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The interview

Mark Shrosbree, Tokai University


It is hard to give a definitive job interview guide, as every institution will be looking for different qualities in a candidate. Nevertheless, there are steps every candidate can take to improve their chances.



Research the institution.It makes a good impression if the candidate has researched the types of courses offered, and shows some knowledge of what will be expected in the job.

Familiarise yourself with your CV. Ensure you can answer any questions about your CV, especially dates and important details. Be prepared to summarise any research papers or presentations listed.

Prepare for likely questions.Try to anticipate the questions you will be asked. The job advertisement might give clues, and lists of interview questions can be found at: <> and <>.


The interview

First impressions. Arrive early to prepare yourself and your attire. In summer, take a taxi to avoid sweating.

Manner. In Japan, a certain degree of humility is probably appropriate. In my experience Japanese colleagues may recoil from candidates who blow their own trumpet too much. Therefore, try to be polite, attentive, and slightly deferential. Examples of comments that made interviewers wince include: “motivation is not that difficult” and “I teach English as it should be taught.”

Enthusiasm. Interviewers may well be judged by their enthusiasm for teaching. Teachers who can inspire students are highly valued, especially with the increasing competition among universities to attract students.

Avoid flippancy. I have been surprised when candidates reply to serious questions about teaching in Japan with knowing glances and intimations along the lines of Well, we all know what it’s like here.

Be concrete. A common weakness is to reply to questions with rather academic, abstract answers. A question such as, “How would you deal with de-motivated, low-proficiency learners?” is probably inviting concrete suggestions.

Demonstrate your specific contribution.Try to show that you have a particular speciality which fits the needs of the institution. Employers will be keen to employ someone who satisfies an urgent need, such as finishing the entrance exam on time, or getting a curriculum description submitted.

Do not exaggerate.Exaggeration of abilities or experience usually gets uncovered in the interview. An obvious example is Japanese skill. I have seen an interviewee get angry when asked a question in Japanese (he complained that he had not been told to prepare for questions in Japanese), even though his CV listed intermediate Japanese skill.

Speak clearly and appropriately.In my experience, there are always Japanese speakers of English on the interview panel. However, candidates frequently speak too fast, mumble, or use culture-specific humour. The ability to speak clearly and at an appropriate speed is essential in this profession, and may be a key selection criterion.

Address all interviewers equally.I have often been in interviews where there is a quiet superior who does not speak much English. Some candidates ignore this person and only address the people asking questions. It is worth remembering that this silent person might be making the final decision.

Questions.Be ready to ask questions about the position. However, to avoid giving the impression that you are only interested in the money and holidays, ask some questions about other aspects of the position too.

The hiring process can be time-consuming, tiring, and stressful for everyone involved. It is hoped that this guide will help teachers present themselves well at interview and secure a suitable position.

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