Tag Archives: Job Interview Tips

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 4: More Interview Stuff)

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 ) (Part 3) (Part 5)(Part6)

Let’s get on with part 4. I just tore through about 300 resumes and I’m feeling the fire.

Yes Man = Fail

"Will you kneel on a little stool to pee for this job?" "Why yes, yes I will..."

"Will you kneel on a little stool to pee for this job?" "Why yes, yes I will..."

As much as employers think they want employees that would gleefully run into a hail of bullets on their command, at the end of the day, this doesn’t always pan out. Look at Japan (and seriously, if you’re looking for a job here, you better bone up on it). Japan loves to train loyal bodies of workers who will lick the floor at their command.

This is a good idea for factory workers and engineers that you need in a cubicle churning out designs. This works somewhat less for teachers. Teaching is something that requires the ability to adapt to a given situation. While an employer likes a loyal and hardworking teacher that will follow the company vision, we also like teachers that bring their own skills and visions to the table to help complement the company’s vision.

We already think you’ve got the loyal and hardworking thing down from your resume.

Japanese students are often trapped in a box. Teachers that think outside the box can often help them break out of that box.

So Do You Provide Housing? = Fail

"Why yes I read your FAQ, I also consider myself an avid student of history..."

"Why yes I read your FAQ, I also consider myself an avid student of history..."

Before the interview we point you in the direction of our website. This website is mostly in Japanese, but does contain an entire section in English with our company FAQ. We provide you with all this and assume you’ll read it before the interview.

This is because it contains a lot of useful information about our company and living in Japan. In reading it, you’re covering stuff that will assure I don’t spend 4 hours interviewing you. Most companies provide some kind of FAQ or basic information about them.

If at any point you ask us questions that are easily found on the company information pages, you have failed quite miserably my friend.

On the other side, if you clarify with amazing sentences like:

“I read in your FAQ that _______, but I still have some questions…”

…then I’m in your wheelhouse man. It shows you prepared. In this game, where about 50% of folks don’t read the FAQ, 10% more don’t read it and then say they did, and a final 25% of folks read it but then ask questions covered in it anyway, you’ve already reached an elite top 15 percentile by just proving you did some research.

“I think in My Resume it said…” = Fail

Because I use this much toilet paper to clean the shit off me after a bad interview

Because I use this much toilet paper to clean the shit off me after a bad interview

You think it said? You think it said? Motherfucker, you BEST know what it said!

Excuse my tiny flameout above, I just get extremely pissed off at a lack of preparation.

I was never a boyscout. I came from Jersey and in the suburbs of New Jersey, the idea of making knots all day and twiddling a stick around to make fire always seemed kind of stupid when I could already tie my shoes and light whatever I wanted to light on fire with matches from 7-11.

Still, they did have that cool slogan: “Always be prepared.”

When you sit down for an interview, whether it be face to face, over a phone, over video chat, whatever, you better know what you’re getting into.

As said above, you have to know the FAQ. Have it printed out, have it highlighted. You should have copies of your own resume. One for your damn self and a few you might have to give to the people interviewing you (if face to face). Have a booklet of previous experiences and recommendations if possible.

If you’re doing a video interview, it’s so easy compared to face to face. In a face to face interview, you’ve gotta have it all lined up and studied and in your head. In a video interview, you can have entire tomes of notes laying around your computer.

When I’ve hit interviews, I’ve had my resume as studied as possible, my potential employer’s information, as well as the area it’s all based in. I also tend to dig into what kind of questions I might be asked and formulate possible responses.

As I said, the boy scouts always kinda freaked me out. With all their wacky badges and that older scout guy always hanging out with little boys, it was more “Always be prepared for your scout master to ram you in the ass.”

But considering I’ve had interviews where people broke down under a barrage of teaching theory questions and simple logic stuff, “Always be prepared for your interviewer to ram you in the ass” too (metaphorically at least).

Answer Man = Fail

You should have a lot to say, questions of your own, and if all else fails, seduce your interviewer

You should have a lot to say, questions of your own, and if all else fails, seduce your interviewer

After a good interview, I feel two things that might sound strange. For one, I had a good time and really enjoyed talking to the person. This is important, but it’s not the sole element that leads to hiring.

In the interview, don’t just agree with everything we say and blow smoke up our asses. My favorite interviews are the ones where the interviewee teaches me something new or forces me to look at a technique or viewpoint in a different way.

I like feeling like the interviewee put me on my toes a few times, almost as if I was being interviewed.

A good interview is like a good conversation. It flows back and forth with both sides asking questions and discussing things in a way that it almost doesn’t feel like an interview. It involves a lot of questions from the interviewee.

After all, it’s not just us deciding upon you. You’re actively deciding if the company that you’re speaking to is one you want to work for. We want to hear you asking (intelligent) questions about our methods, ways, vision, lifestyle, etc…

When an applicant just gives dull responses as expected, it’s not all that interesting. It’s not even always the answer we want. Sometimes we ask questions just to hear your process in getting to an answer. Sometimes even a wrong answer is meaningless when the process of getting to it was fruitful.

And when you start hitting me with questions that even I have trouble answering (about some wild teaching theory or something, this is why I do HR and not head teaching…) I dig it. Employers can sense your hunger, your intelligence, and your passion.

That’s why the best interviews are like engaging discussions.

“So…Did I get the job?” =Fail

We can smell your lack of cofidence a mile away

We can smell your lack of cofidence a mile away

If you’re asking this question, you’re not feeling very confident about your interview. If I’m hearing this, I’m  also smelling, tasting,  seeing, and even touching your complete lack of confidence.

Don’t ever ask this damn question.

Chin up, sport, it’s not the end of the world! It’s just a fucking job interview!

(The Interviews have been covered…next week I’ve move into the whole “preparing to come” phase)

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)