Friday, January 29, 2010

The JET Interview: Weighing My Chances

A few days ago I got the notice: I had been accepted to interview for a position teaching English in Japan for JET. Seems kind of funny to get excited about "being accepted to interview" but after all the hassle of the application, including letters of recommendation, an essay, etc., I was happy to have made it to the next stage.

And not everyone did. Apparently 5300 applied in the US alone, but only around 2200 made it to the interview stage (I counted up the numbers on the anouncement pdf). That's less than half. And I know there were some deserving people that didn't make it. A friend of mine with pretty much the exact same qualifications as me won't be interviewing in Japantown come February. Which is really too bad. I know he could have done a great job.

But still, 2200 people will be competing from the US alone. I don't know how many more applicants there are in the rest of the world but I imagine there's a lot. We have to include Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and places like Jamaica and Nigeria where English is indeed the first language. Plus places like India and Singapore and Germany where English might not be the first language but often they speak it better than we do!

America is, however, the largest native English-speaking country by a pretty wide margin, so it's safe to assume that a good chunk of the new JETs will come from the US. Let's be conservative and say half. Now, how many positions will be vacated this year in Japan? That's impossible to know but we can guess. There are 5000 JETs in Japan in any given year. Most JETs only stay a year, deciding to return home after the contracted year is up. Some will renew, according to a former JET friend, but of those that do, few re-up more than once. (You can do a total of five years.) Taking a stab in the dark, of the 5000, we can conservatively assume that 2000 will go home this summer.

So far, our conservative estimate, reached through pain-stakingly scientific logical analysis and good old groping in the dark, says that of 2000 vacant positions, 1000 will be filled by Americans. With around 2000 American applicants, that means I have a 1 in 2 chance of getting the job. These are excellent odds. Interview for a job at Google or Yahoo and you could be 1 of 20 actually interviewing. With 50/50 odds, I only have to be better than the person sitting next to me in the interview waiting room. And I can do that.

I've been steadily studying Japanese in preparation for the interview. I will likely be asked some questions in Japanese. I have no idea what kinds of questions but I want to be prepared to answer correctly, and with the correct level of honorific. I'm also going to start studying English grammar again. Knowing when something is wrong in your own language, and explaining why it's wrong are two very different things. If I intend to be a teacher of the English language, I had better be able to explain it. And lastly, I'm making sure I can answer such questions as "Why do you want to go to Japan?" concisely and with conviction. "Because Japanese girls are hot" might be the truth but something more along the lines of, "Because it's long been my dream to become a JET ALT" might be more appropriate.


  1. Out of 5300+ applicants 1955 were selected for interviews. (we use different math, Last year in 2009 there were about 870 new JET's from the US who were placed ( But, I was told during my interview that there were MUCH fewer positions to fill this year, so it might be closer to 500 for the US. It looks like it is more ofa a 25-45% chance. You are right, though the US dominates in numbers on JET.

  2. Thanks for the information, Jon. I have my interview tomorrow, so this means I just have to try harder. I'm glad I've been preparing.