatly groomed, and women should have their ears showing with their hair up in a bun or high pony tail typically.  Low heels for women and nice pointed leather shoes for men are typical.  Women also don’t really wear makeup to interviews.

But you won’t be in Japan during your interview and no one is expecting you to match this exactly.  You still need to dress professionally but you can wear a navy suit or a different coloured shirt/blouse.  Women may wear an office appropriate dress.  Just make sure that you are not wearing anything too revealing and that you overall have a well-groomed appearance.  If wearing makeup, don’t do anything outrageous or colourful.  Stick to more natural or soft colours.

If you have any piercings or tattoos, you might want to cover them up.  Japan is still not friendly to either of these and most other countries are also still not too keen on these in the workplace.  When interviewing, you want to present your best self and once you get the job, you can typically be more creative.  Acceptable piercings would be one set of standard ear lobe piercings.  Anything beyond this you might consider wearing clear stoppers for your interview.  Of course, you are welcome to go in with everything on display, but you will more than likely be asked about them by one or more of your interviewers.

I have a wrist tattoo that you couldn’t really see underneath my sleeves, yet still I covered it up with a light plaster just to be safe.  My tattoos were brought up by the consulate employee and I mentioned how I could easily cover them all at work if needed, using the bandage as an example.

Night before/Day of the Interview

Plan ahead of time for things.  Lay out your outfit the night before so that you are not running around last minute for this.  Have any necessary documents prepared and ready to go.

If you will be travelling to your interview location from out of the city, plan your route well in advance.  If you need to stay in a hotel the night before, book this in advance.  Driving?  Leave early enough to give yourself a safety-net for traffic or accidents.  Make sure there is parking available if you’re driving as well.  If taking public transportation, grab an earlier departure to make room for possible delays.  If you’ve never been to the location before, try to do a test run if possible.  If not, look up the route on google maps or the likes.  Save it not just on your phone, just in case your phone dies.  You should also have your point of contact’s phone number saved in case you are running late.

Make sure you check with your interview location about meeting times.  Some places do not let you in more than 10 minutes early, while others let you in 30 minutes early.  Others might completely turn you away if you are too early and won’t let you interview.  Again, Japan is very by the book.  If you are given specific instructions, you are expected to follow them.

Also, talk yourself up in the mirror in the morning or to friends/family seeing you off.  Motivate yourself to relax your nerves.

Japanese test


At least half of your interview will be in Japanese.  You will have an in-depth Japanese test, which will cover writing, speaking, reading, and speaking.

Japanese ability is literally required for the job, so it will hurt you if you are not semi-advanced (Roughly higher N3+).  You will be tested not only on basic Japanese but also business level Japanese.  If you are willing to be considered for an ALT position if not selected for CIR, having lower Japanese ability will not hurt you for that.


As an ALT (and SEA) candidate, you are not required to have any Japanese knowledge before entering the program.  Not having any Japanese skills will not hurt you but having some will give you bonus points.

You will be asked if you want to proceed with the Japanese test either at the start of end of your interview.  Typically, this is towards the end of the interview after you’ve [hopefully] had a chance to relax.

You can say no.  You do not have to take the test.  Again, this test can only help you as an ALT.

The test is very basic overall.  The consulate employee or Japanese professor will be the one to quiz you and they have a list of questions to go through.  The questions start to get more difficult the further down you get, but they still are easy.  The moment you switch to English, the test is over.  Even if you can’t answer back in Japan at one point or another, if you can answer it back in English, do it.  This will show them that you at least have a basic understand of what is being said.

My interview started off basic, switch quickly to advanced Japanese, and then back to super basic out of nowhere.  I had a derp moment at the final switch because I was not expecting to go back to something super simple and butchered answering back in Japanese. Oh well. 

Basically, don’t panic about this section.  Study a bit if you can, but don’t stress over it.  You want to focus more on the other sections of the interview.


You might get questions about your placement at some point during the interview.  Common questions are: “What if you don’t get your top [three] choices?” “Why did you select X?”

 Answer these as honestly as possible but also show that you are flexible.  JET does not have to place you where you request.  JET is pretty much the only Japanese teaching program that takes your preferences into consideration.  Interac, ECC, AEON, and GABA do not really care where you want to go.  JET at least let’s you say you have a preference, but they do not guarantee you the spot.  Keep in mind that if you get placed somewhere and you do not want to go there, you cannot change it.  You either must drop out of the program or suck it up and make the best of it.

There will be a quick general assessment that the consulate employee will need to go through before you can leave.  It’s all questions you’ve already answered in your application, but they need to confirm if anything has changed.  Questions are along the lines of marital status, driving ability, placement understandings (that you are not guaranteed your top), and general health questions.

At the very end and if time permits, you can ask any final questions to your interviewers.  Try to limit this to a max of 3 questions and try to include all your interviewers, not just the ex-JET(s).  Try to avoid questions related to results/timelines.  You will be given further details of this almost immediately after by consulate staff outside the interview room or via email later.  Use this to pick the brains of former JETs and those who are actively involved in the process.

Good luck on your interview and try not to panic!  Take a deep breath and smile.  You’ll do great!

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