How To Apply and Interview for an ESL Job in Japan

You found it: the perfect job listing. After reviewing the English teaching job options in Japan, you set your intentions. Moreover, after scouring the job boards and newsletters (see our guide [HERE]), you found a match.

Now comes the next challenging step, where you need to submit the perfect application and nail the interview. We have you covered; the cultural differences and idiosyncrasies of the ESL industry can be learned and prepared for. Let’s get started!

Before Applying, Be Applicable

To be eligible for a work visa in Japan, you will need a four-year university degree. Occasionally, ten years of specialized experience can be a substitute, but not for every type of job. If you can not legally work in Japan, save yourself time.

Human resources professionals and recruiters also get tons of applications from people who do not meet the basic requirements. It would help if you did not blast your resume around town for every position. Networking is important in Japan, and you might frustrate companies that later have a job for which you would be an exact fit.

Especially for Japanese proficiency, you should not expect to “fake it – till you make it.” Jobs that require Japanese usually have an interview entirely in Japanese.

Show Up in Japan

This is a bonus step that may help your odds of success with just about any application. Just come to Japan. Once you are here, it will be much easier to schedule interviews and be taken seriously on a working holiday or tourist visa.

Many companies will not hire candidates still overseas, especially if they have never been to Japan or lived overseas. Moving to a new country can be stressful and complex, so they want to make sure a new employee will stick around.

Once you are in Japan, you can change your visa to the right work visa type once you land an English teaching job.

Optimize Your Resume

If this will be your first TESOL job, you need to connect your past experiences to education or linguistics however you can. Many eikaiwa jobs are essentially customer service roles, so focus on your interactions with others and any experience you have training or teaching customers or coworkers.

Of course, the best way to break into an English teaching career is to turn yourself into a teacher. A certification like the CertTESOL will give you an internationally recognized and accredited professional qualification. In short, hiring managers will take you seriously. In the CertTESOL program, trainees get real classroom experience and the tools to start teaching. Your resume will look much better with a certificate, but you will also be more prepared and confident.

Oh, and don’t save your resume as “resume.docx” — every job posting gets hundreds of those. Don’t be afraid to stand out! “CertTESOL-certified-resume.docx” or “Your-name-CertTESOL-Resume.docx” – will be opened much more often.


Unlike most business cultures, applicants are expected to include a photograph of themselves with their application in Japan. Make sure you include a professional, high-quality headshot with a plain background. If you look unkempt or dressed casually, your application could be tossed out immediately.

It’s not the best policy, but how you present yourself will be a factor in whether you are hired or not for an English teaching job in Japan. You may also get discriminated against due to this picture. The ESL industry has been limited to mostly Inner Circle English-speaking countries, though there is a shift from that mentality. Many respectable companies hire non-native speakers of English, so do not be discouraged.

Interviewing Tips

Almost all work culture in Japan involves formality and deference to the rules and those with seniority over you. You will need to look sharp, give the replies they expect to hear, and not do anything you wouldn’t do at a funeral. That means no sipping Starbucks, no slouching or fidgeting, and no getting off-topic. You want to remain serious yet positive.

Wearing a suit and tie to your interview is a must, even for an online video conference. Make sure any tattoos are completely hidden and remove any unconventional piercings. The interviewer needs to know you can clean up nice for when you are with students.

You will need to explain why you can do the job, why you want to work there, and demonstrate your likeability. Even if your interviewer is an ex-pat, they will likely judge you according to Japanese standards.

If your interview will be in Japanese, it is important to brush up on your formal phrases and word forms. You should also script your answers to common questions and practice them until you sound natural.

Get Experienced Help

Applying and interviewing is a long and intense process. You should get the support that will ensure your success by finding people with experience working in Japan. The STC offers job placement assistance for trainees that complete the CertTESOL course. The course and the assistance can give you a significant advantage over all aspiring teachers, so start the application process today!

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