Interac America: The Phone Interview

So I finally gave up on only wanting to go to Japan through JET and decided to put in an application to other companies as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT)… well one or two. I applied for some company called Heart English School and got an interview but then I realized I should look into the company. So I did and what I found was not so great. Majority of the reviews left were either negative or said that they were glad to have the foot in the door so they could find another job in Japan. That did not appeal to me. So I applied for another company. That company was Interac.

The Phone Call

I applied on Thursday, January the 7th. Well technically I just updated it and actually submitted it (I had filled out the application before but never turned it in). So I was expecting to wait a while before anything happened, but boy was I wrong. The very next day, I got a phone call. I was at work so I had to excuse myself but, I answered the phone and sure enough it was a guy from Interac. His name was Martin (that’s all you need to know). He’d called because he saw my application and wanted to know if I was still interested in going to Japan. I, obviously, said yes. He told me that my application still needed some work but that he would go ahead and schedule me for a phone interview. He wanted to do it soon so that I could have time to get ready for the in-person interview. I said yes (duh) and we scheduled it for the following Tuesday the 12th at 5:00 PM.

The Interview

I, again, was at work that night (I work Monday – Thursday, and the occasional Fridays, from 7:55 AM – 6:30 PM), but I had talked to my boss and she said it was fine. I went into the teachers’ lounge around 4:55 and waited, for what felt like forever for Martin to call. He called at 5:02 (those extra minutes though…) and it was on. He asked me some questions (we’ll get to it) and then asked me about some things on the forms he asked me to print out (yup, we’ll get to that too) and we chatted a little about my previous trip to Japan.

The Questions

So the questions started off:

Why do you want to go to Japan?

(This, my friends is the all-encompassing question that it seems like everyone asks.)  Well I want to go to Japan to learn more about the culture and the people. My first trip over there was not nearly long enough and I wanted to go back. I also want to better my Japanese language ability and one day be able to comfortably speak to Japanese people. This was around how my answer went, my first trip to Japan was only six weeks long (not even out of the honey moon period) and I wanted to be able to be able to get past the honey moon phase before I choose whether or not I’d like to live there permanently. I expressed this Martin and seemed impressed that I could say that.

Are you willing to drive a car in Japan?

Well yes, I mean I have to get my American license first (long story) but yes I would be willing.

Will you have enough money to bring to Japan?

At the moment. I am broke I have $2.38 to my name and it’s going to be difficult but not impossible. I didn’t say that to Martin, of course. I said I should if not the exact amount then something very close to it.

Interac has a loan program, if you would need to use it about how much would you expect to need?

I think on the phone I said around 100,000¥ about $900. I am hoping to not to have to use it, but if I do then they can have it set aside for me. Interac has 2% fee and Martin told me that they only have the fee so that they can give out the money (or something like that…).

Are you willing to eat the food that they serve in the schools?

Martin explained to me that in Japan the teachers usually eat with the students (which I sort of already know) and they also eat the same thing that the students eat, same proportions and all. I told him that I greatly enjoyed the food I had while I was in Japan and even though I was nervous about the fish (I eat fish but I am terrified of fish with heads and tails on it) I would eat what I was given since in the south you are raised to eat everything on your plate. I actually love to try new foods and while the thought scares me I will try it and eventually I may like it.

Are you allergic to anything (mainly food wise)?

No, I have bad allergies but i am not allergic to anything in particular.

Are you OK with riding a bike?

Oh, yes. Although I have had my fair amount of crashes on a bike (even broke off piece of my knee), I do like riding them.

How long are you planning on staying in Japan?

At least two years. After that it will depend on how those years went. I want to be able to get a good picture of how life would be if I stayed in Japan for an extended amount of time.

Are you willing to be placed in a small, rural town?

Yes, I think that I would love to be in a small town because I want to really learn Japanese and in the big cities you can get by without knowing the language. I don’t want that. On a side note (I did not say this in the interview), I would rather be put somewhere semi-rural because I would like for there to be things to do but if I am placed in the middle of nowhere I would learn to adapt and find some to do. I like staying inside by myself but I can’t do it forever. I really love talking to people and being engaged with others.

Mini Quiz

These were some of the questions he asked me and then it was sort of like a mini quiz after that. Before the phone interview they have you print out some papers. One is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) and the other is the Interac ALT Job description (which is seven pages long). So he asked me some questions from those papers:

How much money are you expected to bring with you to Japan?

500,000¥ (yen: Japanese dollar). Which Martin explained to me was about $4014 US, and I was thinking in my head, “Wow, that much. How am I going to come up with that much money in a few weeks (cause dummy me thought that we would be leaving in May if we got that job).” But I was preparing myself to work miracles, well God anyways. Turns out we wouldn’t leave until August (whew… relieved…).

What are the hours for this position?

Well the hours are 8-5. We would be “working” for 40 hours a week and doing actual work for 29.5 hours a week. Something like that. Right? Well it’s more like we would be at the school for 40 hours a week but we would only be actively teaching for 29.5 hours a week. Add in a Saturday every once in a while and you have yourself a job.

What are some of the duties this job has?

According to the packet ALT’s are responsible for teaching anywhere from 1 to 6 lessons a day, lesson planning, give language exposure to the children, provide corrections and guidance, and model the key language targets. …So basically we teach or help teach or help teach around six classes a day (at max or to my understanding the max) speaking and showing the students what they need to do and how they need to do it. That’s what I got out of that really. They also expect you to be a cultural ambassador for your country (something just for you guys, cause I didn’t say this in the interview) and really show the students, teachers, and community your culture and customs.


And the result is…

We talked a bit more and he asked me about my previous trip to Japan. He asked where I stayed (Tokyo, Nishikasai to be exact), where we visited (Mt. Hakone, Kyoto, and Yokohama), how long did I stay (6 weeks), and what I had been there for (school). After that he started wrapping up (a 15 minute interview turned into 25 minutes). He told me that he enjoyed talking to me and he was definitely recommending me to go to the in-person interview.

He asked if I could be in Orlando in time (because that was the closets one) because the seminar and interview was on the 16th, yes that part is something we will get to in the next part. I want to know what you guys think about the interview. Do you think they asked some good questions? How would you have answered them?


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