View Full Version : A Short Guide to the Interac Seminar

June 11th, 2012, 07:21
A Short Guide to the Interac Seminar

There's not a huge amount of information on the Interac seminar, the step after the phone interview, and what information that does exist is rather scattered. The information here is mostly based on my experiences, and as such your experience may and probably will be somewhat different. As I get feedback and suggestions from people in this thread based on their experiences, I will try to incorporate that information as well.

The seminar is divided up into 3 parts – an information session, presenting your mock lessons, and an individual interview. I'll be talking a bit about each part, but first there are some other things that need to be addressed.

1. Be early – In the email, you're given a time to meet up in the lobby of the hotel, but you'll want to be there and waiting 15-20 minutes before then. During my personal interview, the interviewer said that even though he didn't walk over to the meeting area until the stated time, he was watching to see who showed up early. Additionally, he mentioned during the presentation that it is often standard practice in Japan to show up 10 minutes or so ahead of designated meeting times, even for casual get togethers with friends.

2. Don't be late – I mean it. This is really important and goes with the above point. Come the night before and stay in the hotel – We had one girl who arrived 45 minutes late because of traffic and another that was 2 hours or so late because her flight got delayed. The interviewer should never have to wait on you; you should always be waiting on them.

3. Dress the part – The Interac dress guidelines are for professional business attire. At least at my seminar, of the 10 people there, including the interviewer, 9 of them were wearing very conservative suits or something compable for the women. One of the ladies had on a nice colored blouse and khakis, and while it still looked nice, it stuck out considerably compared to what everyone else had on.

4. Appearance – You're applying for a professional position in a conservative country, and your appearance should reflect that. Tattoos should be covered, fingernails should be clean and trimmed, hair should be short for men and neat for women. Our interviewer said that it's acceptable for women to have a single piercing in each ear and anything else, for either men or women, shouldn't be visible. Facial hair on men was also mentioned as something to avoid.

The Information Session

While this is formally called an information session, and lots of useful and interesting information is preseneted, it is more of a group interview. Bring a notepad and a pen, take notes, ask questions, pay attention, sit up straight, and most of all, know that you're being evaluated.

The information session lasted about 3 hours, with a short break about halfway through. Looking back at my notes, the topics covered were, roughly in order, as follows:

Gyomu Itaku vs Haken Style teaching arrangements
Dress expectations
Communicating with the Tokyo office
Budgets, Expenses, and Taxes

At several points during the presentation the interviewer would stop and ask the group various questions. These ranged from questions that everyone in the group had to answer “Tell me why you're interested in Japan.” to questions answered by whoever responded first “Are these two pictures of an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school?” to quiz type quesitons where he asks each person in the group something about the material that has already been presented.

Overall, this is probably the easiest portion of the entire seminar, but make sure you're alert and amiable, that you interact with both the interviewer and your fellow interviewees, because as I said before it's a group interview in disguise – you're still being graded.

The Demo Lesson

For most people, this will probably be the hardest and most nerve wracking part of the entire seminar. You are required to get up infront of both the video camera, the interviewer, and your fellow seminar attendees and give a 6 minute presentation that consists of 4 parts – a self introduction, reading from a script, a review for an elementary school class, and a short lesson for a high school class.

I've read of people having different experiences with their interviewers regarding time limits, with some saying you should have your presentation be 5:30 – 6:00 minutes to mine who said anything less then about 6:45 is fine. You are given a set of links to a demo of an Interac staff member giving the presentation – note that his time totals come to almost 8 minutes. You'll need to go faster then what you see in their provided videos. Just be aware of these items and ready to adapt.

As a continuation of above, I would recommend not going first for the presentation. Our interviewer gave lots of advice and comments after each person's presentation, and if you can think quickly on your feet, you can incorporate this advice into your presentation to make it better and more focused on what Interac is looking for. I will touch on most of these points in the following paragraphs about each section of the presentation.

1. The Self Introduction – Self introductions are hard. I'm being serious. About ¾ of the interviewees at my presentation got up, started their self introduction, and either rambled on and on, stumbled significantly as they were deciding what to say, or got flustered. Write down on a sheet of paper what you're going to say. Practice it. Go do something else, come back, and practice it some more. You are not required to use 日本語 in your self introduction, but it'll probably help you if you can do it correctly. I said essentially the same thing twice – first in Japanese, and then in English. The important thing though, is to have a plan for your self introduction. It's much harder to do on the spot then people realize. Know what you're going to say and practice it, just like the other parts of the presentation.

2. Reading from a Script – You're given a paragraph about Interac to read, which is pretty straightforward and simple. You are being judged on your pronunciation, the speed at which you read aloud, and how easy you are to understand. Because you're nervous, the impluse will be to read faster, but this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Read at a steady, consistent rate, clearly pronouncing each word. I read the script aloud several times in my hotel room the night before, and was very glad I did. Make eye contact with your audience, and put some inflection into your voice to make it sound interesting. Also, try not to let your hands shake too much as you hold the script in front of you!

3. Elementary School Review – Create a simple, quick review of something for an elementary school class. Remember that you're teaching kids here – be fun, be excited, etc. Repetition and getting the audience to repeat after you both got big approval marks from the interviewer. You probably want to have some sort of prop for this, something that is big enough for kids to see, yet simple and focused. I used a sheet of foam board with a few items on it, as an example.

4. High School Lesson – This will probably be the longest section of your presentation. You will want to do something that is very similar to the examples you are given videos of. Once again, repetition and audience interaction are both looked upon very highly. Don't just talk to your audience; get them to talk back, call on kids (fellow interviewees), have the audience repeat after you, etc. Some sort of simple prop is once again probably a good idea.

A quick note – even though in the email it says you will have access to a white board, the booking at our hotel got the wrong conference room and we didn't have one. It made 1 person in our group scramble to rearrange their lesson plan. This was probably just a one off occurrence, but be aware that it can happen. Additionally, and this is my opinion, I would recommend against using lots of technology in the presentations, laptops, projectors, iPads, etc., as something will invariably go wrong (and did for one of our interviewees).

The Personal Interview

After the demo lessons, we broke for lunch. You are also given a one page grammar/spelling test to complete and a ~90 question self scored Myers-Briggs personality test. You'll have probably 45 minutes to complete these both if you're the first personal interview, more if you're later in the afternoon. The general order of interviews was to let people who need to catch flights or travel long distances go first.

Once again, you'll want to be early to the personal interview – take the time your interviewer tells you and be waiting nearby 15 minutes or so early.

This is a reasonably standard personal interview, so much of the advice you read elsewhere will apply here. Have a few questions you can ask the interviewer, be relaxes, and know that you're almost done. The following are questions that I remember (in no particular order):

What is a strength and what is a weakness?
What would you do to get along with your Japanese coworkers?
Would you be comfortable teaching at 10 schools?
Why did you select X as your preferred placement?
How do you deal with stress?
If you discover this job isn't for you once you arrive, how would you react?
Would you be willing to consider a rural placement?
Have you already discussed a job in Japan with your family & friends?

Good luck!

June 11th, 2012, 07:21

June 12th, 2012, 05:22
Pretty good breakdown. They haven't changed it very much since 2010 when I was interviewed. One thing I do remember is the recruiter telling me to not expect any sort of whiteboard or display item and to be prepared if there wasn't one. Turns out it that is really good advice. Two of the thirty or so schools I went to while in Japan did not have chalk at the time. It was a bizarre experience as the Japanese usually have more chalk or markers than anyone ever needs. Be prepared to teach on dirt with a stick. Great advice and gives you more creative power than you might think.

June 12th, 2012, 07:17
Your experience at the seminar was very similar to my own. I can't stress enough the importance of looking completely and utterly professional and conservative at the interview. I was wearing a tailored pant suit and our recruiter was very tough on our attire.

I would also like to add that at my interview, the recruiter complained that my entire video was ONLY 5 minutes long, when it should have been 5:30 - 6:00 long and not a second over 6:00. In fact, she turned off the camera at 6:00 on the nose for another person who interviewed with me. So yeah, stay within the range of 5:30 - 6:00 if you can. I still got the job, but it's something to keep in mind for sure.

June 15th, 2012, 00:56
oh wow... how did people answer "Would you be comfortable teaching at 10 schools?"

June 15th, 2012, 05:47
I said I would be comfortable teaching at 10 schools because four years of 5-6 classes/semester and 30-hours/week work have allowed me to develop very good time-management and scheduling skills to keep track of various different responsibilities/projects. I said that it would be interesting because I would adapt my style to being more of a traveling lecturer, and that since I would make fewer total lessons (you could reuse each lesson more since there are more schools/classes), I would be able to spend more time on each lesson and make them more engaging and fun. I also said that if I ended up with fewer schools the benefit would be that I would be able to more closely monitor my students progress and get to know them better, and that one way or another the experience would be rewarding and I would be able to develop new skills and provide a quality education.

You always want to answer that anything would be great and you would be able to perform under any potential situation.

June 15th, 2012, 05:54
oh.. so i guess you geared it towards a time management thing.. which might be why they also asked about stress..

June 15th, 2012, 10:34
It would be super stressful arriving in Japan and having to go through the first day experience (finding the school in time, introducing yourself to your coworkers, meeting your school president and JTEs, trying to remember everyone's names, introducing yourself to students) ten times, with little to no teaching experience and without perfectly fluent Japanese. I really hope I have 5 or fewer schools, to be honest.

June 15th, 2012, 15:07
oh wow... how did people answer "Would you be comfortable teaching at 10 schools?"

I basically said that the less schools, the better it would be for both me and the students. The more I get to know the students, the better I would be able to teach them. 10 would be acceptable, but going over that would not really be fair to the students. I would be open, however, to whatever the company asked of me.

I said that and my recruiter said, "excellent" with a nod and a smile.

June 16th, 2012, 01:35
I basically said that the less schools, the better it would be for both me and the students. The more I get to know the students, the better I would be able to teach them. 10 would be acceptable, but going over that would not really be fair to the students. I would be open, however, to whatever the company asked of me.

I said that and my recruiter said, "excellent" with a nod and a smile.

That is a pretty good answer to the question, but I felt that the question was more to acknowledge the fact that there *are* some situations like this, even though it isn't really an optimal situation for anybody involved. During the seminar our interviewer mentioned that every year they have a handful of people where they really are teaching at 10+ schools, and this question forces you to seriously consider it as a possibility.

oh.. so i guess you geared it towards a time management thing.. which might be why they also asked about stress..

I answered the question about stress by saying I exercised a bunch, swimming, running, and body weight exercises like pushups, pullups, lunges, etc. I think they just want to make sure you don't shut down when you're under stress, or that you don't resort to bad coping mechanisms. In retrospect, while I do think that some of the other questions are quasi trick questions, I don't think this one is meant to be.

June 16th, 2012, 01:53
^ thats a good response... I have no idea how to answer the stress question.
I dont get stressed. I don't let things get to me to be stressed about, if that makes sense...
But sadly, I dont think they will accept the fact that I dont get stressed. lol

June 18th, 2012, 12:31
I never had an interview when I did it. It was just a paper based question and answer with sillyness like "Would you mind cutting your hair"