Job interview reflection
A couple of days ago, I had an interview at a well-known company in Japan. My first impression was negative. The woman that interviewed me was clearly following a script. It felt like an interrogation. The worst thing about the questions she asked me is that they were super boring. I’ve had four years of experience, but she asked me questions like, “What do you think a teacher is in Japan?” That’s a cookie-cutter question to check if people understand that teachers are considered role models, meaning that they have to act appropriately both in school and outside of school. If you’re a complete newbie, this may be a meaningful question. Someone with experience has already been asked this question.
Another boring question: What do you think the most important trait in an ALT is? (hint: the question can be rephrased, “What do you think the most important skill any person working with other people can have?”)
Not only was I tortured with boring questions for about an hour, but any attempts to make a personal connection and turn the interrogation into a conversation were summarily ignored. Sometimes, after I gave an answer that she seemed dissatisfied with, I would ask her, “What do you think?” The first time I asked, she simply asked the next question she had, never acknowledging the question. I thought that was strange. After she asked me, “What do you think your strengths as an ALT are?”, in part of my answer I said, “Students like me. Elementary school students like my funny faces.”
Her cold, dead, stare didn’t change. So, for fun, I asked her, “Do you want to see one of my funny faces?” Again, ignored. I actually laughed out loud when she did it the second time. I couldn’t believe she did it again. She ignored my laughter, too. Lol
Then it happened a third time. She asked me another dumb question: What do you think the consequences of an ALT missing work are? I answered that the company the ALT works for will incur financial and reputational damage. Teachers are left without an ALT, too. She seemed dissatisfied, so I again asked what she thought. Again, ignored.
This is where I made a mistake. I lost my cool, got frustrated, and interrupted her. I said that she was being rude. She asked, “Don’t you think someone might feel offended by being called rude?” I responded, “I was offended first.”
She said that the connection was a bit bad, so sometimes she couldn’t hear what I was saying (she had indeed mentioned that at the beginning of the interview, maybe 20 minutes prior). Typically, I never felt like the connection was bad. Her video only froze once near the beginning of the interrogation, and her responses to me always seemed normal, no strange delays (except when I gave terse answers, where she might expect to hear more). She never asked me to repeat anything because she couldn’t hear. I couldn’t detect any technical problems, but it is plausible that only she was experiencing problems and not mentioning them.
In any case, once she mentioned technical problems, I apologize and then asked my question.
In the future, I should take a more positive, calm approach to addressing problems like that. The correct response would have been:
- Wait for her to end her question.
- Ask if she could hear and see me, confirming any possible technical problems.
- Once we established stable communications, rewind and ask my question again.
That would have been a less confrontational approach. However, I apologized, so I get credit for admitting my mistake. She had asked me earlier, “What would you do if you had a problem with a teacher?” One of the things I said was that I would say sorry for any mistakes I made. So, extra points for demonstrating my methods. Lol
I doubt anybody could call the interview “good”. We were able to move past the problem, I asked my own questions, and ended on amenable terms.
However, on reflection, there is something that bothers me about the company even more than that exchange. Near the end of the interrogation, we talked about references. The company wants references from my current management. I said I didn’t feel comfortable giving that information. In response, she said something that raises red flags. Although officially the company wants supervisors as references, the woman said that “some people” just give the names of other ALTs at the company, suggesting I do the same.
I get the feeling that the company has a corporate culture that encourages lying. Not good. The cookie-cutter questions, which all have a “correct” answer that can be learned and repeated, encourage people to give the “right” answer, rather than their answer. In other words, people are encouraged to use someone else’s words, not their own. They are giving potential employees permission to be fake and to lie.
It could just be me overthinking the actions of a third-party recruiter’s words, but maybe not?