The JET Program Interview – Tips and Sample Questions

Congratulations!  You made it past the first round!  Honestly, completing the application and essay is by far the hardest part. However, the interview can be pretty nerve-racking.  Here are 5 tips to ace that interview as well as some questions that my friends and I were asked.

JET Interview - Be Confident1.  Be Yourself…Your Confident, Fun Self

I’m not gonna lie.  The interview can make you or break you.  However, don’t let this get the best of you.  If you feel that every move you make in the interview is being judged, you will not let your true-self shine and probably get very nervous.  If you get nervous during interviews, you will definitely need to practice beforehand.

You want to be cool and confident, because I feel that one of the reasons for the interview is to see how well you handle nervousness and pressure.  If you come in there shaking from nervousness and can’t complete a single sentence without freaking out, you just confirmed to them that you are not a good candidate for the JET Program.

During your time in Japan, especially when you first start working at your new school, you will be meeting lots of people and giving lots of speeches.  Some of these speeches will be in front of the whole school.  So the JET interview panel wants to know if you can handle this type of pressure.  Keeping cool, calm, and confident is a great way to show them that you can.

Getting Rid of Nervousness and Building Confidence

We all get nervous.  The best way to kill nervousness and build confidence is by practice.  You probably were nervous when you started a new job.  But after a few days, you got used to the job and nervousness was replaced with confidence.  An interview is exactly the same.

We also get nervous because of the unknown.  We have no idea what kind of questions we will be asked, and that is scary.  We worry if we can answer the question correctly, and without hesitating too long.

This can also be cured by practicing.  Get help from friends, family, or college professors and have them ask you lots of questions.  Make sure they throw in some really hard questions too.  Also, if it possible, try to get 4 or 5 people together and have them sit across from you while they ask you questions.  The JET interview is usually conducted by a panel with 2 to 5 or more people.

Another good way to practice is by recording yourself.  That way you easily see what you need to improve on.


Jet Interview - Postive Energy2.  Send Out Good Energy

If you have read other internet resources about the JET interview, most of them tell you to be “genki,” or happy and energetic.  If you are the type of person who is super energetic, happy, and animated, that is awesome.  Let that shine through.

However, if you are a relaxed, non-animated person who speaks in monotone voice, there is nothing wrong with that.  You don’t have to be bouncing off the walls to be a good candidate.

However, you do need to put out good energy.  You do this by smiling, using gestures when you can, and speaking clearly and articulately.

Also, show enthusiasm for the job and for Japan.  You can tell when someone has a passion for something and when someone is just going through the motions.  Let your enthusiasm convey how excited you are to live in Japan and build relationships with your future students and community.  If you don’t really have a passion for Japan, take some acting lessons.

You also send out good energy by showing that you are a fun person.  If you like playing games, being silly, and talking with children, that is perfect.  If not, you can show the panel that the kids will have fun with you by being friendly and optimistic.


JET Interview - Give Proof of Your Experiences3.  Backing Up What You Say

During the interview, it is highly likely that you’ll get some questions about your application.  They may ask you go to into more detail about your answers.  That’s why it’s important to fill out your application honestly.  If you get caught lying here, you’ll probably be screwed.

It is also pretty likely that you’ll get asked about your Japanese ability.  There is usually someone who is a native speaker of Japanese on the interview panel.  They may ask you questions in Japanese.  So if you put that you are fluent in Japanese on your application, and you can’t answer any questions in the interview, the only Japanese word you’ll have to know is “sayonara.” Your Japanese doesn’t have to be perfect, but definitely be honest about what level you are at.

On my application, I put down that my Japanese was at an “intermediate” level.    There was a Japanese national on the panel in both of my interviews.The first time, I told him I don’t really speak well.  So he didn’t ask me any other questions.  I was on the waiting list that year.

The following year, the same guy was there.  When he asked me if I could speak Japanese, I told him that I could speak a little.  He then proceeded to ask me 3 or 4 questions in Japanese, which I answered (and did a pretty good job if I do say so myself).  That year, I was short-listed and went to Japan as a JET.


Promote Yourself in the JET Interview4.  Market Yourself

Any job interview you go to is pretty much the same as marketing a product.  The only difference is the product is you.  The JET interview is no different.  Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and show the interviewers why they should choose you instead of others.  But just like marketing a product, you don’t want to overhype yourself or seem cocky.  The best way to do this is by giving actual experiences instead of talking about your qualities.

For example, let’s look at this question.  “How well do you adapt to new situations?”

Instead of saying, “I adapt really well because I’m an independent and optimistic person,” you should give them an example to back it up.

Something like, “When I studied abroad in France, it was a totally different experience at first.  I couldn’t speak the language well and didn’t know the culture, but I was excited to experience something totally new.I quickly got used to my new home and loved it.  The friends that I made there made it hard to leave and now I feel like it’s my second home.  So I feel that I can adapt to any situation with ease, and in fact, I look forward to it.”

What if you have never studied abroad?  It doesn’t matter.  You can customize your experiences to most of the questions they ask you, just like I did above.


JET Interview - Dress to Impress5.  Dress to Impress…But Keep it Conservative

Last, but certainly not least, is how your dress.  This is common sense, but believe me, there’s always a few people who mess this part up.  You 100% need to wear formal business attire.  For guys, this means not just a jacket, but also a tie and dress shoes that match.  You want to look very professional.

That being said, you need to keep it somewhat conservative.  So if you have an awesome yellow jacket with matching pants and a Dragon Ball Z tie, you might want to save that for another occasion.


Sample Questions

Here are some of the questions that both my friends I were asked in our interviews.

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why do you want to go to Japan?
  3. Where do you want to be placed?  What if you were placed in a very rural area with no JETs and a small community?
  4. What do you consider your culture to be, and what are 3 things that you can teach/show your students about it?



Here is a quick list of what to do for the interview:

  • Practice doing mock interviews and answering questions.
  • Dress to impress
  • Be confident and talk about your skills using your experience as proof
  • Speak with a nice, loud voice, speaking clearly and slowly.
  • Put out good energy.  Be fun, friendly, and optimistic.
  • Be honest about who you are
  • Try to enjoy the interview and let your awesome personality shine throughs

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll try to get back to you when I can.  Good luck!

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Dallen Nakamura

Dallen was born and raised in Hawaii and never had a passport until he was 24. His first trip outside of the US was to Japan. He loved it so much that when he got back home, he immediately quit his job and moved to Japan without a plan. While he loves the people and culture of Japan, his true love is food. He is convinced that Japan has the best food in the world and is slowly eating his way around the world to prove it.

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