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)


9 responses to “Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 4: More Interview Stuff)

  1. Thanks for your helpful series! As gratitude, allow me to return the favor;


    1) don’t ask a bunch of nosey questions.
    2) why do I want to work for your company? To get paid! What, is you stupid?
    3) shut the fuck up and give me the job. I got shit to do.
    4) never mind the job, actually just hand over the salary every week and we’ll be cool.
    5) matter of fact, why don’t you just put your hands in the air. I run your watch, run your iphone, run your Suica. Someone stop me before i jux this fool.

  2. Just discovered your blog (thank you google) and read the four parts in a row.
    Well, I’ll remember those tips (even if I already had in mind most of them) as I’m going to Japan soon, partly to become a language teacher.
    Your witty writing made me laugh more than once, I’ll keep reading your posts in the future, that’s for sure!

  3. Thanks for the props Pascale, thanks for the flames dragon…I’ll keep it going, next week with some tips to help keep in mind when coming over

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

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

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

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

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

  9. Hey Craig,
    I found your post about resumes in Japan while looking up why a Japanese production company here in New York wanted me to send them a picture along with my resume. I am a producer and editor, not an actor, so that seemed a bit strange to me.
    Anyway, I read the whole post (well, up to part 4… I will get onto part 5 in a bit) and enjoyed your sense of humor. I felt that we were on the same page.

    My wife and I were thinking of moving to Japan within the next few years. She has taught in the south bronx for 2 years and has been wanting to teach english in Japan for some time now.
    I am curious if you wouldn’t mind telling us which company you work for, perhaps she could send you her resume some time when we are ready to make the leap.

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