Back in 2015, I was a recent college grad who was having a hard time finding a job in the industry of my choice (as a writer or editor). I was also shocked by the rents in NYC, and not sure how I was ever going to move out of my parents’ house. Things looked pretty dim, and I felt like a loser. But one day, on a whim, I started researching about teaching abroad, thinking this would be a good opportunity to both live on my own and beef up my resume.
I focused mainly on Asian countries like Japan, China, and South Korea because there was a really high demand for English teachers and the salaries were pretty good. In USD they averaged from 2,500 to 3,500 per month. The bigger companies also would sponsor your visa, help with the paperwork, train you, and find affordable housing! For someone making their way in the world for the first time, this would take a lot of the pressure off.
However, the more I researched, the more I realized that there was a dark side to the industry. There would be cultural expectations to work unpaid overtime, long and late working hours, and taking paid days off would be tricky. Knowing all this, I still decided to move forward.
As a longtime fan of Japanese video games, anime, and culture that was where I focused my search.
How I Got Hired by a Japanese Eikaiwa
First, I researched which Eikaiwas were recruiting in my area. An Eikaiwa is an English conversation school in Japan. The big ones I found were ECC, AEON, and Berlitz. so if you want to try interviewing for an English teaching job in Japan they are a good place to start. Depending on where you are in America (or abroad) there are different companies that recruit. So, always make sure to do a quick google search first, and check the company websites.
Requirements for Teaching English in Japan
- You need to be a native English speaker. I wasn’t born in the US but all of my primary education (elementary school – college) was done in English, in an American school. If your primary education was in English, that qualifies you as a Native English speaker.
- You need a bachelor’s degree. Mine is in English, but it doesn’t have to be, any bachelor’s degree will do. Some companies ask for certifications like TEFL so that is good to have, but likely not necessary. I don’t have a certification.
- You need to pass an interview in order to be sponsored for a visa and offered a position.
My First Interview with an Eikaiwa, and Why I Failed
Here, my friends, we have a tragic tale. I went for an interview with a company, I don’t think I should say the name exactly, so we will call them MOO. This interview was an all-day affair including a presentation, a grammar test (yep – better study!), and a teaching demonstration. Only those who passed the test and the demonstration would be invited back for the final interview.
I passed the test, and surprisingly despite never teaching a day in my life, I aced the demo lesson as well. This company, MOO, is very particular so I was only one of two people called for the final interview. The interviewers were nice, well-dressed men, and I actually enjoyed talking to them until they brought up the tattoos on my wrists.
I think you know where this is going.
I have two small tattoos on each of my wrists that were barely visible with my long sleeves, but it was enough to give them pause. Despite my assurances that I can keep them covered while at work they told me they would have to check with their headquarters in Japan. I heard back in an email a few days later that they, unfortunately, could not offer me a position due to my tattoos.I was heartbroken! So be warned, do not make this mistake. If interviewing with a Japanese company, make sure that your tattoos are 100% covered.
A cultural note: As you most of you likely know, tattoos in Japan are associated with organized crime. That is changing a bit these days. However, when working or going to the pool or onsen, there can be no visible tattoos. Plan accordingly.
How I Passed My Interview with a Japanese Eikaiwa
After my initial failure, I forgot about teaching abroad for a while. I felt that my dreams were crushed. But down the line, I found these tattoo covers on Amazon that were like small tight sleeves. They went on my wrists and didn’t move so that even if my suit jacket moved, my tattoos would stay hidden. So, I decided to try again with another company. Let’s call them…BLOOP.
Now BLOOP had a two-day interview process. The first day was a presentation, a grammar test, and a demo lesson. If you want to do well in an Eikaiwa demo lesson it might be a good idea to bring your own flashcards. I made mine and taught actions like clap, jump, and yawn, and then played a game of Simon Says. The goal here is to get everyone engaged in the lesson.
I passed the first day and I was invited back for a second day where BLOOP had me teach a lesson with their own materials. This is a bit stressful because it’s hard to prepare in advance. However, what you need to remember is that the recruiter is not checking if you can perform a lesson perfectly on your first try. They want to see that you are adaptable, engaging and understand the material.
I must have done well because I got an offer! Yay! About four months later I was in Japan, and here I still am, five years later.
If you have any questions, please let me know!