Interview Questions

These were my questions and answers for the JET interview:

First 5/6 questions were there to test my Japanese proficiency.
 I stumbled. A LOT.
And I kept asking the interviewer to repeat himself, although he didn’t seem to mind.

First I was shown 2 papers with pictures on them. A man with a name card and an empty speech bubble facing another 2 people. I was asked: What is he saying? 

I said: Hajimemashite, kore wa watashi no meishi desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Second, I was shown a picture of a person saying a greeting in the night. What is he saying?

Third, a lady accidentally bumps into another lady in the train. What does she say?
Sumimasen. Shitsureishimasu!

Then, he asked me “senshuu doyoubi nangatsu nan nichi desuka. Nani wo shimashitaka?”
I TOTALLY blanked out on the date thing cuz, on one hand, I had no idea what date Saturday had been and also cuz counting dates in Japanese under stress is not my forte…but I said I had been preparing for the interview all day. (they laughed at that.)

I was asked if I had any siblings
I said I had one younger brother who likes animals and works in the army now. I mentioned that he’s very annoying, but cute.

What sweet would you introduce to Japanese people?
I was like OMG!  Kueh Lapis! The interviewer had apparently never eaten Kueh and he asked me what it was, and I was like, “Jelly/mochi mitai na okashi desu!”

Srsly, Kueh lapis is amazing…..crap…I wanna eat Kueh now…. Q_Q

All this glorious Kueh.

Then he asked what flavour it had.
And I was like “Amai desu”.

The last question completely threw me off. It was something about children liking potato chips….and I was asked for a reason why…..
I stared blank at that one. TOTALLY didn’t know what to say about that one.


Then came the English section…this wasn’t TOO bad…

What do you know about the JET programme?
I’ve never been the best at memorising facts like that…but I said I knew it was under 3 Ministries, one of which was MEXT, and that I’d be a part of an international programme which people from around the world were in.

I think I tried to ham it up a little…but mostly it was me blurting whatever I could remember until the lady went, ok and asked me the next question.

What do you think it means to be an ALT?
Being an ALT means you’re an Assistant Language Teacher and it’s important to acknowledge that. I told them that I would work hard to support my Japanese Teacher of English with my talents and that I was very aware that I wasn’t the main teacher of the class.

What would you like to do Post-JET?
This was pretty simple, and I said I wanted to go into translation, Singapore-Japan ties in the arts, work with JCC/Japan Association. But I also said that I was keeping my options open based on what I experienced through the JET programme.

How would you incorporate drama into teaching English to the Students?
I talked about some drama games which would make learning English a more fun and relevant affair.

What if some of the students are uncooperative or don’t want to join in the games?
I mentioned that I’d had students in the past who were too shy or were un-cooperative, and I went on to say that I was perfectly fine with allowing students to sit out and just observe activities and take notes instead. The interviewers seemed a little surprised by my answer, but I went on to say how I’d had a girl in a primary school who at the start refused to say anything out loud. She’d only whisper to me, and even then, only if she had no choice. So I started with allowing her to write things down and then slowly built up her confidence.

I also told the teacher that I’d probably start off with simple pair exercised before asking students to stand up and present things by themselves, especially if I was given a class that was very shy. I also joked that I’d tell my students that I was hardly perfect with Japanese and that I too was learning together with them. 🙂

What if the teacher herself is resistant to some of your methods?

In the first place, I said I would like to discuss what expectations each teacher had of me before any work started. Having worked as an assistant director, I have the experience of working under various directors who all have different personalities and this applies for teachers as well. So I’d probably want to sort out all our expectations before plunging headfirst into the work itself.

Would you be open to organizing festivals?
YES! OF COURSE! ….but with the help and guidance of other teachers.

Would you be open to teaching fellow ALTs about drama games? How would you do that?
Cuz I generally like working with people and sharing skills and all that jazz, I said “Yes!”. I mentioned that I’d read the online copy of the activities compiled by JET participants over the years and stated that while I hadn’t memorised it, I’d love to read through it further and add on to it. And as for sharing this with fellow ALTs I said that I could always lead demonstrations with the help of other ALTs who might have similar set skills.

Your professor mentioned that you are “raised with sensitivities, politeness and elegance”. How would they help you in the job?
I’m hardly the most modest person, so on one hand I’m like, aww shucks. On the other hand I’m like…WHAT DO I SAY TO THAT???  So I thought for a while, and said that I was very aware of the fact that I’m going to another person’s home, so I’d do my very best to understand the customs/practices there and be a pleasant guest and not impose my views and thoughts on everyone around me. So by being such a person, I thought it would help me communicate better with my colleagues.

What is your impression of Japanese youngsters?
This was asked by the caucasian man, and it completely threw me off. I’d read articles about students and student life….but the only personal impression I had and still have of Japanese youngsters is those I met at Toho Gakuen.

At first, I said how I though the younger generation was more flexible that the older generation, but eventually went on to say that I felt like I was of the same generation as them and as such did not know if I could judge them.

I then told the man that I hoped I’d answered his question, but he didn’t reply.
O_O THAT was when the internal me was going…OH GOD…..HE HATES ME!!!

One thing you’d like to tell Japanese people about Singapore!
I truly do appreciate Singapore as a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-everything country and I told them that I’d want to communicate this to my students. I said, I knew it sounded a little cheesy, but that it was one of the things I really loved about Singapore…other than the food!

The Japanese interviewer finally asked: you mentioned Sado Island in your application. Why Sado?
I’m not sure you want to read my answer to this question because I began fan-girling about the Island… :/
But in a nutshell I talked about the Noh theatre there, and Sado being an awesome place with lots of old culture…blah blah.

By the end of that, he was like…waw, you know more about Sado than most Japanese people and I was like…
ah haha….thanks!

He went on to ask: Sado is a small island and there may not be any openings there, would you be open to be posted to another part of Japan?
I was totally fine with this, and I said “It’s not that I don’t care about where I’m posted, and where I’m posted DOES matter to me. But I also think that no matter where I’m posted, there’ll be something different about the culture there. Cuz even within Tokyo there’s traditional Noh theatre on one hand and the Maid Cafes in Akihabara on the other hand…So I imagine that Japan must be a very culturally diverse country.”

And right after that, I wondered for a VERY long time if I’d said something stupid…if I shouldn’t have mentioned Maid Cafes of all things….If I’d sounded waaaaay too high on sugar…..

On hindsight, I’m really happy with the way I conducted myself at the interview. I didn’t lie about anything, I didn’t present myself as anyone other than myself and I managed to make them laugh and had some fun there myself. 😀

So yea, things turned out fine and I’m glad for it.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shiela
    Mar 17, 2019 @ 14:04:26

    Your web site has excellent material. I bookmarked the website


  2. Rachel T
    Oct 08, 2016 @ 02:17:52

    Hi! I’m thinking of applying to the JET programme as a mature student, as I’m hoping to find work in London next year after graduation. You mentioned having students, did you have a lot of experience as a teacher? Will I be at a disadvantage if I don’t have much experience? I’m really looking forward to this programme. I’ve actually heard of it in uni! Im studying in Nottingham right now but Im born and bred Singaporean. Also, I was wondering, did you get your first choice, location wise? I’m hoping to get posted in Tokyo as my partner would be looking for a position over there (he works in a bank and their only office is in Tokyo). Would it be unacceptable to mention it?

    Thanks! 🙂


    • iggyinjapan
      Oct 09, 2016 @ 08:00:44

      Hi, waw ok, let me try to answer your questions.

      1. I don’t know if you’d call what I had “a lot”. I used to teach at a childcare and I also taught drama at primary and secondary schools. So, yes I had SOME experience, but I wasn’t a certified MOE teacher.

      2. Any teaching experience will of course be an advantage. That said, you don’t have to be a professional teacher to get this job.

      3. Nope, Toyama was not a choice at all. However, I also don’t have any regrets about it.

      4. I can’t answer your question about a Tokyo placement to be honest. I hear they’re looking for more Tokyo JETs now and I THINK they take it into consideration if you have a partner in Tokyo…but it’s not a given.

      Hope that helped.


  3. cjsy
    Jan 19, 2015 @ 09:53:56

    I find your advice and experience really helpful! I have an interview in a few days and I’m really nervous about the Japanese Proficiency test. I have a basic grasp of the language; not as good as I’d like though. I’m not very good at listening and understanding native Japanese speakers and I’m worried about embarrassing myself and drawing a blank. If you don’t mind sharing, what level did your mark your proficiency as on the application? Did you find the test to be challenging? Thank you!


    • iggyinjapan
      Jan 21, 2015 @ 11:58:56

      Hey!!! Hope this reply isn’t too late! I thiiink I marked it as beginner….which I was when I submitted the application….

      Personally….i think the Japanese “test” is really just to help them place you…I know PLENTY of people who have ZERO japanese knowledge on the JET programme, and I slipped up on a pretty easy question during my interview..

      Just keep a calm head…and even if you trip, it’s not the end of the world. 😀


    • iggyinjapan
      Jan 21, 2015 @ 11:59:22



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