Japan · JET Programme

JET Programme: Preparing for the Interview

It is from around this time in December where the results of the first stage of the JET Programme application start to come out. Those who have applied will soon hear whether or not they have been granted an interview. It is usually a month and a half from the application deadline date as to when you hear the results – though this can be a bit longer with the Festive Season holidays. However, I am sure that by the end of January most applicants will know their results.

Last year I wrote about the JET interview (found here), focusing on my own experience of it. This year I will focus more on the general aspects of the interview, what to expect, and how best to prepare for it. If there are any South African applicants reading this, then I recommend looking at last year’s post as I was interviewed in Cape Town and I am sure your interview experience might run along the same lines as mine did.

Disclaimer: I write from my own experience regarding the JET interview. If you research ‘JET Programme Interview’ online you will see that many people have varying experiences depending on where they interviewed – meaning ECID (Every Country is Different). Take my experience, hints, and tips as a general guideline on how to approach your own interview – it is definitely not the be-all and end-all of interview guidelines. I do suggest looking at other blogs, vlogs, and what have you, in order to get a general idea as to what to expect. 🙂

Waiting for, and then receiving, your results from the application round can become quite nerve-wracking.

Preparing for the interview

It is always a good idea to read over your application form and statement of purpose essay. The interviewers will most likely ask questions regarding what you wrote. So knowing what you wrote will be less stress for you on the day.

Additionally, if you wrote something down on the health assessment form (like having a certain condition or needing to take medication for something) then you might be asked to explain it in more detail. I take medication for my mild asthma – and they asked me if my condition would affect my duties as an ALT. I assured them that with taking the right medicine I shouldn’t have any problems while being in Japan. I believe that showing the interviewers you are positive and confident in your abilities to perform as an ALT is important, despite things like medical conditions or the like.

What to wear

The interview is for a government-paid (assisted) teaching position, therefore you should dress appropriately. In other words: a business suit.

In my opinion, a shirt/blouse, with a jacket/blazer, along with pants/skirt is the simple ensemble that I think most would recommend.

As a side note: if you are accepted onto the JET Programme, the first day at Tokyo Orientation usually requires you to wear a business suit (for the opening ceremony) – and then after that you can wear cool-biz.


You don’t want to start your interview off on the wrong foot by arriving late. In Japan, arriving 15 minutes early for an event, meeting, end-of-year staff party, is considered late (at least in my experience). Even though you are not interviewing in Japan, try to arrive in good time so that you can take a breather, try to relax, and check out the other applicants. 😉

Additionally, avoid making a bathroom trip just before your interview – you never know, the person before you might finish earlier than expected and then you keep the interviewers waiting.

The interview panel

There are usually two to three interviewers on the panel. From my experience, and from what I have read on the forums, one of the interviewers is usually a past ALT. In my post last year, I wrote about my experience with them, so click here if you are interested in reading that.

Just remember to breathe… and smile! 😀

There is not much I can say about them, but for one thing they might come across as very intimidating – especially when you are facing not one but three! Just keep in mind to be yourself, smile, and breathe.

It is also important to maintain eye contact with your interviewers, not just with the one who has asked you a question and you are in the process of answering them. I believe that you want to include everyone, so make sure to move up and down the panel (in a natural manner, of course) making eye contact with all of them.

The interviewers may not smile much, or even look interested in what you are saying… but don’t be put off by that. I have heard that some try to put off applicants and see how they react under pressure or in difficult situations by acting nonchalant and disinterested.

The questions

Every interview will be different, and the questions you are asked will probably not be the same as the person who was before you.

However, there are some standard questions that most people get asked:

• Why Japan? Why not China or South Korea?
• Why teaching?
• What are your future career plans?
• Questions regarding anything you wrote on the self-medical report (such as a medical condition).
• If you have previous experience teaching, tutoring, or doing volunteer work that involves children/students, then you could get asked to talk more about that.
• Your preferred prefecture. If you wrote down one on the application form you could get asked why you chose that one.
• In a follow-up to the prefecture preference, I was asked what would I do if I was placed in the northern most part of Hokkaido where it snows 13 months of the year? Pretty much the opposite of what I where I was wanting to go. However, I wanted to show them how flexible I could be and responded by saying: ‘Well, I better learn how to ski then’. Which made them laugh. 😉
• They will also ask you anything of significance that you wrote in your essay, and will expect you to elaborate on it, or talk about that experience, and so on.

The not-so-straight-forward questions:

In my interview I was also asked hypothetical questions of certain scenarios that might occur while living and teaching in Japan:
• How would you handle isolation if you were placed on a small island and was the only foreigner?
• How would you go about getting involved in the community of this small island?
• How would you handle being used as an ALT who just sits in the corner of the classroom and just repeats things in English for the class, like a parrot?
• How will you handle students who have no interest in studying English? I believe this is quite a common question as I have read a few blogs/forums where others have been asked this.

Cultural-related questions:

• What three things would you bring to class that would represent your culture.
• If you were asked to perform a traditional dance or sing, or demonstrate something from your culture (such as, in my case, a traditional Zulu dance from South African culture), would you do it?
• Questions relating to current affairs between your country and Japan. Or the latest news about Japan.

In my experience, I remember being asked a lot of ‘why’s?’. When I told them that I liked the culture of Japan, they asked ‘why?’. Then I gave them an example and they asked ‘why?’. Asking this ‘why?’ happened a lot during my interview, and sometimes I did become flustered and struggled to reply. I am not sure if it was their way of testing my stress-levels or what, but I remained true to myself and smiled, even when I admitted that I couldn’t explain why to some of the answers I had given.

Asking questions

You might be given the opportunity to ask the interviewers questions after they have finished asking theirs. I was never given that chance – and I don’t think anyone else that was interviewing that day was either.

However, your interview panel might be different, so if you are given the option then think about some questions that might be worth asking. Though do avoid asking questions that could easily be looked up on the JET Programme FAQ website page. Perhaps directing a question to the former ALT might be a good idea – asking something relating to their experience.

The written test

For some countries, including South Africa, applicants have to write an English test on the interview day as well. It is a multiple choice test consisting of various things like choosing the correct spelling and grammar. There is nothing much out there about it online, but I think it is just to see that you know your English. You can’t study for it, so there is nothing much you can do but just wait to take it.

After the interview

Once your interview is done there is nothing you can really do but wait. After all interviews at your embassy/consulate are completed, the application forms – along with the recommendations from the interviewers (and their marks as I believe they work on a point system) – are sent to Tokyo where the people at CLAIR go over the applications and final decisions are made as to who will be shortlisted, made alternates, or rejected.

During this waiting time, I suggest applying for your police clearance certificate/FBI background check. This may take a while to process and applying for one when you eventually find out your interview result might be pushing it a bit time-wise.

Hearing the results

My interview was in the third week of January, and I found out the result on April 1st. I believe that the time-frame for releasing the results is from the end of March through to the end of April. Though don’t take my word for it, this is just based off previous years’ averages.

And that’s about all I can offer regarding the interviews. To all those who get granted an interview: well done and the very best of luck! 😀

Just smile and be yourself!

Oh yes, if you have any questions that you would like to ask me regarding the interview, or the JET Programme in general, then don’t hesitate to get hold of me through my contact page. 🙂

*Pictures provided by the awesome anime One Punch Man.


3 thoughts on “JET Programme: Preparing for the Interview

  1. Hi. Now I’m on the waiting phase. It’s somehow funny, sometimes confusing whether it is still normal to feel this anxious about a result. (and it’s just for the application)

    It’s like waiting for a death verdict or something. But, I must admit, reading your last post about the interview (Yes! I’ve read it a couple of times already for cheering myself :)) and this, somehow, made me breathe. You made the unbearable look tolerable. I’ve told you before I love your writing style.

    I wish the time will come that I can really re-read this post in a different situation. Haha
    Thanks for A(nother) fun and helpful read!


    1. Believe me, I think it is very normal to feel so anxious when it comes to waiting for results from the JET Programme. I think it comes from the amount of time invested in the application forms, writing the essay, gathering all the references and other documents – it’s a heck of a lot of work in the end.
      I hope so too that you will soon be able to re-read the post as an interviewee – holding thumbs for you! 😀


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