Last year, I spent a considerable amount of time applying for teaching jobs in Japan as, after nine years living in Thailand I decided it was time for a change. As it turns out, my plans to move to Tokyo never did materialize as a better offer came up in Thailand, but I did go through the whole application process several times, and interviewed with various Japanese schools.
If you too are interested in teaching abroad and Japan seems like an excellent choice, here are the steps I went through to apply for an English teaching job in Japan, steps that ultimately garnered me three job offers and taught me a lot about the Japanese teaching industry.
Write a resume and a letter of introduction – While I always have a current resume ready to go if I decide to job hunt, you might not. That’s why the first thing you should do before applying for any teaching job in Japan is to write a professional looking resume. Include any jobs you’ve had, whether they are teaching related or not, but specifically concentrate on jobs you’ve had or volunteer work you’ve done that included working with children as this is the type of experience Japanese schools really like.
Remember to send your resume out with a good letter of introduction or cover letter attached to it. In it, you should talk about any past experiences you think will help you to be successful in Japan, explain why you are interested in teaching in Japan and why you think you would be a good fit for the school.
Sign up with a recruiter – If you’re not the type who feels comfortable finding your own job, and many people don’t in a foreign culture, then signing up with a recruiter is probably your best bet. They will process your application and then send it to schools they deal with on a regular basis. This can be an easy way to find a teaching job in Japan, as a huge percentage of teaching jobs are filled this way, and the recruiter does most of the work for you.
Scour job boards for vacancies – If you’d prefer to look for a teaching job in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or any other Japanese city yourself, set aside several hours and scour the job boards set up for teaching jobs in Japan. Make notes on the schools that sound the most interesting, and send off a resume, a cover letter and a recent photograph to all of them.
If you have an undergraduate degree and TEFL certification, you’re highly likely to get several interviews via telephone or Skype by doing this and should end up with at least one or two job offers as an end result. Two great places to start your search are Gaijinpot and Jobs in Japan.
Prepare for your interviews – Japanese interviews are similar to those in the west, although I found most interviewers to be much more low-key and extremely polite and respectful. Two things many of them were interested in, however, was why I was so interested in teaching in Japan and how much did I know about their particular school.
Prepare for your interview so you have answers for typical questions they might ask and do some research before it as well, so you do find out about their school and can ask intelligent questions about it.
During my five interviews, I was offered jobs at the end of two interviews on Skype and friends who already teach in Japan told me this is quite common as the Japanese interviewer has already made up their minds they’d like to hire you just from your resume, with the Skype or telephone interview just the final point on the check list.
Complete all your paperwork – Once you do receive and accept a job offer at a school in Japan, the school should then mail a package of paperwork to you. This will include information about applying for visas as well as a Certificate of Eligibility, or COE.
You can then use this to apply for your long-term visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate. Just allow plenty of time to mail your visa application, if you don’t live close enough to a Japanese embassy to do it in person, and to receive it back in time to have it in hand when you are ready to leave for Japan.
Once you have completed all these steps, you should also already have a flight to Japan booked and information from your school about where you will be living.
Now you are ready to leave for your first teaching job in Japan. Good luck.