Category Archives: Jobs in Japan

Black Russians and Sammy Huntington, Round 2

glory hole consolation

Buck up my friend, it could be worse

I stand at the bar, swirling around the ice in my Black Russian, searching for meaning in the swishing. I like the Black Russians. When you’re paying ¥500 for whatever’s on the menu, you might as well go for a shot of booze and a shot of lesser booze to help it along. At least it has a legitimate name.

I taught the bar how to make’em and it wows the Japanese clients, who often buy me one as they try it out themselves, the perks of being a celebrity in Japan, also known as being foreign. I never thought I’d live in a world where men bought me so many drinks, but I’m a humble man, and accept what’s given to me with a wink and a nod.

The bar’s an emerging trend in Japan. Men used to frequent ‘snacks,’ paying copious amounts to be worshipped by girls in prom dresses that light cigarettes and pour drinks like doting slaves. The old salarymen still carry a torch for such shenanigans.

Japanese Hostess

...Because a night out helps them remember what they coulda been...kings....

The cynical young folks though, they”re saving their money (for Godot) and don’t have ¥5,000 to ¥20,000 to throw down on a night of entertainment. These kids go to lady’s bars, pseudo-snacks where bartenders ply the men to buy drinks for them to up the revenue. Sometimes there’s a sit down charge, but perhaps this bar lacks that fee because of our inability to actually sit down.

Rats run across the upper structure of the bar as the sun begins to shine, destroying the black-lit purity our imagination.

He’s next to me again, blabbing on about the job. He’s taken my advice about ‘attacking shit’ to heart, but he’s turned his sights on me. He fires volley upon volley of complaints about our boss, our coworkers, women, life, the world, the universe, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m stuck here in a never-ending cycle of affirmations and head-nods. Such is the life of those who find themselves drinking on Wednesdays.

It’s times like these where I spout out the lyrics to songs that may or may not have anything to do with the given situation. Drunks never notice.

“Sometimes relationships get ill, do doubt.” (The Roots)

I nod my head strongly to add strength to my argument. A strong nod always helps force Japanese folks agree, despite whether or not they actually understand you.

He’s taken my advice of  ‘absolute victory and honesty,’  but I can go buy ‘drunken honesty’ in a bargain bin. He’s missed my point. A man can spout off all kinds of shit in his inebriation, but if he’s not honest enough to act on them sober, then he’s as good as nothing.

Standing here next to me, pissing out every damn feeling under the sun about how he’s getting shit on at work, with a fair bit of  flattery ‘dick sucking’ that I warned against towards me, he’ll be as docile as a Hindu cow when the sun rises.

Hindu Cow

Put me in a Kansas Slaughter House line, no qualms here

He interrupts both my ice-staring time and chatting with the Chinese bartender . He asks for some cash for future drinking (these places demand per drink). I support him, toss ¥5,000 his way but write a drunken, arabic-like nonsensical scrawl of a receipt to him, demanding ¥7,000 for his ¥5,000 investment.

I both jest and test.

Later in the night, as I debate the finer points of ‘shiofuki‘ with a random Japanese bunch over udon, he’ll ask me how I navigate so well with rough Japanese and a shitty understanding of the language.

I stare at him blankly, jaw agape.

It’s then that I get it. It’s then that I understand that no amount of coaching is going to change him. He’s tried so hard to understand my philosophy, he’s taken it to heart.

He gets how Western-folk operate, but he’s still going about it like a scholar of a dead language, like those first-year Kyūdō kids that practice form for a year and never fire an arrow from their bow.

“You’re not studying sharks in a book, you’re swimming with us my friend, so open your eyes or we’ll eat you alive,” I say, loving the art of the cliché.

I try to take his whole confusion about how I could interact with other members our human race without a firm grasp of their language with a grain of salt.

After that night he avoids me for 7 days, knowing I’m waiting for my payback, but unable to interpret that I’d far prefer the “I’ll getcha payday” to ‘I’ll avoid you until payday.’

I’ve disregarded his first night out (for the gods’ eyes only), but count the two previous strikes (now committed to record).

Black Russian

I know it's backwards learning our silly ass ways on your own soil, but globalization's a bitch, yo! Cheers!

One thing our cultures can agree on is the rules for baseball, right?

I want him to step up to the plate, I want him to hit home runs.

Well, step up to the plate my friend, because the game is on the line.

(A three-part, continuing series on a Japanese man’s trials and tribulations to make sense of western-biz, written through the eyes of the man watching him gasp for air in rough seas. Part 1 can be found here)

Bookmark and Share

More “Knives Out,” Less Rainbows, Puppy Dog Kisses, and Dick Sucking

Western World

Western Vagabond Teaches Easterner "Knives Out" Policy

I sat there staring at him, wondering how to go about my next move.

So often in this biz, we find ourselves as the confused foreigner, staring down the barrel of a gun we don’t quite understand. We often get shot before we figure out all the ins and outs of this Japanese world.

Today, the shoe was on the other foot.

I slowly pushed the lime down the top of my Corona, as he cradled his cold glass of Nama-Beer, squeezing some of the  juice out of the lime as I pushed it down, turning the bottle upside down, thumb over the top.

As I righted the bottle, removing my thumb to let the pressure out while taking a fresh sip, I began the long task of answering his queries.

“You’re thinking with a Japanese mind my friend, but unfortunately, you’re now a Japanese man working for a company with a western mind.”

He nodded, perhaps understanding the words, but not what lay behind them.

“I understand, but telling me that I was hired via a head-hunter, and that my colleague hired through traditional means was completely outperforming me seems a bit out of line. I’m in my first month!” He brought his drink to his lips while awaiting my response.

I chuckled. “My friend, welcome to the Western World.” I swirled my corona bottle around to let the lime diffuse a bit more and continued on my rant.

“…In the Western world, you are the new guy and we hate the new guy because you’re borderline useless and not a part of the culture. As such, we’re going to set up constant roadblocks to fuck with you. These walls are there to test you…”

I took one last chug, upending the bottle and continuing.

“Your job, as the new guy, is to walk up to that fucking wall, glory-hole the shit out of that fucking wall, climb that fucking wall, rip its fucking head off and scream “I’m fucking lord of this motherfucking wall!!!!”

I raised a finger and shouted the marble-mouthed “excuse me” that always seems to work in Japanese drinking establishments to get another round.

“You get me?” I asked as I pointed to him asking if he needed another.

“I…think…maybe?” He said as he nodded in confusion.

Perhaps I missed him at glory-holing, perhaps he lacks that balls-deep mentality.

“If you understand that, then you’ll have no problem surviving beyond the walls that keep your country separated from the rest of the world, but if you don’t, best stay home in Takamatsu.”

I smiled, grabbed my bottle for the bike ride, threw some sen-yens on the table, and bit the night adieu.

Maintaining a Teaching Job in Japan

So you made it to these hallowed shores of tentacle monsters and underwear vending machines. You covered my tips in the five-part “Getting a Teaching Job in Japan” series and now you’re sitting back, lounging in a bath full of Pocky.


(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)

But you can’t just sit around chewing black-black gum all day while visiting maid cafes! You got a job here! You gotta work!

How do you wow your employers and clients so that you can maintain your lifestyle in this wacky land of the rising sun?

Let’s begin!

Dress to Impress

Great Suit for Teaching.....Clowns...

Great Suit for Teaching.....Clowns...

I mentioned this a bit in the last post, but let me restate it:

A lot of people come over here in a patchwork quilt of a suit. Wearing green plaid pants, wacky hiking shoes, a tweed blazer with patches on it, purple shirt, and yellow tie isn’t going to get you anywhere. Who normally wears suits like that?


First Impressions are huge here, so if you look sharp and look like you’re here to do business, you’ll do just fine.

Another slightly unique idea in the realm of dress is to dress for your clients:

Where I work, we teach a lot of businesses, sometimes to people wearing overalls and coveralls. Those “down and dirty” guys feel a bit put off when they enter a classroom and have a man in a suit (not Man-in-Suit!) lording over them. I’ve seen a few teachers borrow some company coveralls, grab a helmet, and dress to their level. The students really warm up to it, although I’d recommend coming in your regular pristine wear and changing.

Dressing like your clients really helps them accept you and feel comfortable.

If you come to Japan dressed like a clown, it’d be perfectly acceptable for you to teach clowns…

Be on Time
If you're late here, it's 'off with your head' time

If you're late here, it's 'off with your head' time

There are a lot of cultures out there where time doesn’t matter. Just across the pond, if you tell a Korean to be somewhere at 7, they have an extremely loose interpretation of 7 and will perhaps show up at 9.

That’s not true in Japan. People are exacting in their timing and arrival. They’re usually not off by more than about 30 seconds plus or minus.

They don’t come early because they don’t want to catch you off guard. They don’t want to be late because that might offend.

I was recently hosting a party at a restaurant where I went outside about 5 minutes before the “stated arrival time” and there were just about 20 Japanese people standing outside waiting for the clock to strike the proper time.

You will crash and burn if you miss classes or come late.

Here’s a recent conversation I had with a client:

Student: “We really like you?”
Me: “Oh really, why is that? Is it because of my teaching style?”
Student: “No, we really like you because you come.”

I’ve known some amazing teachers that had issues with time and dressed badly. I consider myself a mediocre teacher that dresses well and gets to clients early and prepared. Guess who got better client reviews? Showing up is half the battle.

Don’t Date Students

Give me Engrish!

Give me Engrish!

I’ve seen some recent blog posts on this topic that covered the prospective dangers from the teacher’s point of view. This isn’t even the biggest danger.

Listen, I come from America. In America, we often seek some kind of mutual copacetic end to a relationship. This leads to about 6 months of pain and suffering, drunken encounters, retarded text messages, and general foolishness. At the end of that, sometimes those people emerge as friends, sometimes not.

In that situation, maybe that student would continue taking lessons from the teacher they slept with. Maybe they’d just switch teachers (for lessons, not sex…although maybe revenge sex).

Japanese people are a more cynical and (secretly) emotional bunch. When they rip off a band-aide, they rip that shit off in one fell swoop, not slowly trying to tear it off while wincing in pain.

You’re going to find that the person you slept with changed their cellular number and basically disappeared off the face of the earth.

From this standpoint, if you’re working for a company and sleeping with all the customers in failed mini-relationships, you’re going to find yourself absolutely destroying your company’s business. Eventually they’re bound to sniff out what’s going on.

Point A doesn’t lead to Point B

Like this, but with less direction

Like this, but with less direction

Listen, in Japan, nothing makes sense. You’ll often find yourself trying to make logical sense of the culture, people, and country.


It’s absolutely hopeless to try and make sense of it all.

You’ll try to understand why it’s rude to use a cell phone on a train as an airplane buzzes overhead with loudspeakers blaring, trying to get you to shop at the local mall.

You’ll live in a conservative little neighborhood next to a soapland district.

You’ll wonder how people who work 16 hours a day accomplish less than French workers who work 7 hours, and how a government that does nothing somehow brought a country to be the 2nd most wealthy in the world.

Don’t think about any of that. Your mind will explode and you’ll go insane.

Nothing makes sense here, and yet it somehow all works out. Don’t ask questions. Just smile and laugh at the nonsensical nature of it all.

Keep an open mind too. You’re going to come here, and you’re going to see all the weird and wacky differences and you’re going to feel resistant to it all.

“Why the hell do they sweep with that wacky broom that looks like Bear Grylls made it in the wild? My country’s brooms are so much better!”

I’ve seen more than a few ‘high-minded’ teachers come over here and decide to educate their students on why their country and ideas are so much better than Japan’s.

That didn’t work out so well.

Omiyage Chain of Doom

Spend at least one day of your life in here, shopping for mochi that's all the same

Spend at least one day of your life in here, shopping for mochi that's all the same

Listen, Japanese people are going to shower you with gifts. It’s not really cause you’re special, they shower everyone with cheap gifts.

When people travel, it’s perfectly normal for them to spend a day picking out “omiyage,” or small gifts to give to relatives, coworkers, and friends after their travels. Even when Japanse go as little as an hour away, they usually come back with something for others.

Do they expect you to do the same?

No, not really, you’re foreign and they know you play by different rules.

Will they absolutely love you if you do it?


Am I saying you should bribe your students with gifts?

Yes, Yes I am. They’re basically bribing you too.

Besides, it’s fairly win-win. I’ve had a lot of teachers that make grand statements to their students like “I don’t do your Omiyage thing, so I won’t bring you anything when I travel.”

Just jump in! If you’ve got a class of 5 people and you occasionally bring a little something to share in class with them, they’ll do the same. This is going to land you at least 5x your initial investment, usually more.

They’ll like you more for your sense to try out Japanese culture and enjoy the travel stories that come with your present, and will do the same back to you.

Work is Life

If you don't know what this is, you'd best learn

If you don't know what this is, you'd best learn

I have loads of students that invite me to stuff. Unless I really can’t go, I always make an effort. I don’t always want to go to an elementary school sports festival, but it’s good business.

In Japan, your job exists beyond the hours of work.

You’re always working even when you’re not. When students invite you out, it’s part of the student-teacher relationship and a way of solidifying relationships. You can be one of those folks who declines to do everything your students want, but A) you’ll miss out on a lot of interesting things and B) you’ll be keeping the students distant from you.

Learn to Drink

Learn to Drink....from small glasses!

Learn to Drink....from small glasses!

Japanese people can’t drink a lot (unless they’re Kochi people), but they do drink often. Drinking after work with coworkers is a continuation of work. It help reduce stress and cement relationships as the alcohol greases the release of what people really think.

When clients take you out to drink, it’s half to have a good time, but it’s also so they can drink a bit and tell you more about how they feel, as well as hopefully getting you drunk enough to hear a bit more about you.

I can actually say that drinking with clients has helped renew contracts as well as land new ones.

It’s an integral part of Japanese culture and an integral part of business relationships.

If you don’t drink, it’s ok. If you’re a women it’s fairly accepted, as many women don’t drink here. They’re often too busy managing their silly, drunk male coworkers at the end of the night.

Although I encounter a fair share of Japanese men who can’t drink or won’t, their expectations are that foreign men drink and can drink a lot.

As such, they will normally attempt to ply you with alcohol.

If you don’t drink, they will be accommodating enough. A good excuse is to be a driver, as the Japanese are very serious about not drinking a drop of liquor before driving.

But If you are a drinker, do expect that there might be a few more days of your life where you’re sharing a few drinks with colleagues, clients, and friends after work.

(That’s it for this week, hope you enjoy the new direction for the series!)

Bookmark and Share

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 5: Preparations and Arrival)

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, it’s my job to prepare potential candidates for their arrival in country.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about coming here that I will a) make the process less difficult  b) increase your survival chances and c) help your overall skills in landing a job here.

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part6)

Let’s get on with some of the nuts and bolts of preparing to come on over:

No Contract = Fail

We don't actually teach English at all, but we could use you in our 'English Lettering' Department

We don't actually teach English at all, but we could use you in our 'English Lettering' Department

While there are a variety of ways to deal with the Visa situation, at the very least, you should always get a contract signed by both parties (yourself and your employer) in your hands before departing.

While you’re in your comfort zone, you still have a lot of power to negotiate, but once you come to Japan you’re usually out of your element.

Don’t let a company woo you on over and tell you that you can do all the Visa and contract talk upon arrival. In your jet-lagged, culture-shocked stupor, you may find a devious company suddenly taking more than they are giving.

Accept nothing until you’ve seen a contract.

These days, you can get the Visa all squared away before you come, or you can come in as a tourist and get it processed in country (No more trips to Korea!), but always get that damn contract in your hands!

No Research = Fail

Beware of excessive flames, but fires have merit

Beware of excessive flames, but fires have merit

When a company begins to show some interest in you, it’s a good idea to check the company out on the internet. Not only should you be checking out their site, you should be looking into the various message boards out there where people discuss Japanese companies.

You’re bound to find former or current employees of many companies to answer any of your questions, but you’ll also find threads full of red flags.

Now, when on the internet, do keep in mind that it’s usually the haters who are most vocal, writing intense diatribes against everything and anything. You’re bound to find hate on nearly every company out there, as some people just don’t mesh with some systems.

By and large though, if it’s a small mountain of hate, you’re probably ok. If it’s a thread full of 500 hate messages, it’s probably a place you’d do best to avoid.

In time, it’s pretty easy to tell who was grumpy and what place actually appears to have horrible business practices.

I recommend Dave’s ESL Cafe Japan forums and GaijinPot’s forums, although your best bet is probably just to google the company’s name or the owner’s name to see what comes up.

When I was looking for a job in Japan it helped steer me away from a place with a hellish owner that was prone to canceling contracts on the day before completion in order to avoid paying bonuses as well as splitting employees’ weekends up so that they could never really go anywhere.

No Research Part Deus = Fail

Here's some practice: If this picture seems totally normal to you, do some research!

Here's some practice: If this picture seems totally normal to you, do some research!

Buy books on Japan, read things on the internet, research, research, research!

I tell potential employees that we operate throughout Shikoku. I tell them it’s a rural island. I tell them that Osaka is about 3-4 hours away, but that the tolls can be a bitch and you’ll often find that this isn’t the place for being an Osaka cat.

I tell them that if placed in Niihama, they’ll be hanging out in a pretty small city with about 12 other foreign people total and they’ll be living the real Japan countryside experience.

I tell people all of this and they still get mad at me when they can’t easily go clubbing in Osaka and the Japanese girls aren’t opening their legs for them like in Roppongi because they’re shy and conservative here.

Do your research! Listen to the information you’re given and search for more information to confirm and add to that!

Don’t dive into pools unless you know there’s water in them!

No Money = Fail

So you're saying the last suit you bought was during the Elizabethan Era?

So you're saying the last suit you bought was during the Elizabethan Era?

I wrote an entire blog post on how it can be easy to save money in Japan and cheap to live here. Once you get settled into Japan-life, it IS in fact possible to save money and live well.

However, this is not the time for that. You’ve just landed in the plane and you’re a stranger in a strange land.

You’ll be shitting money on arrival and if you arrive here a pauper, you’re fucked.

While the economy has tanked and the costs of establishing oneself here have gone down a bit with it, there are still tons of hurdles to overcome.

First there’s the transportation cost of getting here. Most companies will NEVER pay for it, so don’t start complaining and throwing a fit when they don’t. You see, thousands of years ago, at the dawn of time, companies DID pay for people to come on over to Japan…

…then those people fucked off and had a free vacation to Japan.

This is why most companies now give you bonuses on the way out, to cover costs of tickets AFTER contract completion.

Beyond travel, when setting up an apartment you’ve got to deal with dreaded key money, security deposits, high rents in the big cities, furniture buying and so on.

Beyond being a JET, you’re going to find that most companies in Japan don’t pay for all that. I’ve had plenty of people that come from elsewhere that say their company in Dubai, Korea or Narnia paid for everything and served them caviar on tiny silver spoons every night, but this isn’t the way Japan works.

I’m sorry, but if you’re looking for that kind of treatment, you may want to look at another country.

Don’t fret though. Most good companies will be more than happy to help you with every little detail in finding a place, learning how to pay your bills, connecting to the community, etc, etc…

You can network with teachers in your company, steal an outgoing teacher’s furniture, and take advantage of some of the more modern apartment options (Like Leo Palace, no key money, yay!)

When I made the jump, I did it with about 3000 USD in hand. That was plenty to get established, but I wouldn’t even ponder trying with less than 2000 USD.

Also keep in mind that most companies pay somewhere around the 20th-25th of the NEXT MONTH. If you worked the month of May, you’re getting that cash around the 20-25th of June. Be prepared for that wait.

Bringing Over an Entire Shipping Container = Fail

Sorry, had a lot of stuff I wanted to bring over

Sorry, had a lot of stuff I wanted to bring over

Japan’s a pretty modern country. There are toilets here that basically give you blow jobs.

They make everything and anything you can imagine.

As such, don’t pack like you’re going into some Congolese jungle. In Tokyo you can find nearly anything your heart desires.

Even on my little rural island, I still find most of what I need. You can pack light and worry about most things when you get here.

I recommend bringing comfortable clothes that are functional for the environment you’re visiting (Japan is a long country, so there are extreme differences). If you have a job here, you’re not going to have to worry so much about having epic tons of social hour clothes.

Make sure you have your work related clothes planned out well and bring enough stuff to be comfortable on weekends.

Yes, Japan is a nation of suit zombies. Many of the jobs you can land here will find you in a jacket and tie. Even without that job, there may be events that require you to dress as such.  If you haven’t invested in the suit-life yet, I recommend doing so and bringing over a few. You’re moving to a country where people aren’t so sure how to live WITHOUT wearing suits or uniforms.

And please don’t dress in some kind of Patchy McGee mix of 5 different suits. People match here and will secretly laugh at you.

Also, if you go Khaki, you’ll be the only one. You might even feel weird in brown. Go with something black and you won’t fail.

For clothes sizes, I find that if you’re a medium/large in the US, you’ll probably want to find Japanese XLs, although there are still a lot of American brands that might work on you. If your pants sizes are above 36 or so, you’ll have to go to a big and tall shop. This also goes for if you feet are bigger than a size 10.

I find I can buy clothes here without problem, even have custom suits and shirts made, but I buy my shoes abroad.

As for what else I have shipped in:

I prefer my American toothpaste and deodorant, although when I’ve ran out I’ve found perfectly suitable alternatives here. I can still get the cologne I like here, although most Japanese people will feel you ruin their entire sushi eating experience when they smell you in the restaurant, which I actually enjoy doing.

I DO recommend bringing a laptop, as if you buy one here, the OS is generally in Japanese and you’re going to find that they cut out a bit of the space bar on the right to make room for a key that switches from English to the various Japanese scripts. You will constantly hit it while writing English and find you’ve typed half your emails in random Japanese symbols.

It’s endlessly frustrating, so I recommend your good old home keyboard until you dive into the world of Japanese Language.

Other than that, bring a few of your favorite books, movies, and music, and pictures of stuff from back home to help you when you’re down and to show nosey people.

Also bring a good attitude, because if you’re one of those foreign people sitting around the bar moping about Japan all the time, Japan has enough of you already!

(I may have a few more bits to cover in a part 6 next week, or I may just call it at 5…we shall see)

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)

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 2: More Resume/Intro Tips)

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 get lot of resumes coming my way. Most of them fail horribly.

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 writing resumes/interviewing for a job.

(Part 1 can be found here)

So let’s continue with Part 2:

Stupid Email Name = Fail

I know I said we're equal opportunities, but anthropomorpic is a bit beyond what we're looking for..

I know I said we're equal opportunities, but anthropomorphic is a bit beyond what we're looking for..

We’re all adults here in this land of getting jobs, so the other day, when “Bob the Duck” sent me an email, I was confused.

Mr. Duck, sir, am I to assume you’re an anthropomorphic man-duck creature? If so, congratulations, you’ll fit in extremely well in Japan and probably be our most popular employee among our clients. We may even be able to finally land some of those poultry clients. Kawaii!!!

In all seriousness, pick a name/email for your professional life and use it. For my friends, I have a Scandalous@ address. I’m not going to use Scandalous@ to apply anywhere at any point unless I decide to get into politics.

I dunno, something about it just seems to send the wrong message.

This gets even more important in the realm of the modern email clients that tend to name you via your profile info. In the past, I might not notice you were pornqueen69@ until I’d already settled on your resume and liked it, but now I get emails literally from “Bob the Duck.”

Think about it. Would you accept a job from a guy emailing you as “Scandalous McDouchebag?” It probably wouldn’t sound very appealing.

Spelling Name Wrong = Fail

When you spell an Irishman's name wrong, he gets all pissy and angry and starts going on about potatos

When you spell an Irishman's name wrong, he gets all pissy and angry and starts going on about potatoes

I usually spell out my name in the email. I’m sure most job recruiters do this. We want you to be able to contact us via a name. We prefer when you use our actual name.

Let me tell you a story…

My last name is Scanlan. Apparently we were the less successful of the O’Scanal-named people who fled shitty potatoes to come live in America. As such, there aren’t many people with the -an end to their name. There are mostly Scanlons over in America. They’ve been successful enough there that everyone assumes my name is spelled with an -on. This means that throughout my entire life, everything I’ve ever received, from trophies to diplomas to driver’s licences has been spelled wrong.

What a wonderful world Japan has been, where my name is totally alien and new and they’re anal about getting it right, but anyway…

Even though my personal hatred for this is probably beyond the norm, I can only imagine others getting miffed when you blow their name. It’s a personal slight, but you’re not interviewing with robots. You’re dealing with people that also have emotions. You don’t want to piss them off. They sometimes make irrational decisions based on biases. Shitting on their name may not throw them into intense rage, but it’s not a good start and good starts are half the battle.

Also, try and figure out if they’re a man or a woman. It’s not a mistake you have to make. I get a lot of resumes from places where I have no idea if the name is a woman or a man. If they didn’t send a picture, I google image their name and see what turns up. If you see about 75% of the pictures  as one sex, I’d roll the dice on it.

Send a Billion Emails/Giant Attachments = Fail

Sweet Yard Sale, but I can't even find your resume in all this...

Sweet Yard Sale, but I can't even find your resume in all this...

I’m not sure about all companies, but my company prides itself on its technological prowess. We update our teacher files via our iphones, keep in contact via video conferencing, sms each other for drinking opportunities, etc, etc. As such, if you send me a yard sale of multiple emails each containing one file, I’m going to assume you have no idea how to use a computer.

The simple fact is that we now live in the 21st century. A lot of companies are doing things on computers. While this can be taught to (most) anyone, if you’re sending along a package of materials that looks scattered and unprofessional, it can worry a potential employer, especially in Japan, a country that basically exists in the 22nd century (unless you’re banking, then drop back to the 19th century).

If you send a yard sale of files that add up to over a megabyte, most people are not going to DL it all. At my office, we post the resumes to a database and they are often passed among the  recruiting staff. I get things that are 30megs sometimes. This makes in damn near impossible to easily mail around.

Keep it under a meg, it’s not hard. Most companies just need a simple picture, and a resume/CV. The rest can come when they actually like you.

I’ll talk about diploma scans at the end of this section.

We want to see your computer ability, but keep it simple stupid!

Obscure Formats = Fail

Nice format...Let me just haul out my Rosetta Stone

Nice format...Let me just haul out my Rosetta Stone

It’s a sad fact that the entire business world uses Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat. If you’re sending things in .doc or .pdf, kudos to you. Don’t send it in anything else.

In my office, we actually produce a lot of stuff in Pages. At the office, we have Macs, so the program is handy and nice. Still, whenever we share that material with clients, we convert it into .pdf. Why do we do this?

Because no one uses Pages.

I do a lot of work from home on a PC, so Pages even becomes junk for me unless I convert it.

Don’t send things in anything but the most standard forms that everyone can read. I don’t want to see Pages, I don’t want to see .wps, and if you’re sending in .txt I’m going to assume you live in 1993 and have a really cool time machine for warping space and time.

Also, for the record, when using word, make sure you don’t have that wonky word where they tried to re-standardize the format. It saves everything in .docx. No one can read it, it’s career suicide.

No Degree = Fail (In Japan)

If this was not your lifestyle from age 18-22(Ok, 24), Japan doesn't want you!

If this was not your lifestyle from age 18-22(Ok, 24), Japan doesn't want you! (Courtesy of Wes Frazer)

This last one is very Japan-centric, and it’s not something the companies impose. Japanese immigration likes to see smart teachers are coming into their country to teach their people. As such, they usually require a degree to get a Visa. It’s not something we need, it’s something they do.

Please don’t get all angry with me for asking for one. I’m not going to steal it, or burn it, or copy it and sell in Vladivostok. I don’t want it at all, but the powers that be don’t want to give you a Visa unless you have one. Sorry!

That being said, there are highly skilled English teachers in Japan without degrees. It’s possible to come in here on a tourist Visa and work your way into a job, so all hope is not lost. But in general, you will not be pre-approved for a Visa in this line of work from your outside country without that handy little degree…and you’re gonna have to part with it for a bit. They want the actual thing in their hands.

So for me, don’t bother sending pictures of your degree. The Jammigration do that part of the job for me. I trust them to route out you impostors!

(That’s it for the week. Tune in next time where I talk a bit about interview and beyond. I have at least 2 more columns in me)

(Part 1)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part 6)