Dear TJ 2018

Thank you for visiting Dear TJ. Dear TJ started in 2018 as a place where you can ask Tokyo JALT members about teaching, researching etc. and get responses. We hope our responses have helped not just those who brought the questions but all the visitors and members in the community. Thank you and we look forward to more questions/advice from you!

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2018's Dear TJ


University Job InterviewsFurther advice from TJ


University Job InterviewsResponded by Lydia and Matthew


Publication OpportunitiesResponded by Liz


Looking for a JobResponded by Matthew


Job Application in JapanResponded by Michele

December 2018

Dear TJ,

I completed my MA TESOL program recently, considering applying for a teaching position at several universities in Japan. Do you have any advice as to what to prepare before an interview? What kind of questions do they typically ask?


Looking for a New Job

Thank you again for the question, LNJ. This month, we would like to share further advice with regard to applying for universities in Japan.

Dear Eikawa,

I hope Matt and Lydia's response last month has been helpful. You might have already done interviews, but let me share some advice here:

Preparation in Advance of an Interview

* Read through the job ad carefully, noting down any courses which you would be required to teach should you be successful in your application. Interviewers will want to know whether you have experience teaching similar courses. In the event that you don't have experience teaching in the specific areas mentioned, they'll be curious to know how you can draw on your existing skill set and teaching to meet the aims of each course.

* Understand the ethos of the university as well as the core mission of the department/faculty. Interviewers will almost always ask the question, "Why have you applied for this job?" Interviewers will appreciate if you've done some "research" in these areas, since it will show you have a genuine interest in the university beyond merely employment.

* Send only the materials/documentation that are listed in the job ad. Resist the urge to send letters of recommendation, syllabuses, and/or commendations in addition to what has been asked of you in the job ad. Sending additional materials may hinder rather than help your chances of receiving an interview. A hiring committee may have received a large volume of applications and as such, will disregard the applications of candidates who have not followed instructions down to the letter.

* Create a "narrative" about yourself. It is almost guaranteed that your interview will begin with a member of the hiring committee saying, "Please give us a summary of your educational and professional background". With this in mind, consider how you can construct a concise, compelling, and clear picture of your teaching and educational experiences up to the present moment. Be selective in what you choose to highlight; after all, they have your CV. For example, if the job ad states they would like the successful candidate to teach academic writing classes, then it would be to your advantage to mention if you have experience in this area during your self-introduction.

I hope this helps you prepare for your interview. Good luck!

Best regards,


November 2018

Dear TJ,

I completed my MA TESOL program recently, considering applying for a teaching position at several universities in Japan. Do you have any advice as to what to prepare before an interview? What kind of questions do they typically ask?


Looking for a New Job

Thank you for the question. This month, Matthew, our President, and Lydia, JET/ALT Coordinator respond to the question. Feel free to ask further questions or share your advice here.

Dear Eikawa,

Today, two of us will be answering your question! We both were excited to offer you advice and hope that it helps.


First of all, congratulations on completing your MA in TESOL! I'm sure it was an awarding experience to have achieved another hard-earned degree.

If you want to transition from teaching at an eikawa to a university setting in Japan, there are certainly ways you could prepare for the interview.

First, check the job posting carefully. Not all university postings require a Master's degree, however, most do on top of a few publications. Read the job requirements and qualifications in detail before applying, especially the deadline for sending in the application. Also, carefully check where the application and documents should be sent. It would be a waste of time and effort knowing your job application would not be considered just because you misread something.

Second, prepare for the interview. Interviews may be one-on-one interviews online or a group of interviewers in a room. I've even had up to 8 people from the admin staff to the principal listen in! Speaking from personal experience, there are several common and frequently asked questions that interviewers have. These are in no particular order.

1. How do you motivate university students?

The position may involve teaching English to students in a mandatory course from various disciplines. In a large class with mixed levels of ability, students who take the course for extrinsic motivation (those who need the credit) are often more common then those who do for intrinsic rewards (those who study English for personal satisfaction). That being said, it's important to provide a few answers that address unmotivated students. Interviewers may even ask how you deal with mixed level classes.

2. What materials or textbooks have you used?

Some interviewers would like to know what textbooks or materials you are familiar with. Are you willing to follow their curriculum with the assigned materials? Or do you create your own materials? Some might even ask you to submit a sample syllabus for a 15-week course and do a demonstration lesson.

3. What areas of research are you interested in?

Some universities may hand out research grants or require you to publish research or practice-based articles. It helps to narrow down your research interests so you can clearly articulate your passion in the interview.

4. How will you use what you have learned in your MA to guide your teaching? Or what's your teaching philosophy?

What are your teaching and educational beliefs? Are you more towards social constructivism or cognitivism or a mix of both? Do your beliefs match the university's teaching philosophy?

Remember to ask questions of your own as it will show that you are highly interested in the position. In the end, it is a dialogue to make sure you and the position are the right fit.

Third, always remember to follow up with an e-mail. Universities deal with hundreds of applications, so following up and checking in on your status will remind them that you are still interested in the position.


I definitely second everything Lydia said. For me, I want to address two potential areas you may want to be careful about.

Firstly, in my last interview for a previous job, I was asked when I was getting married. They had led up to the question with various indirect questions about my future plans, but it all boiled down to: "Can we trust you to work here a few years without issue?"

Ideally, this question will simply be about how you want to develop your career at that institution, what you may want to research (as Lydia mentioned previously), etc. and you should be prepared to speak about how that job will help you advance your career, but I also want you to prepare yourself.

I do not know whether you are male or female, and this should not matter, nor should your marital status, plans for children, and so on, and I should be explicitly clear here: you do NOT need to speak about any of that. In fact, it is not legal to ask about it... but sometimes it does happen and I want you to be prepared for that worse case scenario. Or it can also be a good sign you do not want to work at that college, if not doing so is a luxury you can afford.

Secondly, besides being prepared to talk about your future plans, I want to advise you to get ready to teach a demo lesson of some type. In almost all of my job interviews, I had to do a demo lesson. This seems standard for many entry level jobs and you should be prepared. At most of the interviews they gave me material and a brief summary of the students and asked me to prepare, a week later usually, a lesson plan, materials, and then teach part of the lesson.

If at all possible, I recommend finding a way to re-use materials or tasks you have used previously and feel comfortable with. A job interview is not a good time to experiment with new materials or methods, trust me. In addition, be prepared for the "students" to behave and misbehave. In both of my most recent demo lessons, they were observing how I handled students who were not on task, how I gave feedback, etc.

Quickly, at the worst such demo at a community college in New York, I had a "student" who said the task was "stupid" and they were observing how I handled it. Of course, I did not KNOW that was what was happening until later and it was an incredibly frustrating experience. Here in Tokyo, I haven't had that bad an experience with Demo lessons, but I still recommend preparing yourself.

Finally, talk to people who work there or who have worked there. Nothing is more helpful than an insider's feedback about your lesson plan and your answer to possible interview questions. If you do not know anyone who works there, ask around. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, and professional events, such as JALT's, are great ways to network and find just that sort of connection.

Good luck from both of us!

Best regards,


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October 2018

Dear TJ,

I've had some book reviews and a co-authored MyShare published, but nothing higher-level than that. I'd like to start publishing research papers but don't have a research background (master's was a taught course in literature, a long time ago) and am wondering where to start. Is there anywhere I can contact others in a similar situation to collaborate with, and/or more experienced people to ask about the nuts and bolts of writing a first paper? And is it even realistic to aim at a published research paper while only working part-time?


Looking for Publication Opportunities

Thank you for the question. Indeed, it can be difficult to know where to start to get research papers published. This month, Liz gives you advice in response to the question. Working with SIGs and research groups as our External Outreach Chair, she can provide practical advice on how to get publication opportunities through such groups.

Liz says:

Hi there,

Thanks for getting in touch with Tokyo JALT about research publications.

Many emerging scholars find the process of getting published very daunting. As you mentioned, sometimes it’s difficult to know ‘where to start’, particularly if you are not immersed in a research community through a primary workplace or educational setting. That being said, I hope that this reply can lead you down the right path and give you confidence to begin writing. It is always ‘realistic to aim at a published research paper,’ though it may take a little longer if you do not have access to materials and data through working at a university full-time.

Your letter mentioned that you have already started to establish a research profile with a co-authored MyShareand some book reviews. That’s an awesome start! As a next step, you might wish to publish an article in a JALT SIG journal. Many JALT SIGs support emerging scholars and researchers through the writing process. One such SIG is the Learning Development SIG, which has a bi-annual newsletter called Learning Learning. The editors ‘encourage new writers’ and ‘are happy to work with you in developing your writing’. The newsletter welcomes proposals for individual articles, group articles, and reflective writing. Learning Learningalso includes a section called ‘Members’ Voices’; you could include your profile in this section in order to attract potential co-authors. Other SIG journals that may be of interest to you include Explorations in Teacher Education. This peer-reviewed journal is associated with the Teacher Education and Development SIG. One of the major advantages of this journal is that the potential areas in which your article could focus are numerous – the journal accepts articles that support TED SIG’s ‘core mission of expanding and exploring issues in teacher education.’

Your letter expressed interest in reaching out to other emerging writers as a way to collaborate on research projects. Your letter also mentioned that you are currently working part-time. Have you considered speaking to other part-time teachers at your university or workplace to see if their research interests match your own? Also, if you are working part-time at a university, I would recommend speaking with senior members in your department to ask for advice about the writing process. If you are working part-time at a university, you may also consider asking a trusted full-time or tenured faculty member to hold an information session about research methods and getting published. This session could be useful not only for you but also other part-time teachers/researchers.

In terms of finding someone suitable for collaboration, try and attend some workshops and seminars organised by Tokyo JALT and relevant SIGs on topics related to your areas of research. Often, these workshops and seminars are great networking opportunities. Even if you don’t find anyone in exactly the same situation as you, there’s always the possibility of co-authoring a paper with somebody down the road or being asked to be a reviewer or proofreader.

The last thing I would like to emphasise is that it's definitely realistic to publish a research paper while only working part-time! Certainly, there are some limitations in terms of collecting data and accessing important resources via the library. Nevertheless, working part-time may give you more freedom to focus deeply on a research project, and to engage with researchers and scholars through seminars, workshops, and other special events.

We wish you the very best with your research and hope for your success in the near future!


Liz Shek-Noble

External Outreach ChairTokyo

September 2018

Dear TJ,

I’ll be looking for a new job very soon. I have a DELTA and am working on my MATESOL. I’m wondering if there are other websites to look for jobs besides jobsin and gaijinpot. Those sites seem to only have low-paying jobs for inexperienced teacher-tourists without qualifications. I’m hoping to find something similar to what I’m doing now, at try current salary level. I can’t seem to get any good leads. I also have no interest in teaching children, either little ones or university students. I’ve tried it and absolutely hated it. I’m qualified to teach ESP, but can’t seem to find much.


Looking for a Better Job

Thank you for your question! Matthew Kocourek, our Incoming President at Tokyo JALT is answering your question this month. He has taught English at different schools in Japan and has lots of suggestions that you could consider in looking for a teaching position.

Matthew says:

Dear Looking,

I have to say, first, that I feel your pain. I have taught at Eikaiwa (English conversation schools), I have taught as an ALT, I have taught part time at a variety of institutes and universities and now I finally have my first full-time job at a university that I feel secure at. And I want to say to you that you can do it too, but it could take time.

Firstly, I want to recommend a few different sites and services. Perhaps the largest site in Japan for university jobs is I have used the site for years and know many other teachers who have found decent university jobs there. However, it is a little hard to get used to the interface and most of the jobs will require an MA or a PhD in hand. Not all of them do though, so give them a look. You mention English for Specific Purposes (ESP), so I also want to recommend looking up whichever areas you have expertise in. For example, many of these listings are for people with professional experience or knowledge in a field, so if you have such experience, you may be in luck!

An alternative which I have sometimes found useful is This is a classic website and one which is easy to use--you just download the latest issue and read through it. There is a catch for this site though, at least for you: most of the jobs are K-12 or eikaiwa (this site might not be great for the writer, but if you are looking for such a job, I highly recommend this site).

Secondly, I want to recommend joining groups and attending events. Though this takes time, this option often leads to the best jobs in the end. In the last month, there have been more than five job postings on the Tokyo JALT Facebook page alone ( If you do not use Facebook, you could also try our newsletter, which you should receive if you are a member already but is also available at We have only two or three jobs listed currently, but I hope we will be able to share more in the coming months.

Also, professional groups such as JALT have many events before and after which people people talk about their jobs and their schools. Though, of course, we do not get special preference, we do sometimes learn about openings before they are published, or which may never be published. This may be the slowest of the various options I have given you, but I think that it can be a valuable one.

Finally, I want to just list a few schools at which I have worked or at which my colleagues have worked at and which are often hiring. I am not endorsing these schools or guaranteeing pay similar to what you are currently making--if you are working at a company, you will probably see a pay cut regardless of which university or institute you go to. I worked at Westgate ( the second time I came to Japan and they are a large company which is always hiring potential university instructors. They will also sponsor a visa if needed, which can be the trickiest part for many people looking to teach in Japan. There are several other companies like Westgate which find instructors and send them out to universities, so I recommend checking out your options if that is the route you consider. A company which is always hiring is Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages ( KIFL is a large school and growing, so they need teachers. With your ESP background, you might be able to apply for one of the more specialized positions, so let them know about that.

In the end, I think that you should do all of the above and see which lead gets you where you need to go. For me, I worked at all of the jobs above and I enjoyed each of them, learned something from each of them. It was sometimes hard though and I think it could be difficult for you for awhile. Yet, it will get better and when it does, I hope we hear from you again. In the meantime, get that MA, work wherever you can, build connections with teachers from around Japan, and GET THE JOB YOU DESERVE.

I know I speak for all of us here at Tokyo JALT when I say we wish you the best of luck.


Matthew Kocourek

Incoming PresidentTokyo

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August 2018

Dear TJ,

I am applying for jobs right now and it is my first time applying for jobs in Japan. What do universities here expect a cover letter to look like? And do you have any other general job hunting advice?


Desperately Seeking Employment

Thanks for your question, DSE! This month, Michele Joel, our Social Event chair, will be answering your question. At her university, she has been looking at CV's and hiring recently, so she has a lot to say.

Michele says:

Dear Desperately Seeking Employment,

Applying for jobs is, in itself, a big job especially when we are not sure what Japanese employers are expecting to see in our application materials. A traditional Japanese CV form can be purchased in a 100 yen shop! Most Japanese companies do not ask for references and an unofficial reason I have heard is that no Japanese person would write true things in a letter of recommendation. This shows that expectations in Japan are very different from what we may be used to. If you are asked for letters of reference, you may want to be sure that the person you ask is familiar with “letter of recommendation” genre.

While we cannot control what our letters of reference say, we can present ourselves well to Japanese potential employers. We, as language teachers, are often expected to represent a non-Japanese viewpoint, so the traditional Japanese CV form is usually not expected from us, although some schools have their own forms that would be linked in a job description. If there is a link to a specific format, your application materials will probably not even be considered if you do not use the prescribed format. With this in mind, the question of what is expected of us has as many answers as their are job openings. I would recommend applying to a position after carefully reading the job description. Employers spend a lot of time wording job listings in hopes of finding people suited not only to their opening, but also to their work atmosphere.

Unless a school is very small, application materials will be read by a hiring committee that often represents several cultures. While the name listed as a contact for a job may look like a particular culture, it will not always reveal the cultural background of the person and gives even less indication of the background of the hiring committee. In other words, your application materials may not be reviewed in a “Japanese” context so your best choice is to write your resume and cover letter in a way that best represents you.

If the job you are after includes teaching formal language such as language for business or for academic purposes, a well written resume and cover letter is a chance for you to demonstrate your ability to handle the material. In the same way, the absence of a cover letter or a casually written one gives the hiring committee insight into how you would teach a class focusing on formal language.

When you are not applying to a position that focuses on formal language, a cover letter still gives you an advantage. It is the place where you can include things that are not visible on your resume. You can highlight a valuable contact by saying where you heard about the position or why you are interested in it. If you are hoping to make a shift in your focus, a cover letter is the place to explain why your experience may not match the particular job description. Ex. “I have been teaching in high schools, but my real interest is in young learners.” When you don’t exactly meet all of the requirements, but still feel you are qualified, the cover letter is the place to explain that. Ex. “Although I have only one publication, I have run training workshops and done presentations directly related to _________.”

Most Japanese employers like to have your date of birth, a photo, and how long you have resided in Japan. If you have Japanese language skills, it is also good to note that on a resume in the first section which might include degrees, nationality, DOB, certifications, language skills, and visa status. Part-time positions cannot sponsor visas in general, so your visa status is a very important thing to include.

Your application materials reveal your personality. In the end, you want a job suited to you. If you are uncomfortable with formality, a casual cover letter may save you from ending up in a place that expects formal behavior or give potential employers the chance to call you for an interview because they feel you would be a good match for their work environment. A cover letter is the first step to a good employee/employer match so, while not all job applications specifically request one, they do give you an advantage.

Many schools request a “Teaching Statement” or “Philosophy of Education” or something else with a similar name. This is usually a one page description of your teaching goals and style. You can include things like methods or materials you often use, or goals you have for students. You can also use this space to describe your ideas about assessment. Since there is generally no prescribed format, this is they place to highlight your ideas about what a good teacher should be. This document should be professional and focus on classroom practice. In cases where a teaching statement is required, a cover letter provides a place for you to introduce yourself. Information about where you are from or previous teaching should go in the cover letter, while information about what you think a good classroom should look like can go in your teaching statement. Before you send any application materials, review what you plan to send with the questions “Does this represent my true personality?” and “What will my potential employer think when reading this?" in mind. If in the end, your are asked to fill in an “official" CV form, don’t feel offended. It is often the case that the official forms do not contain all the information that interviewers want to see, so they ask for a general resume, then after deciding that they want to hire you, need you to fill out the school’s form for submission to the office.

Best of luck in finding the best position for you,

Michele Joel

Social Events ChairTokyo

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