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NOVA Interview, 2006-01-21

I'm putting this up for anyone else interested in the process, since it was through the kind postings of others I was able to prepare for this interview. My interview was slated to start at 8AM. We were told to get there 10 minutes early to book our personal interviews later that day. I got there 5 minutes before time and found my interview was booked for noon sharp. There were 10 people in my session. Five Asians (including me) and five Caucasians. This was a reassurance.

Activity 1

Premise: The interview starts off with an icebreaking exercise. We're each given a sheet of paper with some questions, and were told to find people who answered positively to those questions. We had 1:30 minutes.

Note: We were told this was one of the suggested activities for Voice classes.

Interlude 1

Introduction to NOVA. Brief discussion on NOVA being the largest overseas hirer of EFL teachers, where NOVA was in Japan and its teaching strategies. We were then offered laminated sample pre-departure sheets that outlined potential destinations, possible accommodation, apartment details, housemates, medical insurance, etc.

Activity 2

Premise: We were split into groups, shown a slide of lifestyle items/foods and told to guess their price in Japan.

Note: Fast food chains seem to have reasonably standard pricing worldwide. The point was to establish possible costs for the average Caucasian pre-packager -- rice-eating, home-cooking types will have it cheaper.

Interlude 2

Overview of payscales, taxes, insurance and rent. A lot of this can be gleaned off their website. Japanese income tax is 6%, with ward tax at around 0.5%. NOVA deducts all costs off your pay. Air tickets to Japan are paid by you, with no reimbursement.

We were then introduced to NOVA's classes and student pool. Basic information about their adult and kids' classes.

Activity 3

Premise: Roleplay as students in a sample NOVA adults' conversation class. You will be shown a picture, key questions associated to this picture and some dialogue. Follow the teacher.

Note: Remember the format and the flow of the lesson, as you'll be using the same techniques later in your personal interview. A number of interviewees I spoke to didn't take notes for this -- I strongly suggest you do. It is pretty intuitive, but it won't hurt to glance through the key ideas beforehand if your interview is quite late in the day.

Activity 4

Premise: Roleplay as students in a sample NOVA children's class. We were given an exercise with flash cards that had pictures of basic verbs like, 'sleeping', 'eating' and 'drinking'. The idea was to do something fun (for seven-year-olds) while teaching them how to remember these words. Follow the teacher. Keep an open mind.

Note: It was actually kind of cool, like being in kindergarten again. Though if I had such a chance, I'd do my best to avoid children.

Interlude 3

Details about the Diplomat textbooks, class formats and schedules and the new Multimedia Center positions. It's interesting to note they don't have flexi-time positions open, but they do have MC positions, which I'd read elsewhere were quite rare.

Activity 5

Premise: Written test involving three parts. Parts 1 and 2 are multiple-choice. Part 3 has two short essay questions. You have 15 minutes to answer them all.

Note: Part 1 had 12 short classroom scenarios. They're mostly there to test what you'd do when students divert from the topic, ask you on dates, how you'd encourage negative students, etc. Part 2 were grammar context questions. While Part 1 and Part 2 aren't difficult, they can be challenging. (They actually remind me of the sticky Moral Studies questions I had as a kid. You won't need to study up on grammar beforehand, but it won't hurt.) Part 3 should probably be done first. I know a number of interviewees weren't able to finish this on time. The questions asked why you wished to go to Japan and what you could bring to an English-teaching position. Answer in one or two sentences, in spite of the space alloted. It would help to study some basic Japanese geography and name a place you really want to see there.

Personal note: I completely wanked out on the essay questions and said I wanted to go see Kyoto so I could then see the place that inspired the floating world (I know it's desperately inaccurate to put it this way -- so much for calm under pressure) and the Japanese poets. I am a goof. Do not follow my goofy example. I swear up and down I wanted to go wax something dire about films instead. This is even worse than waxing about anime and manga. I don't even want to watch or read Memoirs. (But if I do manage to land there, expect me to wander around with anthropology books for mapping, because I am still such a bad goof.)

The session adjourned here. We were then informed to come back at our appointed times for personal interviews.

Personal Interview

1. The interviewer asks basic personal questions about your status, passport, previous travels, etc.

2. 20-25 rapid-fire questions. Answer them in 3 seconds or less, using 3 words or less. These seem to be designed to determine your attitude towards teaching/work, your personality and your ability to be concise. Sample questions include, "What words would your best friend use to describe you?" and "What do you consider important attributes for a teacher?" The questions aren't hard. Stay calm and say the first thing that comes to mind.

3. The interviewer then goes over your answers and asks for elaborations. Some of these questions are clearly designed to see what you can bring to the company (eg. What was a recent accomplishment you were proud of?; Name a recent situation where you were criticized, and what did you do?). Some are meant to determine your viability in a classroom setting (eg. You mentioned [this type] of person annoys you. What would you do if you were faced with a person like this?). Again, I felt the most important thing was to stay calm and be as concise as you possibly can.

4. The interviewer then asks you to conduct a sample lesson based on a given text (the interviewer roleplays a student). I was given a conversation at a ticketing stand (in a bus station). If you were taking notes when they conducted this lesson earlier, you should follow all their techniques to a tee. The flow is:

a. Introduce the picture.
b. Ask students where they think this is taking place.
c. Introduce the key questions for this lesson.
d. Read the dialogue. Be clear and maintain a normal conversational pace.
e. Ask the key questions. Correct the answers as needed.
f. Determine if there are any difficult words the students didn't get. Prompt the students with some test phrases if they say they got it.

5. The interviewer then tells you how you went. In my case, I got everything down, but I didn't correct the student for grammatical mistakes.

6. You will be asked to conduct the lesson again. This time, you are meant to add things you felt could be done to improve the lesson. I paused at the picture and asked what sorts of things usually happened at a ticketing stand. Then I asked what sorts of questions the customer would ask the salesperson (in the picture) to establish the key questions.

7. If you got all this right, you should only need to do your sample lesson twice. I have heard of other interviewees who went in thrice --remember to take notes.

8. The interviewer then asks where you'd like to be placed in Japan (in my case: Osaka or Kyoto -- preference for Kinki region, but I'm the noob who said I wanted to go see the floating world). They will also ask if you want to work with children and if you'd like to work in the Multimedia Center. I was further asked if I'd like to work the graveyard shift. (I don't mind).

9. And that's it. Might take a few weeks to find out the results. I think I did okay, take or give the occassional noob moment. I hope, anyway.