Know Before You Go:
Interview Tips for ESL Jobs in Japan

Here are some interview tips to help new comers to teaching in Japan get ready for interviews. Some of the best advice is to remember there are hundreds of positions available every month all over Japan.

So if something doesn't work out, just keep plugging until it does.

Having said this, here are some interview tips and advice to help you get a job in Japan. Starting with seeing "eikaiwa" as a business from the employer's view.

Seeing the Big Picture

First, it’s important to understand what your employer wants. Whether it’s a giant chain school like Geos or a smaller one with just 2 or 3 branches, they all want the same thing. More students. English schools try to stay afloat by giving students what they want. What do most Japanese students want? A fun and informative experience with a foreigner. There are some who genuinely want a boot camp type lesson but these are few. Given this, this is how you can approach your interview. Click here for a detailed rundown on what the large chain schools are looking for in ESL teachers.

Interview Tip #1: Sound the Part

If you'll be calling a prospective employer to ask if a job is still available or to follow up on a resume submission, it's important to sound enthusiastic. Sounding tired or bored will make finding a job in Japan an up-hill battle. Sounding enthusiastic is perhaps the most important interview tip of them all. After all, if you can't get in the door for an interview, you can't get a job.

Full-time positions start at 250,000 yen. Click here to convert currencies. Keep in mind, without teaching experience it’ll be tough to get more than the minimum. It’s not necessary to ask about money at this point - unless you’re looking for much more and there’s no mention of salary.

You can bring money up when they ask you in for an interview. During the telephone interview, if you’re speaking with a Japanese national, take care to enunciate clearly. Remember to ask for a landmark in addition to the physical address. Japan is notorious for not naming streets and buildings.

Interview Tip #2: Look the Part

Perhaps even more important than sounding the part is looking it. Don’t dress in jeans. Wear proper attire. The same as if you were interviewing for a job in your home country.

We’ve heard some say “wear anything you want.” But keep in mind that Japanese are very image conscious, so dress with this in mind. Also note- beards and moustaches don’t go over very well. You might want to consider shaving to improve your odds. Especially if you’re interviewing for a position teaching children.

Interview Tip #3: Act the Part

Most schools are looking for up-beat, energetic teachers who will teach a lesson with enthusiasm or who can breathe life into a boring lesson. Knowing grammar etc. isn’t as important as being positive and optimistic. Keep in mind there are limits. Don’t be all over the place. Be spunky and smiley but don’t finish people’s sentences or be aggressive.

Interview Tip #4: Preparation

Prepare. In addition to showing up 5 to 10 minutes early for your interview with an extra resume or two in hand, think about what they might ask. Interviewers are as different as the questions they ask but some common questions are:

  • Why do you want to teach English in Japan?
  • Do you enjoy teaching children / adults?
  • How long are you intending to stay in Japan?
  • What do you like about Japanese culture?
  • What is your visa situation?
  • How would you make a lesson to get very shy Japanese to speak?
  • How might you handle a disruptive element in your class?

If it's your first interview in Japan, it's a good idea to write down your responses before the interview. This gives you the opportunity to think about how you would answer.

Other Tips

If you have little or no teaching experience and this fact is brought up, you need to switch gears. Instead of caving-in or admitting what you don’t have during the interview, it’s best to talk about what you can do.

So if you're inexperienced, what's the upside? Easy. That you're open to their teaching methodology. That you don't have pre-determined teaching methods and so are flexible. Incidentally... this is what the big chain schools want.

Another point to remember is about inflated egos. Boasting and bragging isn’t looked upon very favorably by the Japanese. So one of the best interview tips of all is to keep it real, keep it simple and keep it up-beat.

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