Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 1: Resumes, etc)

As HR Director with my company, I do a lot of recruiting. This means pouring over loads of resumes in search of the perfect candidates for a job teaching with my company in Japan.

You’d think that people would have figured out this “applying for a job” thing by now. Perhaps things are different in Japan then you’re used to, but I’ll tell you right now, there are a lot of people out there with good resumes and no job.

You really need to make a good first impression.

Let me lay out a few basic tips for you:

1) To Whom it May Concern = Fail

"...or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"

"...or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"

You might as well address me as “John Doe.” It concerns the person who put up the advert and their company!

I leave my name in the job postings. I say “If you’d like to apply for a job, please contact Craig at…”

If you can’t take the time to finish reading a job position advertisement to include the name of the person who posted it, companies are going to assume you don’t pay any attention to details.

This goes equally for not CCing it to any other names mentioned in the job posting. People will assume you can’t read. While in my experience, I know tons of English teachers who can’t spell at all (myself included), reading is still somewhat important to the job.

2) Bulk Emailing = Fail

If this is how you do it, you're doing it wrong...

If this is how you do it, you're doing it wrong...

If you send your resume to 60 companies with a vague cover letter, you’re a lazy douche and I hate you.

These people are also the types that tend not to even bother with a cover letter, just a “Hey, I’m Bob, here’s my Resume!!!!!”  Thanks Bob, go fuck yourself.

As you can see, this probably gets under my skin more than anything.

3) Generic Cover Letter = Fail

Superkids FunDay '07 looked like a blast...but we don't teach kids...

Superkids FunDay '07 looked like a blast...but we don't teach kids...

If you don’t take the time to personalize your cover letter to the company you’re applying to, you’re probably not gonna get the job. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I see that make no mention of my company to the point where sometimes people are going on and on about how well they teach children. We’re not a children’s English company.

Take a moment or two to hit the company website, pull out a few bits of info on the company and insert them into your cover letter.

It doesn’t have to be completely re-written each time, just have a few areas of your cover letter where you can change the sentences quickly to be better directed at the company you’re submitting a resume to. When I last searched for a job, I had my basic template cover letter with a few (______) areas to change as needed.

For Example:

“Looking at your company website I see that __________________” (Fill with things that pertain to the company, AKA: Flatter them)

“I believe that I have the skills necessary to __________________” (convey abstract concepts of grammar to albinos, clean toilets, manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination)

It’s not rocket science. Personalizing your cover letter for each company you apply to is “resume writing 101.” It takes time and it’s annoying, but you’re trying to get out of your parents basement, right?

4) No Picture/Bad Picture = Fail

"Congrats, Spaz, you got the job!" ...will never be said by anyone...ever...

"Congrats, Spaz, you got the job!" ...will never be said by anyone...ever...

This is for two reasons:

The first  is that they probably told you to include it in the job posting. See #1 on this list.

The second reason is that they want to see you looking professional. There are a lot of people out there that teach in countries a bit more casual than Japan. Japanese students would run screaming from a room if they saw what passes for a teacher in some of these countries. They have an image in their mind of what a teacher looks like (uniform and all). They need to make sure you’re not going to come to work in a clown-suit. This is even more important in a job where you could conceivably come across the entire world without the company ever seeing you until you walk in the door ready to start.

Don’t get all huffy and puffy about it. This is Asia, this is how things are done. It’s 100% commonplace to submit a picture with your job application. In some sectors, it’s still quite OK to discriminate based on how you look. This is why flight attendants in Asia are still hot and happy looking while flight attendants in America are bitter and I can’t get around them in the aisle because they’re twice as wide as me.

While the company I’m employed by is an equal opportunities employer that hires people from all parts of the globe (not just the anglo/Caucasian scene), there are still many companies in Japan that want their white, English- speaking teacher. This is changing quickly, but if you’re not a Caucasian or if your English is fluent but you’re not considered native, do realize that it will be harder to find a job. There are many companies that will take a lazy, spoon-fed native English-speaking college kid over a hardworking, non-native speaker who has mastered the English language and has years of experience teaching.  They’re catering to what they believe their students want in a teacher. I’m proud that my company doesn’t conduct themselves in this way, but some companies still do.

I’ve met loads of Japanese people that want me to set them up with a friend to teach them English with the sole premise and outright statement being: “As long as he is a native speaker and white.”  I often find I can’t help them, because I know a lot of awesome non-native English speaking, non-white teachers that are awesome at their job. I also can’t help them cause they’re racist douchebags.

Their image of an English teacher is backwards. This happens sometimes in Asia, where people are often less used to the diverse ethnic scene you might be aquainted with in your awesome home country, but luckily it’s changing.

Don’t get angry at the picture thing though, just get yourself a good one where you’re not holding a beer at a Thai full moon party cracked out on acid. Looking teacher-esque would be a plus as well, although looking clean and sharp is usually good enough. I prefer smiles, but some traditionally Japanese companies don’t. I like to imagine happy employees…

5) I love anime = Fail

Companies Don't Need to Know You're This Guy on Weekends

Companies Don't Need to Know You're This Guy on Weekends

When a company asks you why you’d like to live and work in Japan, they don’t want to hear about how big a Japan-o-phile you are. In fact, you probably want to downplay that a bit. When I interview people and suddenly they say they want to surf in Shikoku, I assume they’re here for a surfing VISA and not work. They may just like it as a hobby (I came to surf too, but I didn’t mention it much in interviews), but it just sounds like you’re already placing your hobby over work. If you’re into some Japanese hobby, it’s ok to talk about in the interview, but don’t make it the focus.

Recruiting people want to hear you apply it towards teaching at their company, not what you’re going to do on your weekends. It’s ok to say you’d like to bike in the mountains, but they’d rather hear about teaching Japanese students, or business students, or learning Japanese while working here to advance in your career. Try and keep it career minded. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy anime, soaplands, flower arranging, and tea ceremony, and J-pop on your own time.

(And I could go on forever…I’ll try to make this semi-weekly until I run out of stuff to bitch/inform you about)

(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part 6)

18 responses to “Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 1: Resumes, etc)

  1. LOL at number 5. I did interviews for the JET program this year and there were so many people who spent the whole time talking about how they just wanted to go to Japan no matter what so they could spend their time obsessing over whatever geeky shit they’re into, and never addressed the job or why they thought they could do it.

  2. Although, if Man Faye (dude above) applied for a job at the company, pretty sure I’d move him forward…What’s not to like really?

  3. I think a lot of these same issues apply no matter what company you are applying for. Such a well-written article, Craig, awesome. At my company we are hiring for some account manager positions, and I don’t even work in account management, I work in marketing, but I sit right next to the conference room, the walls are very thin, and unfortunately I hear everything. I really try to concentrate on my own work, but I hear everything, all the interviews, the discussions, people yelling, etc. I think its so interesting, the whole company really, but mainly the interviews, and how unprepared the majority of people are, what they say, its just amazing, like, are they really that dumb or what?! Its just crazy, anyhow, I feel you, some people are so ill-equipped for interviews, its no wonder they are looking for a job!

  4. Thanks Chech, good to see ya reading, and looking forward to reading your writings when they get published!

    I’m truly amazed how ill prepared people can be….surprisingly, I had half a brain to follow these steps on the first run at a job….

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

  6. Pingback: Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 3: The Interview) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

  7. “… flight attendants in America … I can’t get around them in the aisle because they’re twice as wide as me.”

    If there were an in-flight emergency, I’d rather rely on an experienced, sturdy American flight attendant than the cutest frail gal on a Japan-based airline or airline with similar sexist hiring practices!

  8. Not sure I agree with that mark. I’d rather die flailing around on top of that frail little japanese girl than hurtling towards death with some oversized bitter beefcake !

    Awesome article Craig, you have some unique approaches to HR. I wish you had written this when I applied for the JET program. I also wish I hadn’t have smoked so much pot back then. Both of which meant my interview wasnt exactly the best it could have been. Still, here now!

  9. Yeah, in the history of plane crashes, I can’t much remember a story about a beefy stewardess saving everyone….

    I’m gonna take the “Baby, this plane is falling out of the sky and we only have a minute left” or at least the “shit, we’re dead, heh, a pretty face!” as my last moments over hoping the lady I can’t get around in the aisle can save me.

    Those little girls are more experienced than you think anyway, they often speak 2 or 3 languages when most American Flight Attendants just repeatedly scream in English as foreign people.

    Also, thanks for the kind words James!

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

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

  12. Pingback: The Week in Review (6/29/09) « Smashed and Sinking!!!

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

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

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  17. I *love* that you are telling people not to send you resumés from “Bob the Duck” and yet you are giving *career advice* from a blog called “another shitty blog from some douche”…you are in your (–COUGH bullshit COUGH–) “HR position” by the grace of your Japanese keepers…please don’t kid yourself that you are living a “professional life” in the “business world”…you are at the three year mark,’s when you tend to get arrogant, giving advice and shit like you are some John Blackthorne. Give it another couple and chill on the advice; you’re not a businessman.

    Otherwise, the rest of the blog is hi-larious. Love your writing, you have a shitload of talent as a writer. If you can swallow the salt of the initial comment, if you have thick skin and can understand the truth when it’s ugly and in your face…you may just have what it takes to be a great copywriter for advertising and television/ animation script treatments. Respond to my comment if you want to hear more. You’ve got to move to the US BTW…think you can handle not being “a celebrity” anymore? It just about killed me….but it was worth it.

    Balls in your court, boy.

  18. Thank you very much for the cool collection of templates, I have been searching for a while and these templates are what I want to put on my new blog.

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