A Japanese Job Interview

This past weekend, I traveled to the Kansai area for a job interview. Since about last September I have been looking for a new job instead of JET. Lack of satisfaction, lack of classroom control, lack of a lot have things have built over the course of 2 years, ultimately resulting in my dissatisfaction with my current situation. Looking for a solution, I threw myself into a self imposed job search. I asked myself, what do I want to be doing? The answer was teaching, something I find myself, sadly, not doing now.

(On a side note: Generally speaking, I think ALTs with backgrounds are teachers are more often fed up with the system. The complete lack of regard for one's teaching background is enough to drive a person crazy.)

But I digress, in September I updated my resume, wrote a Japanese version, obtained my grades from overseas, asked my graduate school advisor for a letter of recommendation, asked my supervisor and 2 JTEs and the BOE for other letters of recommendation. (mind you the LOR from overseas came faster than the teacher sitting next to me in Japan ... go figure)

I sent out about 20 resumes to private high schools and universities looking for someone who would hire me. The universities it seemed want people with university teaching experience. Something I lack. Many of the private high schools were only hiring part time with no health insurance or any real type of job security. So of the 20 letters I sent out, 10 positive responses came back. And of those 10, about 4 seemed promising.

Fast forward to last Friday. After work, I hopped on the Shinkansen for a “mere” 2.6 man and set off for an interview in one of Japan's more reputable private high schools. The job posting required an undergraduate degree as well as "intermediate Japanese a plus" not required, but a plus. This job was also full-time and offered an indefinite contract.

I arrived 1 hour early to my interview, because I did not know the location. I made small talk with the guard and followed the large English signs. THIS WAY PLEASE, and PLEASE SIT DOWN HERE. I complied.

About 15 minutes before my scheduled time, an elderly gentlemen introduced himself as Mike, shook my hand, and guided me to the interview room.

I opened the door and was greeted by a panel of not 2 or 3 people as I had been expecting but instead 12 people! 10 Japanese people and 2 foreign nationals. Immediately I was barraged in polite (Keigo) Japanese. I was asked to introduce myself. Which I did, OK, I suppose. But then the interview descended further into a personal hell.

I was handed a Japanese newspaper, and asked to read it aloud. ??? I would image this would serve as a daunting task to even the most fluent 2 language learners of Japanese. Needless to say I was stunned and muddled my way through something to do with a Historic Anniversary??? Then I was asked my opinion on the matter.

I froze. What did this have to do with teaching??? And the posting stated, spoken Japanese a benefit not a requirement. I looked around the room and noticed that everyone was at least 40 and above. (and really bad dressers too … a little humor here and there) I started to question if this is what I really wanted.

It got worse.

The ringleader of the group asked me to pick up the phone on the table next to me, and make a mock-phone call in Japanese to the parents of a student who was bullying other students. I told them that while I cannot do this well now, in the event I would have to do this, I would conference with someone prior to making the actual call. They nodded and asked me to continue.

I asked the imaginary parent to come in, and his/her earliest convenience due do my poor Japanese telephone etiquette, and have a face to face discussion.

The rest of the interview seemed to blur together. I was asked about my high school AP courses, how long I wished to stay in Japan, the idea of being in charge of a club, and if I had any other questions.

After a few questions on my part, and in a sort of blurry daze, I got up from the table bowed, thanked everyone and got on the shinkansen as fast as I could ...

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be hearing from them anytime soon. But you never know, perhaps this was some kind of bizarre test to see how people react under pressure. Who knows? Luckily, I have a different job lined up, and I will be outside of Tokyo to pursue my true passion, teaching.

Good luck to anyone returning/moving on. Any job interview questions please feel free to ask.