JET Program Interviews, Part 2: The Big, Bad, Day-of (and oodles upon oodles of questions for your noodle)

Hello again, Dear JET Program prospects!

So, I’ve already told you about the JET Program Application and SOP and I’ve already given you a basic overview of how to prepare for the JET Program interview.

Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Fiddlesticks. What is she doing back here? She already told us about how not to screw up everything, didn’t she? Essays? Application? The interview? WHAT’S LEFT, DANG-NABBIT?!?”

Well, my young grasshoppers, the answer is simple: there’s oodles left for you to work on. As my new favorite, stolen-from-a-major-American-home-improvement-store-chain motto suggests, Never Stop Improving. Ever. EVER.

So, while I gave you what I believe to be a quite thorough account of how not to adequately ruin your life within a thirty minute time interval or before that thirty minute time interval even commences, I’ve got some more general information to help prepare you for doomsday even more!

Because believe me, the closer you get to the day of fate, the more you will inevitably panic and forget everything I ever told you about in the first place.

Shall we?

Picture yourselves hand in hand with me as we all form this giant ring of people frolicking and skipping through a magical field of flowers, rainbows, unicorns, that cool yet semi-creepy dragon-dog-grandpa from “The Never Ending Story,” and sunshine.


This is the mindset that you want to have going into this interview. No matter what is short-circuiting happening in your brain on the day of your interview, you have to stay calm and positive, because the interview is basically one giant test of:

  1. Following directions
  2. Being consistent (marry your application. Print out both the application and your SOP. Sleep with it. Carry it around in one of those baby slings. Tuck it in at night. Know your application like the back of your hand and you’ll be a golden goose)
  3. Being honest
  4. How well you handle pressure
  5. How happy and friendly you are! 😀
  6. And finally, how prepared (or unprepared) you are. D:

So, leading off from my last point, I want to help you prepare. I have compiled from the Big Bad Interwebs a list of possible interview questions that people have been asked in the past (thank you, internet!/nobody sue me please) along with what questions I was asked (that I still remember) from my first two interviews. As I mentioned in my previous post, this list is NOT all-inclusive and the interviewers CAN AND WILL ask you questions that are not on this list or any other list that you might stumble upon!

The possible questions are largely chunked into what I perceive to be five main groups:

  1. Questions about your teaching experience/international experience/qualifications
  2. Personal/get-to-know-you questions and culture shock questions
  3. “What if…” questions (classroom management/how you would react in certain situations)
  4. Japanese culture/general knowledge base/trivia questions
  5. Some kind of teaching/role-playing demonstration


Here are some of the questions that I personally recall being asked (mostly from my second interview):

Q: Please confirm your name, age, hometown, and university/major.

Q: We see that you applied for the JET Program last year, but were ultimately rejected. How did that make you feel, and what have you done in the past year since your rejection?

Q: We see that you are a vegan. Do you understand the difficulties of being vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Japan?

Q: What would you do if a coworker or a Japanese friend invited you to their home and didn’t know that you were vegan?

Q: If you could bring three things that you think best reflect your hometown and upbringing, what three things would they be and why?

Q: We see that you’ve traveled to France before. Please tell us about your experience.

Q: We see that you chose Hokkaido, Aomori, and Nagano as your top three placement choices. How would you feel if you were accepted into the JET Program, but did not get placed in any of your top three locations?

Q: If you had the opportunity to teach your future students about one event in American history, which event would you choose and why?

Q: How would you teach it?

Q: How would you handle homesickness?

Q: As a foreigner, you will receive a lot of unwanted attention from strangers. How do you anticipate dealing with that attention?

Q: What kinds of negative experiences, if any, do you anticipate having while in Japan?

Q: How do you handle stress?

Q: Do you have a support network in place to help you handle stress?

Q: Please tell us about how your previous work experience will help you during your time on the JET Program.

Q: We are going to ask you some simple questions in Japanese. Please answer them to the best of your ability. (Out of the mountains or the ocean, which do prefer? Why?)

AAaaaaannddd, here are the questions that I compiled from the O’ Great Internets and some of my own questions that I used to prepare for my interviews:

Qualifications and General Questions:

Q: Why do you think you are a good candidate for our program?

Q: What makes someone a good ALT? What have you done that demonstrates these qualities?

Q: How will you represent your home country while in Japan? How will you represent it at school? In the broader community?

Q: Is there anything that could bring you down while living in Japan? How would you handle difficult times or situations in Japan?

Q: What would you do for games and lessons in Japan? What examples can you give?

Q: If your students have very low level English ability, how will you communicate with them? How will you teach them?

Q: How would you contribute to international understanding?

Q: What kind of special talents or abilities would you bring to the program or your students?

Q: Why should we hire you?

Q: What makes you different from other applicants?

Q: Why didn’t you study abroad?

Q: Why are you interested in Japan?

Q: Why did you choose the _______ region/________ prefecture?

Q: Why didn’t you indicate a specific placement choice?

Q: Why don’t you teach English in another country?

Q: What do you like to do with your free time?/ What are your hobbies?

Q: Why are your grades poor (if applicable)?

Culture (shock):

Q: What kind of negative experiences do you anticipate having and how do you plan to deal with them?

Q: How do you handle conflicts with your friends?

Q: If you were at a work-sponsored drinking party and a fellow teacher tried to grope you, how would you handle it? What if it was the principal?

Q: What would you do if you were expected to serve tea to the men during the morning meetings?

Q: What would you say if a student asked you why America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Q: What if a student or teacher asks you why America is such a violent country?

Q: How would you handle situations of prejudice against other ethnicities?

Education Issues:

Q: What kind of teaching experience do you have?

Q: In what ways do you expect education in Japan will be different from education in America?

Q: How will you present your home country to the Japanese people that you meet?

Q: Suppose there is an important event at one of your schools on a weekend that you had pre-arranged plans. Your principal asks if you can cancel your plans and come to the event. What would you do?

Q: Tell us three things that you would like to tell your future students and other ALTs about your home country.

Q: If you could bring only three things to show Japanese students to represent your home country/state, what would they be and why would you bring them?

Q: Paint us three pictures: three distinctly Western things that you could describe to students without having a common language.

Q: Name the three most important people in American history.

Q: What if your JTE only uses you for a, “human tape recorder”?

Q: How would you get students interested, especially if they have no reason to learn English?

Classroom Management:

Q: There is a loud, obnoxious boy in your class who isn’t doing the assignment you have given. What do you do?

Q: You are teaching a lesson and the Japanese team teacher makes a mistake. What do you do?

Q: What will you say if a student asks you about drug use?

Q: Would you ever strike a student? What if the teacher you are teaching with struck a student in front of you?

Q: What would you do if you are teaching a class and there is one student in the back of the room sleeping? Reading a comic? Talking on a cell phone?

Q: What would you do if a student spit or cursed at you?

Q: What would you do if you were in the right classroom when the bell rang, but your team teacher is not there?

Personal Questions and General Knowledge Base

Q: What do you know about Japan?

Q: What Japanese movies do you like?

Q: What Japanese foods do you like?

Q: What are your hobbies?

Q: Who is the governor of your home state?

Q: Who are the president and vice-president of your home country?

Q: Who is the Prime Minister of Japan?

Q: Name five famous places in Japan.

Q: What are the important issues facing our world today?

Q: What are some current important events in Japan?

Q: What holiday is your favorite and why?

Q: Do you like karaoke?

Q: Name five famous authors of your home country.

Q: Name the major islands (or cities) of Japan.

Q: Name three famous Japanese people.

Q: What do you know about the political system in Japan?

Q: What are some issues facing Japanese-American relations?

Q: What do you know about Japan’s current financial crisis?

Q: What is the name of the current governing party in Japan?

Q: Name three Japanese historians.

Q: What research have you done about Japanese culture since applying to the program?

Q: (If you’ve applied more than once) What experiences have you had since your last interview? How did you handle rejection/being put  on the alternate list? How did you feel about your rejection, and how have you grown as a person in the past year? How have you improved yourself?

Veganism/Vegetarianism in Japan

Q: How long have you been vegan/vegetarian?

Q: What kind of foods do you typically eat?

Q: Are you aware of the difficulties of being vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Japan?

Q: How do you intend to find and prepare food that is safe for you to consume while you are in Japan?

Q: What will you eat if you were to go out with a group of friends or coworkers?

Q: What would you do if you a fellow teacher/Japanese friend offered you food/made you food and you were unable to eat it?
I hope that this has helped some of you! I highly suggest (1) doing some more googling of your own, because honestly I don’t remember where I found some of these questions in the first place, and (2) having an answer prepared for every last one of these possible questions. And, of course, write down your own questions that you think the interviewers could ask you and prepare for those as well. Anything is fair game, and it is better to be over prepared than under prepared!

Additionally, when you take photos for your interview voucher, I highly suggest getting them done professionally and not doing them yourself with your home printer, even on photo paper. I think I did that my first year and it did not look good at all. Wear something nice from neck-up at least, and go to somewhere like FedEx that offers passport photos as a service.

Finally, make sure to have your travel plans pre-arranged (if your consulate is in a different city), get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and last but not least, breathe. Just breathe (Anna Nalick 2 a.m./breathe, anyone?)


Good luck everyone, and maybe I’ll see some of you over here in Japan in a few months! Feel free to shoot me a message or comment if you have any questions.

Good day to you all,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s