Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?

What is the Hiring Process?


Red and Gold in Chinatown, New York City

What you might expect during the process of applying to teach English in Japan. Recruiters are looking for applicants who can do the job but also who can deal with moving to Japan and living abroad for at least a year.


If you applied with a profile on a site like Gaijinpot, you will usually also be asked to fill out an application. This is sometimes a file to complete and send in, sometimes online on the company website.

A Test

A grammar and spelling test is sometimes required. This weeds out any applicants who obviously don’t know English, although you don’t have to answer perfectly to get a job offer. You might be asked to write an essay or at least a cover letter. They might ask you to read something out loud to hear your pronunciation and voice projection. This is sometimes part of the lesson demonstration.

Skype or phone interview

The initial meeting to make sure your English sounds natural and check what type of accent you have. This is also to make sure you are aware of what you’re applying for, still interested and eligible. If you have any questions not answered by the job listing and company website, it’s a good time to ask.

Lesson Demonstration

This can be done over Skype (pretending you’re teaching a classroom full of kids when it’s one recruiter is a little awkward), at an in-person interview, or you are asked to make a video to submit. Interac makes a video of your introduction at an in person group seminar/interview to send to the headquarters to review with your application information. Borderlink does NOT request any type of lesson demonstration at the time of publication. (Nice to keep in mind in case you have panic attacks thinking about fake lessons.)

Just practice and you’ll be fine. If you don’t have any teaching experience, it won’t be a problem, and they are sort of making sure you’re willing to do this, more than judging your ability.

They might want you to sing a song. This scared the crap out of me when I was unexpectedly asked to sing a kids song during a phone interview and I couldn’t do it. AT ALL. Later, I got a job with a different company (who does not ask you to sing) and worked in a school where we sang songs at the beginning of each English class. They were songs by The Beatles and Queen mostly, plus there was a whole class singing along with me. It was a lot more natural.

(Note: I HATE nursery school type kids song – even as a kid I hated them, and am also scared of singing by myself in front of anyone. In more recent interviews, I have sung along to a Beatles song in a video and the alphabet song during a Skype interview. It’s A LOT easier after you know to (maybe) expect it and have experienced singing along with a class of kids in Japan multiple times a day.)

Second Interview

This would be to give you more information about a company and what to expect, plus to check in that you are still interested under the conditions and timing of the position you are being considered for. Recruiting companies could have a specific placement in mind for you at this point, but want to check that it’s a good fit (say, if you are willing to drive and live in the middle of nowhere for a year). If you are at this step, it is most likely they want to hire you, unless some essential job requirement isn’t going to work out for you or the company.

Request for References

Some companies request a couple of professional references who they will probably email a list of questions to. If you tell your references to expect this email ahead of time and they complete it within a day or so, it will look really good on your part. Be sure to thank your references for being awesome! (I’ve heard they like presents too.) On the other hand, if you don’t have good references, there are some recruiting companies who don’t bother asking for them. Usually the smaller companies don’t request references, but it doesn’t hurt to have some good people on your side in the event that you need them.

Request for Documents 

Recruiting companies need some documents to apply for what’s called a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). They will send you the COE, then you will mail or bring it to the Japanese consulate in your region when you apply for your work visa. To apply for the COE, recruiters need:

  • A digital scan of your official college diploma. This/a bachelor’s degree is necessary to qualify for the visa.
  • Two passport photos (4 x 3 cm, color) as they are pasted to the application and used for your profile within the company. (These should be mailed to the company.)
  • A digital scan of the first/photo page of your passport. If you don’t have a valid passport, you aren’t leaving the country.

These items qualify you for the COE and visa. The company will also like and maybe require: a scan of your college transcripts, your ‘entry history’ or at least the last time you went to Japan and when, and a scan of a TESL certificate or teaching certificate, if you have them.

I have had a company request the original college diploma be mailed to them as well. I then found out that most of the time a copy is perfectly fine and I think they were holding the diploma hostage so new hires wouldn’t bail and work for another company. I think this is little ridiculous to request and I was really upset when they didn’t promptly return my diploma after I arrived in Japan. I hope that company does not continue this practice.

If you have and are able to submit the materials your company requested for the COE, Congrats! You got a job and there are a few more steps you’ll need to do before you go to Japan and start in your school(s). Look at the next article about the in-between time: You got hired! Now What?


One comment on “What is the Hiring Process?

  1. Pingback: What to Expect After You Are Hired | helloalissa

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2015 by in Living in Japan and tagged , , .

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