After submitting my application for the JET Program in November 2019, I was informed I had made it to the interview stage in January 2020. At that point in time, coronavirus had not yet made it to the United States, and I personally didn’t think much of it at the time. I definitely didn’t consider it might affect the JET Program. My interview was scheduled for late January 2020 at the Houston consulate. I wore a black blazer, black dress pants, a white button down shirt, and black heels. When I arrived at the consulate, there were several other applicants waiting in a room next to the interview rooms. Two volunteers/former JET participants were there making conversation with us before our interviews. I remember one of them kept going on and on about how she left Japan after one year because she couldn’t stand all the cigarette smoke, which I thought was strange. I had traveled to Japan before years ago and I don’t recall being inundated with cigarette smoke. It’s not even legal in Japan to smoke in many public places, so it seems easy enough to avoid. While her conversation was weird, it sort of helped me forget about my nerves, at least until they called me in for my interview.
The interview panel consists of three people: a former JET Program participant, a Japanese consulate employee, and a Japanese Board of Education employee. In my case, the JET participant and the consulate employee were male and the Board of Education employee was female. I think my nervousness got the best of me a little bit, and I didn’t express myself as well as I could have. It didn’t help that the consulate employee seemed unimpressed by everything I said. I remember him asking me what I liked about Japan when I visited , and when I said the trains he gave me a confused look. I quickly explained that where I’m from there’s little to no public transportation and I enjoyed the convenience of travel by train in Japan while I was there. I also remember him asking me what I disliked about Japan, and the only thing that came to mind was the disappointing takoyaki I ate in Kyoto.
After the interview, I couldn’t get the questions and answers out of my head. I kept going over them and wishing I had answered differently. After a couple days of that, I decided I needed to push the interview out of my mind completely since there was nothing I could do about it anyway. I wouldn’t hear back from JET until April 1st, 2020.
My advice for anyone that has an interview with JET is to stay as calm as possible and don’t over prepare for it. You don’t really need to and they might even pick up on your rehearsed answers. Every interview is different, and there’s no guarantee they will ask you the same questions you found online and practiced answering. It is good to have an idea for a mock lesson in mind in case you are asked to do one in your interview. Read over your statement of purpose too before your interview just in case they ask about that too. Your answers should come across natural and true to yourself, so there’s no need to stress over giving the perfect answer. JET wants people that are passionate about Japan and cultural exchange. The interview is their way of determining if you are capable of fulfilling that role as an ALT. Once the interview is over, relax and try not to think about it!