How I Became a CIR

So, the main thing I had trouble finding when I was looking for information about becoming a CIR was about the application process and what the interview was like etc. so I thought I’d use this post to talk about that. It’s quite a long process though so sorry for the wall of text.

The application period is around October-November time to apply to go out to Japan the following Summer. This was fortunate for me as I finished my dissertation the September of the year I applied.

Before you start compiling all your paper documents (and trust me, there are a lot to compile), you have to go onto the JET website and complete their online application form. After you’ve done that, it will give you access to the forms you need to print off and submit. The reason there are a lot of papers to get together is that you have to not only submit original copies of each form and document, but also 3 photocopies of each item to also be included in the envelope you send everything off in. What’s more, you have to send them some documents which you have to pay for, such as an academic transcript and a Statement of Physician (a doctor’s statement saying you’re all fit and healthy, or if not quite, what conditions you have). Then, you also need photocopies of things like university degree certificate, passport, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) certificates, as well as two references from different people, and a personal statement. All of these things have to be sent to the Japanese Embassy by post.

If your application pack goes down well, you’ll get invited to an interview, which is at the Japanese Embassy. For CIRs, this interview is normally at least partly in Japanese (because you are expected to be pretty fluent). There’s a very short English grammar test before the interview – after all, you could end up translating important documents or teaching English, so they want to check how good your grasp of English is. Then there’s an opportunity to ask a former CIR any questions you may have, before going in to your interview. In my case, some questions were in Japanese and some were in English. Most of it was just stuff they’d picked out from my personal statement to ask me about and things like that, and there’s also a short reading comprehension, which you have to read aloud and then answer some questions on. As for what to wear, as long as you look presentable and aren’t wearing like torn denim jeans or shorts or a miniskirt etc.  I think you’ll be okay. I wore black skinny jeans, a collared shirt and a chunky knit but smart-looking jumper and that seemed to be fine.

I would advise preparing for this interview by brushing up on your Japanese for sure, so you’re not あの-ing and えと-ing all over the place (although I guess it is better to do that than saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’ in English). In my case, I feel like I said まあ about twenty times. Also it’s a good idea to have another look over your personal statement (because application is in November, and my interview wasn’t until February, so it’s good to refresh your memory) to see what they might ask you about and try to learn vocab based around those or maybe even prepare a few example sentences – just don’t try to memorise them because you might end up sounding too robotic and that’s not a good way of showcasing your Japanese skill.

After the interview is a slightly agonising wait to find out if you get shortlisted or not. I got my notification of the result of my interview at the end of March. The result of my interview was that I was an alternate candidate – I would not get to go out to Japan that year unless someone somewhere had to pull out. This did, however, mean that I had to prepare some more documents (a reply form they gave me, another photocopy of my passport, an ICPC – International Child Protection Certificate, and a Certificate of Health, which involved me having to get a chest x-ray) in case it did come to pass that I got promoted to the shortlist.

After another two months, I got an email saying I had been promoted to the shortlist. This meant I was going to Japan after all.
I’d got pretty depressed about being an alternate candidate, thinking that it meant I hadn’t made it and wouldn’t get to go to Japan (because I wasn’t the only alternate candidate and it wasn’t guaranteed anyone would pull out). I was so ashamed of that fact, that I’d only even told family and close friends that had asked, because I felt like everyone had so much faith in me and I’d let them down.
So, needless to say, when I got that email I was relieved. And shocked, obviously. But the email tells you that you can’t post about the fact you’ve been promoted on social media at that point, so I could only tell my family and friends in person, or text them. To this day, half my friends don’t know I’m going, because I was so scared to post about it online in case I got in trouble that I haven’t yet. Even though I’m leaving in 8 days.

But what I wanted to get across with this post, is several things:

  • Compiling all the paperwork feels like a chore sometimes, but it’s worth it.
  • Prepare for your interview well, but not to the extent that you’re memorising everything you want to say.
  • If you feel like your interview didn’t go well, please try not to worry too much. Most people I’ve spoken to felt like they messed up their interview in one way or another.
  • If you end up as an alternate candidate rather than on the actual shortlist, try not to give up hope. You could still get promoted to the shortlist, or at worst, you can always try again next year, and use the time inbetween to take the JLPT, take a TEFL course, improve your Japanese and just generally give yourself even more of a chance of getting through next year.

To anyone reading this that’s thinking of applying or already applied, as they say in Japan, ファイト!

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