My JET Interview pt. 1

Since I don’t have too much to talk about yet, I suppose I can start off with what has happened so far. This post will be about the INTERVIEW. I applied to the JET Programme at the end of November.  The application took me almost 2 months to put together and I mailed it in on literally the last day of the deadline, 5 minutes before Canada post closed. You can imagine that when I got a letter in the mail in January saying I had been accepted for an interview scheduled in the middle of Febrary at the University of Toronto, I was beyond ecstatic.

So anyways, I had been preparing for this interview for an entire month straight. I seriously wrote out sample interview answers to about 200 questions that I found on forums on the internet, watched videos on youtube, studied trivia and current events, rewrote 25 of the most important interview questions multiple times, then distilled them into the most important points. Then I did mock interviews for 3 weeks straight with my close friends and family. I felt pretty nervous going into it, but it was exciting and I remember it vividly. Here’s the story of my interview for those who want a glimpse into what the interview process is like. I suspect it should be especially helpful for next year’s new JETs. I’ve actually decided to divide up the story into two posts so you, dear reader, can take a short bathroom break.


I woke up at 6:45 am. Had a quick breakfast of tuna, toast, tea, eggs and a banana. No milk so I don’t get gassy. Shower. Suit up. After double and triple checking everything I need, I’m finally out on the road by 7:55 am.

The drive to Toronto is hellish. I hit massive traffic on the 401 and then again on the Gardiner. Didnt get to St. george campus until 9:40. STUPID NO LEFT TURNS BEFORE 6 PM! Whoever decided the street rules in Toronto is a total asshole.

My Interview was at 10, but I was supposed to be there by 9:45. I JUST MADE IT! I mentally noted that  University of Toronto  King’s College campus felt like a trip to Hogwarts.

Finally stepped inside the building. The first thing I see is a huge metal gate that’s padlocked as if to say ” YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.”. Unfettered, I glance around some more, and realize there’s a door to my right. Except it looks like a part of the wall. Really weird. I guess that’s the first step of the elimination process.

Once I’m in the lobby I begin to wonder again if I’m in the right place as there’s not a single person and the hall is ghostly quiet. Fortunately I see a tiny JET sign in the corner telling me to go right. I walk down the hallway and discover the interview waiting room which is held in a stuffy old classroom.

I glance inside the interview room. About 5 or so applicants waiting there, all sitting in silence watching an orientation video playing at the front of the classroom. The tension in the air is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

I hand my interview voucher to 2 ex-jets sitting at a desk at the front of the room. I recognize the guy on the left. ” Hey, you’re _____ right? You sent out the interview letters! I recognize you from the website. ” He looks up and gives half a smile. Rather stone faced expression. I glance down at the paper in front of them and it shows 5 interview panels running concurrently until 3:30

Doing the math in my head, I figure they’re interviewing about 50 people today, and 150 over the 3 days. Last year, 70 got sent to Japan from Toronto. Gulp. Roughly 50% shot it seems. ( I later find out that 68 people + a handful of upgraded alternates are going to Japan from Toronto this year)

I’m asked to take a seat. I’m all smiles but my heart is racing like crazy, a million beats per minute. I watch the orientation video and am reminded how awesome JET could be.

I scan the room to check out the competition. Two geeky looking fellows wearing ill-fitting suits and ugly shoes. One of them looks like he’s about 14. And he looks extremely anxious, as if all the blood had drained from his face. I breathe a sigh of relief, super grateful that I got a new suit and shoes as a grad present and that I looked to Barney Stinson for inspiration. I won’t lie, I cleaned up pretty good. First impressions count I think.

I turn to look around some more. In the corner of the room is a very tall asian girl. Completely blank expression. I keep looking at her and she turns to look at me. I smile, and her expression doesn’t change at all. Turning my head slowly back in front of me, I notice a  very short blonde girl in front of me furiously cramming her hand written notes. There are loud steps coming from outside the room. I turn to see another asian girl walk by. Concerned expression. Guess she finished her interview.

Finally I’m called up. They tell me my room is 248 upstairs. ” Thanks, see you guys soon! ” I walk down the hall and take a left, walk down another dark narrow corridor, then up a flight of stairs. It really does look like Harry Potter, with wood walls and everything. The atmosphere just reeks of stuffy old academia.

I take a left at the top of the stairs. Room 248 is first room on the left of a long, dark hallway. The door to the classroom is a solid block of wood, no windows. I hear some murmuring coming from inside. I look down the other end of the hall where I see tall asian girl and blondie sitting outside their interview rooms waiting. I wave. Only Blondie waves back. Tall asian girl gives me another blank expression. I give a thumbs up.

The chair outside the interview room is made of creaky wood. As I sit down on it, it wobbles and makes a noise that breaks the awkward silence with an awkward sound. As sit and contemplate my fate, I feel confident and prepared, but my body does not. I’m annoyed at the increased heart rate, and mental movies looping through my head. I tell myself out loud to calm down, focus on the moment. A silence and stillness overcomes me. I’m glad I read the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. Incredible book, highly recommended.

I pop out my ipod touch and scan through the interview answers I prepared. Close it. I know I’ve got this. Practiced a million times. I close my eyes and smile as hard as I can as I’ve got to get my face used to this position for the next 25 minutes. The adrenaline is pumping hard. I hear the door creak open. Time to rock and roll.

– I hear my name called out ” We are ready for your inteview. ” I stand up, big smile, turn to my right…and see nothing – huh? I look down and there’s a pretty asian girl looking up at me. I was not expecting that. I expected to see a panel consisting of an old japanese guy from the consulate, a prominent Japanese person from the local community, and an ex-jet. I step inside the room, and see only one other interviewer. A Pretty Japanese lady. Have I stepped into the twilight zone?

” Hi I’m Apollo, Nice to meet you! I’m so excited to be here this morning. ” They introduce themselves next. The girl was an ex-jet from 2000-2003. She looks much younger. The Japanese lady from the consulate has a very strong accent. She seems very nice and reserved in that stereotypical Japanese way. My heart stops racing. Already I feel like I have been spared the guillotine.

-They ask me to sit down. They go over how the interview will be conducted. I nod. Then they start asking the questions in turn. I remember almost all of them:

How did you first hear about JET
What exactly in japan do you want to experience
How will you deal with shy students who dont pay attention
How will you deal with culture shock
Tell us about a time when you had to deal with people who did not accept you
Tell us about a time when you had to work with people who had different views than you
Tell us about your teaching experience
What kind of activities would you like to get involved in
What would you do in your spare time

They scribble notes and make little checks on some forms as I articulate myself. I feel like I spoke confidently and expressively. I felt good with my answers. The funny thing was the Japanese lady’s way of asking me her questions. She was so reserved and polite! I almost felt as if she was  prefacing the questions like, “Um, excuse me..I’m sorry but..if it’s not too much you mind if I ask you this question, if that’s okay with you?”

I mention my participation in my university’s dragonboat club and the race in Toronto in the summer. They murmur excitedly to themselves. I ask if they’ve heard of it. They tell me that the Jet Alumni Association has a DB team and they were there last year! AWESOME!

Then they tell me thats all the questions they have for me. I’m taken back a little bit. It felt so short. They asked me such easy questions! I prepared for this like It was a war tribunal and I was going to be executed. I want to ask them to ask me more questions! Harder ones! Ask me some trivia, current events, let me tell you more about how awesome I am! What kinds of things I would bring to Japan!! …But I keep my mouth shut. Glance at my watch. A bit over 20 minutes have passed. WHAT? That felt like it barely encroached 10 minutes…

to be continued on the next post..

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