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5 Common English Teacher Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

A simple guide to common interview questions and how to answer them so you can ace your interview to teach English in Japan.

By 8 min read

So you’re interested in moving to Japan, and you have discovered the easiest way is to get a job teaching English. That’s true, but this job is more than a way into the country. Teaching English in Japan is an excellent opportunity and a life-changing experience, whether you’re a recent graduate keen on exploring or someone looking for a change in your career.

Of course, to land a job, you must get past an interview, which will be slightly different from job interviews in your home country. Perhaps you’ve already landed the interview for an ALT or Eikaiwa (English conversation school) position or are still searching for opportunities through GaijinPot Jobs. Wherever you are in your search, here are some questions you will likely be asked in your interview and how to approach them.

1. Why Do/Did You Want to Come to Japan?

Don’t just talk about anime!

Think about this question in two parts, either or both of which are questions you could be asked. The first is “What made you interested in Japan in the first place?” The best approach is to answer honestly, even if you think your answer is cliched or a little embarrassing. Whether what initially sparked your interest in Japan was Japanese history, Kurosawa films, anime or Pokemon, your answer is valid. But what in particular drew you in? Was it the historical setting of an anime or film or certain characters’ cute and fantastical art style? Consider these things on a deeper level.

The second way to think about this question is, “What made you want to move to Japan to teach English?”  Was it simply your desire to go to Japan and stay for longer than a one or two-week trip? Do you want to move out of your home country and think Japan might be a good place to settle? Are you interested in teaching English abroad, and Japan has the best opportunities? Consider your real reasoning and be honest. Whichever way the question is framed, you’ll be prepared if you have considered it in these two ways.

“What initially sparked your interest in Japan?”

“I became interested in Japan through anime during elementary school. However, my interest has deepened to encompass various aspects of Japanese culture, history and literature. It has driven me to pursue opportunities to engage with Japan more deeply.”

“What makes you want to move to Japan to teach English?”

“I aspire to live abroad for personal growth and value the strong public services in Japan, particularly its transportation and healthcare. Teaching English in Japan also allows me to combine my passion for education with my interest in Japanese culture.”

2. Do You Have a Demo Lesson?

Prepare a demo ahead of the interview.

You will likely be asked to do the notorious on-the-spot lesson demo, the interview question applicants worry about the most. Your interviewers may ask you to show how you would explain a grammar point to students, or they may give you a lesson plan and ask you to explain how you would teach it. You may or may not be able to choose the topic of your demo lesson, so practice explaining a few different vocabulary or grammar points in the mirror or in front of someone.

A successful demo lesson is quick and simple. There is no need to blow your interviewers away with an innovative lesson. They just want you to demonstrate that you know how to teach. If you can choose your lesson topic, choose a simple, easily explainable grammar point. It is your presentation that is more important than the content of your demo lesson. You want to present yourself as a confident, encouraging teacher who can speak at a pace and volume that Japanese students can understand. If you can do this while explaining a quick grammar point, you’ll ace this part of the interview.

“Explain the difference between ‘the vase broke’ and ‘the vase is broken'”

“The vase broke” uses the simple past tense to describe a specific event in the past when the vase shattered. “The vase is broken” employs the present tense and the past participle to indicate the current state of the vase, emphasizing the result of the past action rather than the action itself.”

 “How would you teach conditionals or “if” statements?”

To teach conditionals effectively, I’d start by showing examples with different ‘if’ structures, like ‘if I had,’ ‘if I could,’ and “if I were.” Students would then create their own ‘if’ statements, share them with a partner, and work in small groups to build chain stories using these conditional statements. This hands-on approach enhances understanding and encourages participation.”

3. How Will You Represent Your Culture?

You’re ambassador for your country!

As a foreigner living in Japan, you will be considered a representative of your country and be expected to share your culture with your students and community. How you would like to do so is up to you, so there is no right or wrong answer to this question. To brainstorm possible ideas, consider what you enjoy about your culture and what the students and other Japanese people might find interesting about it. Food and music are always fun to share and well-received, but there are many aspects to culture, so share what you like.

“How would you share your culture with students?”

I’d share a stuffed stuffed animal with my students. It’s cute and a representation of Australia’s unique wildlife. Australia is home to many species found nowhere else, and I’d like to introduce my students to these fascinating animals, fostering their curiosity about my home country.”

I’m passionate about food and cooking, so I’d share dishes from my country with my students, exposing them to flavors they might not have experienced. Additionally, I’d love to cook for my coworkers and participate in community events where I can introduce the broader community to the cuisine of my homeland. This culinary exchange can create cultural connections and enhance the overall experience.”

4. What is Your Experience Living Abroad?

Show them you’re not going to fall to culture shock.

Your interviewers want to evaluate how you will handle moving to Japan. If you have experience living abroad, be prepared to answer questions about it. This experience and how you adapted to living abroad will demonstrate to your interviewers whether your move to Japan will go smoothly. If you do not have experience living abroad, you will likely be asked how you will handle moving to a foreign country and dealing with culture shock.

These questions can be personal, as they will focus on anything that might affect your move or adapting to life in Japan. This includes a mental illness, a medical condition or dietary restrictions. If any of these things apply to you, you’ll have to answer how you will deal with them during your move and once you have moved to Japan. This question may seem invasive, but the interviewers need to ensure they are hiring someone who can handle the move and the job, and they don’t want to put you in a difficult position, either. But experience overcoming a difficult experience will show them your resilience.

“Can you handle moving to a new country?”

Moving to a new country can be a significant adjustment, and I understand there may be moments of culture shock and loneliness. However, I have prior experience living away from home when I started university, where I made friends and became part of a community. I am now older and more independent, and I’m confident I can handle living abroad. I’m ready to try to meet new people and make friends while staying connected with my family and friends back home for support.”

“How will you survive as a vegetarian in Japan?”

“I understand that finding vegetarian options in Japan can be challenging, but I’m comfortable with limited restaurant choices. I enjoy cooking for myself and know where to find my desired ingredients. I’ve also researched vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Japan. When dining out with friends at places with few vegetarian options, I don’t mind eating a little before and ordering a drink, a small dish, or dessert.”

5. What is Your Teaching Experience?

Bring your A-game.

If you have experience working as a teacher, it will count in your favor, and this part of the interview will be pretty straightforward. If you do not have much experience teaching, you can pull from other experiences working with children or young adults. Volunteering and tutoring experiences are relevant. If you haven’t worked with children, don’t cite experience with nieces and nephews or friends’ children unless you care for them often. Instead, admit your lack of experience but explain why you want to work as a teacher. Age group also matters here. Perhaps because of your lack of experience, you want to work at a high school or teach adults.

You may also be asked how you will deal with difficult students or a difficult situation at school. You should read about the program or company you are applying to and their rules and methods. In an ALT position, you are not supposed to discipline students and must alert a JTE of behavior problems. The standard procedure will be different at an Eikaiwa or other teaching position. Use your best judgment to handle other situations and show you can deal with problems calmly and effectively.

“What experience do you have working with children?”

“While I don’t have experience with young children, I have worked extensively with high school-age students. As a university student, I volunteered as a tutor, helping high school students prepare for the SAT. Recently, I also worked part-time for a local tutoring organization, where I tutored middle and high school students in writing and reading, including SAT English preparation.”

“How would you deal with a difficult student?”

“For minor disruptions like a student talking when they should be listening, I politely request them to be quiet. In more severe cases, I would report the issue to another teacher, and they would handle the disciplinary actions. I focus on assisting students in their English language learning and supporting the school environment.”

Is there another interview question you have been asked that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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