Smasha wrote:And of course, how was your interview? where did you interview? Was it clear from your interview whether you got in or not? I would hate to wait till April without even some hint of the result. I won't bug you what the questions were like, because there is lots of posts about that on the forum, and while very helpful, sometimes they make me stress out too much of how much prep i have to do before hand.
Any other advice, interview or otherwise, would be greatly appreciated!
Right! So about my interview... I'll try to give as much detail as possible, to sort of paint a picture of the whole experience (it's pretty well engrained in my memory).
I'm from Calgary, so I was lucky enough to not need to travel for my interview. I was selected as an Alternate 2 years ago, even though I thought my interview went pretty well. But this year, I positively aced it. I knew they liked me when I walked out. It was like the perfect storm.
The Calgary consulate is in the TransCanada Tower in downtown Calgary, just 2 blocks north of the 1st Street West C-Train station. Parking in downtown Calgary on a weekday is a nightmare, so I took the train and walked. [I highly recommend that anyone interviewing in Calgary should do the same.] I arrived 45 minutes before my scheduled interview time, just to be safe. I was dressed very conservatively, in a charcoal suit with a white shirt, a simple tie, and black shoes. The consulate itself is on the 23rd floor of the building, but I didn't go up right away. My plan was to arrive in the waiting room 20 minutes early, so I went to the Starbucks in the building to try to relax. Although I had been in this exact situation one year ago, I was still nervous. But it wasn't the interview itself that scared me (I'm a singer, so I'm accustomed to being in front of an audience). No, It was the knowledge that how I performed in the next hour could quite literally change the course of my entire life. I was trying not to think about that. So I bought a cup of tea, sat down, closed my eyes, and just focused on my breathing. Breathing exercises are amazing for relaxing your body. Breathe in. Slowly. Hold......... Breathe out. Slowly. Repeat.
20 minutes to go. I got in the elevator and headed up to the 23rd floor. The jolt of the elevator's acceleration didn't improve the feeling in my stomach. The security guard at the door of the consulate clearly knew why I was there, because I heard him whisper "Good luck!" as I passed him. The lobby of the Calgary consulate is fairly small. The reception desk is behind a glass window on the right as you enter the room. Directly in front of you is a seating area with 2 couches and a low table. To the left of the couches is a long magazine stand like you'd find in a bookstore. It has various pamphlets, brochures, newspapers, magazines, etc. related to Japan. I went first to the reception desk, gave the woman behind the glass my name, and told her I was here for the JET Programme interview. She told me to have a seat. I took a brochure for the JET Programme from the magazine stand and tried to make myself comfortable on one of the couches. I wanted to appear as relaxed as possible, so I pretended to read it as I ran through everything in my head for the 1027th time.
Model self-intro in Japanese: Check. Current events in Japan: Check. Justification for placement request: Check. Mock interview questions: Check.
[I spent quite a bit of time before that day brainstorming mock interview questions they might ask me about my application. The interviewers go through hundreds of applicants, so If they see anything interesting or unusual about you on paper, there is a high likelihood they will drill you on it. Hopefully you kept a photocopy of your application before you sent it to them. Take it out, and pretend you're looking at it for the first time. What stands out? They may ask you about good things or bad things. Be ready to answer any questions you can think of about your application. This is one of the best things you can do to prepare.]
As I sat waiting, I had an opportunity to chat briefly with a couple of other interviewees who passed through. This really helped to relax my nerves. If there are others in the waiting room with you, talk to them! It'll help you to remember you're all in the same boat.
Finally the door opened and I heard my name being called... and from this point on, I was on fire. The guy who called my name introduced himself as Jeff, and I suddenly recognized him as the JET Programme coodinator for Calgary, whom I had contacted via phone and email several times in the months preceding the interview. He clearly recognized my name because he said "Nice to finally meet you in person!". He was a really cool guy, in his late 20s, just returned from his tenure on the JET Programme one year previously. I was already very comfortable talking to him. He escorted me through the double sets of doors leading into the consulate, and down the hallway to the interview room.
As I entered the room, I saw 2 interview panelists and 1 empty chair. Jeff followed me in and walked to the other side of the table with the other panelists. He was going to be interviewing me! This was awesome! As the panelists introduced themselves, it got even better. I recognized another one of them. He was an older Japanese man, a Japanese language professor at the University of Calgary (my university). He was one of the people who interviewed me on my first attempt one year earlier. The third was a young woman, Japanese, who I had never met before. She was some sort of official at the consulate.
So the interview began. The first questions they asked me were classics. "Why Japan?", "Why the JET Programme?" They will almost definitely ask you these. I told them that I've been interested in visiting Japan for many years, but I didn't want to go as a tourist. I said I thought the best way to truly experience a culture is to become a part of it, and for me this meant living and working in Japan. As for why I chose JET, I told them I had researched all the options, but JET had the best reputation by far. I said I was excited at the possibility of being a part of such a well-received program. I also said that I had great trust in the JET Programme because it is coordinated by the Japanese government, and not a private company. [They will love hearing stuff like this. Praise the hell out of the JET Programme, but try to be subtle about it.]
Other questions they asked me were about my part-time job. They asked me to describe an instance when I had to work with someone with whom I didn't get along very well. They asked me how I usually cope with stressful situations. These types of questions are no-brainers... but the trick is to phrase them in a way that makes you sound better than everyone else they've asked. I distinctly remember using the phrase "avoid direct confrontation" a couple of times, which seemed to go over well, since Japanese people will typically avoid direct confrontation by any means possible.
They asked me about my Japanese language ability. I told them I had taken one semester of classes in university, and done a bit of self-study. So they asked me to pretend I was in Japan, and to give a model introduction in Japanese. With absolutely no hesitation, I said "OK!", stood up out of my chair, and I busted out my prepared self-intro. I'm pretty sure this is what I said:
"Hajimemashite. Shõn to moushimasu. Kanada no Karugarii kara kimashita. Nihon wa hajimete. Sukoshi nihongo o hanasemasu kedo, mada amari wakarimasen. Demo, ganbarimasu! Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu."
(Nice to meet you. My name is Shaun. I'm from Calgary, in Canada. This is my first time in Japan. Although I speak a little Japanese, I don't understand much yet. But, I will try my best! I hope we will have a good relationship!) - translated to the best of my current ability -___- "
I know it's not perfect, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I said in the interview. My voice was clear and confident as I spoke. They loved it, they even applauded a little. The young woman told me she was very impressed with my pronunciation. Jeff said that he was really happy to see that I just went for it. I didn't show any reluctance to speak in Japanese.THIS IS IMPORTANT.
If they ask you speak in Japanese, JUST DO IT!
Even if you only know a few words, don't hesitate. They want to see that you're not afraid to try. If you try and fail spectacularly, that's still better than being reluctant to try at all. If you really fall flat on your face, just apologize and say that you are really looking forward to improving your Japanese during your stay in Japan.
They asked me if I knew about any current events in Japan. I had done my research. I told them I knew the Prime Minister at the time was involved in some scandal, the details of which I have now forgotten. But they seemed really impressed that I was able to talk about it in detail at the time. I also mentioned the Hanshin Tigers (a Japanese baseball team, VERY popular in the Kansai region), which the old guy LOVED. You should've seen his face when I mentioned Ichiro (probably the most famous Japanese baseball player right now). [This part is easy to prep for. Just spend 30 minutes a day reading stuff on the Japan Times website in the weeks before your interview. You'll be surprised how much stuff you remember. Also, definitely learn the names of some Japanese baseball teams. They love their baseball.
The last thing they asked me to do, was to teach a mock lesson. I had heard some people get asked to do this, but I didn't the previous year. Well... this time I did! They said to pretend that they were a class of 8-year old Japanese kids with very low English ability. They asked me to explain 3 Canadian sports to them. Yikes. OK. Think. HOCKEY! That one's easy. I got out of my chair, and I asked if I could use the whiteboard that was in the corner of the room. They said yes (I have a feeling they may have put it there on purpose). On the whiteboard I drew a hockey stick, a puck, and a hockey net... and using very simple English and lots of movement and gestures, I explained that the game is played on ice, and you need to put the puck inside the other team's net. Done. Next! LACROSSE! I drew a ball and a Lacrosse stick which ended up looking almost exactly like a tennis racket. I made a joke about this, saying lacrosse is NOT tennis. All 3 of the panelists laughed. Then again I used gestures to explain that you throw the ball into the net. Done. Uhm.... ok 3rd Canadian sport... Uhmmmmm... BASKETBALL! The old guy asked me if Basketball was a Canadian sport. I said it was! I explained that even though it was invented in the USA, the man who invented it was a Canadian! This was great. A "mock" lesson was turning into a real lesson - I had actually taught the Japanese panelists something they didn't know! Drew a basketball net. Gestures. Done.
[The best advice I can give if they ask you to teach a mock lesson: BE GENKI. Smile. Have lots of energy. The interviewers are asking you to pretend they are kids, so imagine how you would act if they really were kids! Use the most simple English you possibly can. For example, when explaining hockey, I never mentioned the word "skate" or "shoot" or "penalty" or any of the more complicated rules. I literally said:
"You play on ice! Use this "stick" <point to stick> to put this "puck" <point to puck> into the "net" <point to net>! <Gesture like I'm holding a stick, then perform a dramatic slap shot>
Keep it simple, and keep it fun. Make jokes if you can. Smile. Imagine you're teaching your baby brother. Enjoy it!]
All 4 of us were smiling as the interview ended. Jeff even said "Hope to see you again!" as I shook his hand and walked out. I was walking on air for the rest of the day, it had gone so perfectly.
God damn... I need to stop writing these massive walls of text. I have to go for now. Hope this helps! d(^.^o)
--- BTW, Smasha, don't stress over the interview prep too much. You still have time. Do a little each day, and run through the interview in your head. Visualize yourself acing the interview. You'll do just fine