Nerves were running high as I made my way across my own country to go to the assessment centre along with everyone else who passed the initial screening. I did some last minute research into the format of the day and went to sleep cautiously optimistically on my friend’s couch, after setting more than one alarm to make sure I wasn’t going to be late (a cardinal Japanese sin).
Next morning I arrived at the hotel conference room without incident and was warmly greeted by the recruiters and nervously approached by some of the other candidates to make small talk.
Meeting candidates revealed a variety of motivations: professional teachers, fresh university graduates, others seeking a sabbatical like me, a guy with a long-term girlfriend in Japan and a woman with a penchant for Hello Kitty and all things kawaii. The clock struck 9:00 and we punctually started proceedings.
I’d love to say that it was all smiles and roses, but it’s unrealistic to say that we weren’t sizing each other up. Here I was in my element, after running the gauntlet of professional services graduate positions, and also being on the other side of the fence being involved in the recruiting of new graduates for my previous employer.
So I can say from experience that a few pretty basic mistakes were made. One guy showed up late, which is obviously a no no. Another was wearing jeans and what would be conservatively described as a ‘colourful’ shirt rather than professional attire. The first question asked, completely out of context, in the starting plenary was “How much is the salary?” Awkward to say the least, a few face palms were going around.
Prospective Eikawa Teacher tip 2: Do your research.
The recruiters will send you a raft of information in the lead up. Read it, and know it. The introduction where they map out the agenda of the day should be old news to you.
Particularly if you are travelling to an interview – don’t make the basic mistakes like some of my peers did. They aren’t necessarily a death sentence to your chances, but the tension you will feel from simply having made a mistake might as well be.
Which brings up the primary goal of an assessment centre (or any interview for that matter):
Being prepared = Being in control = Being relaxed = Being yourself
Beyond the obvious things, there is an Internet full of knowledge out there that can help you out, if assessed critically. Company history. The news. Sites such as GaijinPot, and other English language resources for Japan.
Blogs and testimonials are an interesting topic, treat these (including this one!) with a word of caution. There is a phrase common in JET circles called – ESID: Every Situation is Different. Aside from being a great name for a punk band – it means that you shouldn’t put too much stock in any single account of eikawa/English teaching life – because no matter where you go, yours will be different. If people start making sweeping (negative) generalisations about their company or industry, alarm bells should go off and information contained within taken with a grain of salt.
In terms of being actively prepared, if you get a chance to chat to the recruiters during the breaks or beforehand – do it! I had a nice angle to work with, because I had a higher education client at the time and overhauling their curriculum was under discussion. I was able to ask relevant questions about the make up and progression of the lessons – and the question came from a genuine place, because I was actually interested.
Find something that taps into your personal interest and can be linked to something about your past experience, life in Japan or teaching English, and ask a genuine question.
As lunchtime rolled past the real tests began. I was feeling somewhat nervous, the teaching demo was likely to be the hardest part for me – although my previous job had me do a reasonable amount of public speaking, I had zero English teaching background.
For anyone else out there at this stage of the process, I’d love to hear your experience about your experience, as I’m sure everyone’s is a bit different! Next time we’ll look at making the grade in the demo lessons and personal interviews. Some dos, and more importantly some spectacularly observed don’ts.