JET Program Sample Interview Questions

Here are the answers to the questions that were asked to me in my interview and the sample questions I used to prepare for my interview!

General Questions:

1. Why do you think you are a good candidate for our program?

2. What would you contribute to international understanding?

3. What kind of talent or special abilities would you bring to your program and students?

4. Why should we hire you?

5. What makes you different from other applicants?

6. Why did you choose Tohoku/Hokkaido?

7. Why are you interested in Japan?

8. Why did you decide to go to Japan?

9. Why don’t you teach English in Taiwan or Mexico?

10. What kind of negative experiences do you anticipate having and how would you deal with them?

11. How do you handle conflicts wit you friends?

12. Many Japanese are prejudiced against people of other Asian ethnicities. How does this make you feel? How would you handle this if it became an issue with a student or fellow teacher?

13. If you were at a work-sponsored drinking party and a fellow teacher tried to grope you, how would you handle it? What if it was the principal?

14. What would you do if you were expected to serve men tea during the morning meeting?

15. What would you say if a student asked you why America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

16. What if a student or teacher asks you why America is such a violent country?

17. What if your principal won’t allow you to wear pants?

18. What sort of teaching experience do you have? Tell us about them.

19. In what ways do you expect education in Japan to be different from education in America?

20. How will you present your home country to the Japanese people you meet?

21. Suppose there is an important event at one of your schools on a weekend that you had prearranged plans. Your principal asks if you could cancel your plans and come to the event. What would you say?

22. Tell us three things that you would like to tell you future students and other ALTs about your home country.

23. If you could bring three things to represent your home country, what would they be and why?

24. If you had to draw three pictures of distinctly Western things that could be communicated without words, what would they be?

25. There is a loud obnoxious boy in your class who isn’t doing the assignment you have given. What do you do?

26. You are teaching a lesson and the Japanese teacher makes a mistake. What do you do?

27. What do you say if a student asks you about drug use?

28. What would you say if a student asks you when you lost your virginity?

29. Would you ever strike a student? What if the Japanese teacher struck a student in front of you?

30. What would you do if there was a student sleeping in the back of the class? Reading a comic? Talking on their cell phone?

31. What would you do if a student spit or cursed at you?

32. What would you do if you were in the right classroom when the bell rang, but your team teacher was not?

33. What do you know about Japan?

34. Who is the governor of your home state?

35. Who is the president/vice president?

36. Who is the Prime Minister of Japan?

37. Name 5 famous places in Japan.

38. What are the important issue facing our world today?

39. What are some current events in Japan?

40. What is your favorite holiday and why?

41. What research have you done on Japanese culture since applying to the JET program?

42. Name 5 famous authors from your home country.

43. Name 3 Japanese Historians.

44. Name the major islands and cities in Japan

45. Name 3 famous Japanese people.

46. What do you know about the Japanese political system?

47. What do you know about Japan’s current financial crisis?

48. What is the name of the current governing party?

49. Do you have anything you would like to ask us?

Questions I was asked:

Why do you want to do the JET Program?

– I’ve known about the JET Program since I was a young girl. I read Bruce Feiler’s “Learning to Bow” and from the second I finished that book I knew I wanted to do this program. I’ve always been fascinated with Japanese culture and history and want to pursue a Japanese related career. I think JET would be a really good step towards fulfilling this.

It says here that you want to get your PhD in Japanese History – why aren’t you applying for the MONBUKAGAKUSHO scholarship instead?

– Well, probably because I’ve really wanted to do the JET Program for a long time. More importantly, I really want to teach. All of the people who have made a difference in my life were my teachers and I’d like to opportunity to try and make a difference in my students’ lives.

Why didn’t you study abroad?

– If I had studied abroad, I would not have been able to double major. For me, it’s never been a question of IF I’ll go to Japan, but WHEN. Therefore, I made the decision to stay in Boston and concentrate on finishing my degree instead.

On your application, it says that you have taken anti-depressants. Do you think this will negatively affect you time on JET?

– While I didn’t take anti-depressant for very long, that time in my life really made me reexamine what I was doing, what i was studying, and if I really wanted to pursue those things. I think that experience has allowed me to be more dedicated to my goals and known more about myself and the things I need to do to make sure that I am happy.

Say that you are in JET, its wintertime, you are really disappointed with your job, and culture shock has set in. What will you do?

– First, I would never leave JET because I take my commitments very seriously. But, I would sit back and think about why I was so unhappy and then figure out what changes I would need to make in order to be happy in my situation. i have found that being active is veyr important for my happiness, so I would go outside and exercise and hike more. I also find that talking to people and doing new things helps me do happy, so I would try and join some sort of club and meet new people.

What place in Japan are you most interested in?

– I’m really interested in a lot of places in Japan, but in my application I put down Tohoku as my first choice. This is because I am very interested in Japanese folk culture and kaidan ghost stories. I have read a bit of Tono monogatari and found it very interesting. I also really love samurai history, and Tohoku has a lot of old castles, shrines, and samurai districts. I like Date Masamune, and he is from Sendai.

It says in your application that you rock climb?

-Rock climbing is a very popular activity in Colorado. I really love it because it has allowed me to do things and travel to places that I would have never gone to otherwise. For example, this past summer I took a 3,000 mile road trip across the American mid-west with my friend Scott. We drove his tiny Geo Metro from Colorado, to Arkansas, Missouri, up to Nebraska and then back to Colorado, stopping at the good rock climbing locations on the way. Some of my best memories from childhood are from when I would go camping and hiking with my father.

It says in your application that you speak some Japanese? Can we ask you some questions in Japanese? (what are your hobbies, what Japanese movies do you like, what Japanese food do you like)

– I answered in Japanese and made a joke about how bad my grammar was.

Name the three most important people in American history.

-Umm, well I’d have to say Abraham Lincoln, whose presidency overlapped one of the most trying times in American history, the Civil War. I’d also say FDR, because I believe WWII is the most cataclysmic event in modern history and without his actions and relationship with Winston Churchill things might have turned out quite differently. And…lastly, going along with this whole ‘Obama elected President thing,’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Talk to us about your job at the zoo.

-I worked at a Zoo in Colorado as an Educational Interpreter. I designed and presented educational programs about animal and environmental conservation to the Zoo guests, who were anywhere for 5 to 75 years old. I also handle exotic animals like snakes and tarantulas, because my coworkers were too afraid to, for the kids to see up close.

Talking to a few other people about their experiences, here are some interesting things that they were asked:

-I see you don’t have very good grades. What do you have to say about that?

-I see you’ve studied ______ language. Sing us a song in that language.

– If you had to give a presentation on any subject about America, what would it be?

– What would you do if female students started dropping off gifts at your apartment?

Interview Related Questions:

Can you offer me a female perspective on the interview? What should I wear? What did you wear?

– So, what to wear – in Japan the standard outfit for interviews is a blazer, white blouse, and skirt (though pants are also ok). I decided to be conservative and wore a black blazer, white blouse, and black dress pants (and high heels). You might consider wearing a blazer with any outfit, but as girls we are allowed to deviate from the suit-and-tie formula. One thing about skirt lengths – for a professional length usually they hit right at the knee or right above it. Western women are almost universally dress more sexy than Japanese women, this is partly because we’ve been raised to be sexy and mature while Japanese women aspire to look young and cute. I wear pencil skirts, fitted blazers, blouses and shirt dresses to work and had to get used to my female students squealing ‘SEKUSHI!’ (sexy) and ‘Ashi nagai!’ (long legs) when I walked into class. And I don’t think I dress particularly ‘sexy.’ Anyways, just wear a professional-looking outfit. Japanese women tend to wear light makeup, so while I don’t know how you normally do your makeup, just keep it natural and professional too.

You mentioned that some of your friends were asked about their low grades? How did they respond and did they get on JET? My grades dropped during some of my university years, but I’m not sure how to explain why without making myself sound bad or unable to handle stress.

– The friend who was asked about his grades did not get onto JET, but I don’t think it was due to his grades. They ask about grades because they can indicate how seriously you take commitments and your work ethic. I went through a school year where I was being treated for depression and taking anti-depressants. I can guarantee you that during that time I was not a straight-A student. If they ask you about your grades, I recommend you tell them honestly what was happening in your life then… just don’t say that your grades fell because you didn’t care and college is bullshit. =P Just put a positive spin on it and tell them what you learned from the experience, how it helped you learn how to manage stress and develop time-management skills so that you could fulfill your various responsibilities. The interviewers might then ask you some follow up questions. Try to think of potential follow-up questions beforehand, so you won’t be too surprised if they ask you. No one on JET expects the applicants to be perfect, that’s impossible. They do expect people on JET to have a positive attitude and be capable to successfully manage challenging and difficult situations. To me, it sounds like you have experience doing just that. By mentioning difficult problems you’ve faced in the past, you have the chance to demonstrate to them how much experience you have and how you’ve grown and matured as a person.

If the JET interviewers ask how I’d respond to inappropriate comments from teachers or students, what should I say? Do you have problems with inappropriate comments or sexual harassment?

– The interviewers may ask how you would deal with students and/or teachers making inappropriate comments to you. I just returned from my prefectural mid-year conference, where I had the director of the Board of Education pull me aside and ask if I was having any trouble with sexual harassment from the male teachers (weird out-of-the-blue question). They could ask you an wide array of questions like how you’d react to being told to make tea for the male teachers (has never happened to me), being told you must wear a skirt to work (also have never happened), or to comments about your appearance. In Japan, there seems to be a different set of rules governing what is and is not appropriate to say to women. You’ll probably have men recommending you drink Japanese green tea ‘to make yourself look even more beautiful,’ recommending you order the half-size bento instead of the regular size, or urging you to work out more to ‘stay healthy.’ I think that as long as you demonstrate in the interview that you have an open mind to adjusting to different cultural norms and don’t have some sort of ‘rampaging feminist agenda’ then you’ll be fine.

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Comments (25)

  1. Thom

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the helpful info. I used this resource the most during studying, but I’d say it’s most important to be confident! Memorizing trivial facts and having prepared answers for situational questions can only get you so far.

    I was asked a situational question about female students dropping off gifts at my apartment. So you might want to add that to the list.

    March 6, 2010
    • constantineintokyo

      Thanks! I’m glad you found this helpful. I agree that when it comes to interviews, being confident is absolutely essential!

      I will add your situational question to the list! =)

      March 6, 2010
  2. JeAnn

    Thank you very much for this. I want to apply to the JET programme in about 2 years, with my boyfriend, and I’m trying to prepare from now. I hope you have a lot of fun…my cousin was a JET for a couple of years, she said the first few months may be really hard and you might want to go home but sooner or later you will really get to see the good side of Japan and want to stay. I really hope you like it 🙂

    October 2, 2010
    • constantineintokyo

      Yes, the first few months in the JET Program might be difficult – no matter how much you know about Japan/Japanese culture. However, I’d say the JET Program is something that gets better the longer you stay with it…as you are gradually incorporated into the school(s) and the community. Good luck!

      October 10, 2010
  3. Mimi

    Thank you for this! I feel like this is the most useful post about the interviews I have yet to see. My interview is today! Thanks for helping me prepare!

    February 24, 2011
    • Om

      Hi Mimi,

      How did your interview go? Did you find this guide accurate in it’s helpfulness?

      Very interested, as I’m applying this year. Getting into Jet was the whole reason to start a uni degree, and I’m nearly at my goal! 🙂

      Also, Constantine, your whole blog is very cool 😀 thank you for such a solid resource!


      April 4, 2011
  4. Jessenia Martinez

    Thank you so much for your videos and blog posts. Although I wish there were more videos to watch. I plan on applying to the jet program in 3 years. Right now my major in Elementary Education and when I get to my four year college I plan on minoring in Asian studies. I have already started writing practice letters of intent and I just cant wait for the chance to apply. Were you this enthusiastic as well? I feel like I am a little over enthusiastic. Hopefully I hear back from you and again thank you so much!

    October 5, 2011
  5. Adam

    I have my interview in 2 weeks time. Thank you for this helpful blog.
    The UK interview for CIR is in Japanese for 40 minutes . No questions allowed and no English allowed.

    So I’ll just have to translate most of these questions and prepare. Thank you

    I will update you

    February 2, 2012
  6. Robert Ramnauth

    Hi! Quick question: are you interviewed by an individual or by several when you go in for a JET interview? Thanks for this reference, by the way. It’s great.

    January 8, 2013
    • Rory

      Usually 2 or 3 people 🙂

      January 28, 2013
  7. Kelsey

    Thank you for posting this! My interview is in 2 days and I’m super nervous! This is very helpful for preparation 🙂

    February 19, 2013
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