Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 3: The Interview)

I see a lot of people coming to Japan trying to bask in all the anime, wacky game shows, and bondage. As HR/Recruiting director for a company in Japan I interview a lot of people. I often come away from them feeling that an hour of my life has been sucked away into a void.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about getting a job here I will a) make the process less difficult (although slightly less hilarious) for me, b) increase the odds of you getting a job here, and c) help your overall skills in interviewing for a job.

(Part 1)

(Part 2 )

Let’s continue with part 3, where we’ll move beyond the resumes and on to the interview process:

Panic = Fail

The Mothers of Invention could keep their cool on acid, so why panic?

The Mothers of Invention could keep their cool on acid, so why panic?

My mom used to all ways tell me that getting nervous was a useless emotion. It may have worked back in the wild, where you’d be panicked into a fight or flight response, but in human society, it doesn’t serve a whole lot of function except to help you fail. It’s probably not going to get you the job if you try and fight me, and running away mid interview would only create a funny story for me to tell others.

Breathe deep man, this isn’t the end of the world. You will have other opportunities and you will not (in fact) die if you fail at this interview.

Miss the Interview =Fail

Here's a handy hint (and remember all that daylight savings shit too!)

Here's a handy hint (and remember all that daylight savings shit too!)

When a company sets an interview time, they’re expecting you to keep it. If you email  or phone before the date and say that something came up, that’s fine.

If you email or call after, you’re probably screwed.

I have a lot of people that mix up interview times based on the time differences between Japan and wherever they might be. This is unfortunate, as I often lay it out based on both times in my email. I also assume that people can use Internet sites, cell phones, or computers to check on the differences in time.

If you say in your email something like “I dunno what time it is over there, but….” it’s over, buddy.

Tip: If you interviewer suggests that most times are ok and you come back with time that are nearly impossible (4am) your interviewer might  assume you’re retarded.

Get back to them with something that shows you did a little research, ie: “Well, 9PM here is 10AM at your office in Japan, so might that be ok?”


Naked = Fail, No Pants = Ok

Feel free to be free with what the camera can't see

Feel free to be free with what the camera can't see

One time when I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful world of court I was smart enough to wear a sharp suit and tie. I noticed that the judge treated those of us who dressed well with a kind hand, whereas the people who had shown up in blue jeans, a dirty tee-shirt,  and possibly drunk often ended up screamed at and escorted off to jail.

What could this possibly have to do with an Interview?

You might be teaching children’s English in sweat pants or wearing a McDonald’s hat, but if you show up at the interview looking like shit, you’re not getting the job, just as you increase the odds of paying the full amount for that ticket when you dress like a slob.

Always dress well for your interview!

Obviously, when applying for a job in Japan, showing up for the job is often hard, as you might be thousands of miles away.

That’s why, in this modern world of technology, companies often conduct video interviews. Phones don’t give you that “Wow, this guy has no idea how to interview for a job” moment as well as a nice video picture does.

Here’s a hint for those of you interviewing via the net: You don’t have to wear any pants. I don’t give a damn what’s going on where the camera can’t see (just make sure you never get mid-interview to find something), but wear a nice shirt at the very least!

I might even excuse you for not wearing a tie, as it’s summer here in Japan and the current culture allows me to take of the tie and unbutton the top button, but you should look like you care!

Internet Cafes = Fail

Could you repeated that? I was watching the incredible scenario unfolding behind you

Could you repeated that? I was watching the incredible scenario unfolding behind you

Now I’m not going to say you auto fail if you are interviewing from an Internet Cafe, but there’s a good chance for something to go wrong that’s out of your control. You should have as much in your own control as possible going into an interview.

In an Internet Cafe, the connections could vary, the noise levels differ, and you have no chance of verifying what kinda of equipment you have to work with.

It’s quite possible that it’ll all be ok, but in my experience, it’s never very good to play the odds. If I am mucking around with tech or using a different computer (as I recently did when I started doing interviews from my home instead of my office), I might lose you by mistake. Applicants are usually fairly understanding in events like this, they want the job.

But when the interviewer keeps losing someone, he might glance over at his stack of other applicants and get impatient far more quickly.

As a personal example: I once interviewed a girl in India who was in a cafe with wide angle on everything going on behind her. It was so wildly fascinating looking at the very Darjeeling Limited-esque world behind her, I wasn’t able to focus on what she was telling me. I just started tossing around the idea of traveling to India instead.

Find a place where you can reliably convey yourself to your potential employer.

Bitter, Angry, Paranoid = Fail

Trust No One! AKA: My pussy would like to ask some questions about your company

Trust No One! AKA: My pussy would like to ask some questions about your company

I have a lot of people that go off on extreme tangents on how much they hate their old jobs.  I become a bit wary to hire such people.

While an interviewer understands that there are lots of shit jobs out there in the universe, if we hear you going off on a 10 minute tirade of how you hate your old company, it paints a bad picture.

First, being in Japan, perhaps I’ve become a bit overly Japanese-minded. While New Jersey-ites will sit around and bitch from sunrise to sunset about nearly anything, Japanese people tend to keep things like that closer to the vest. Maybe never hearing them complain about work helps make you stand out all the more, but do realize, you’re standing out.

Second, I start to ask myself if you lack the communicative ability to paint things in a better light. If you can’t say anything constructive about your past place of employment, while briefly highlighting the problems you may have faced and spinning this in a good way, I begin to wonder if you’re the type of person that goes to nearly anywhere and complains and starts trouble.

If you’ve been continually fucked by loads of companies and have become an extremely jaded human being, I feel your pain, but oftentimes, some self reflection may be in order.

A smart tip: Ask for some refs from the company of past and present teachers. Then you can hear from them how things were, instead of putting on your tinfoil hat and getting all angry and paranoid and assuming the company will treat you like garbage. There are many ways to figure out what you’re getting into before you do.

(That’s it for this round. Tune in next week for some more interview tips, including not being an asshole)

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part6)

12 responses to “Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 3: The Interview)

  1. Rosemary Rowlands

    being in Japan, perhaps I’ve become a bit overly Japanese-minded. While New Jersey-ites will sit around and bitch from sunrise to sunset about nearly anything, Japanese people tend to keep things like that closer to the vest. Maybe never hearing them complain about work helps make you stand out all the more, but do realize, you’re standing out.

    LOLs from NJ! And the Japanese say “The nail that stands out gets hammered.”

    LOVE the Mothers up there!

  2. Rosemary Rowlands

    Sorry meant to quote.

    Guess the code is this?

    or maybe not?

  3. Awesome article! Insightful and funny, if a little crass at times. But you deliver the points in a way that gets people to listen – I like it :)

  4. Thanks for the kinds words Mike. I’m all about as being as realistic as possible, so I’m pretty much gonna tell it to people straight.

    Which comes from that NJ thing, Rosemary….NJ are the nail that stands out and gets hammered like Rocky but keeps swinging back… ;-P

  5. I appreciate this guide, all of these points are very important. What your mother said about nervousness is so true! I never thought about it like that before.

  6. Pingback: The Week in Review (6/21/09) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  7. Pingback: Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 4: More Interview Stuff) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  8. Pingback: Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 5: Preparations and Arrival) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  9. You spelled “always” wrong…

  10. Pingback: Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 1: Resumes, etc) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  11. Pingback: Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 2: More Resume/Intro Tips) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  12. Pingback: Maintaining a Teaching Job in Japan « Smashed and Sinking!!!

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