Tag Archives: ESL Jobs

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)

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)