Time to summarize the AEON interview experience. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if someone (aside from friends/people who usually read this) finds this sometime in the future via Google or some search engine, in hopes of preparing or learning more for their own upcoming AEON interview. I actually did this myself before my interview, stumbling upon this blog, which gave me some pretty good insight into what to expect at the interview. So here you go, future AEON interviewee: you also get a look at what to expect. Everyone else: this is a really long post, so don’t feel like you have to read it (of course, every other post, you are REQUIRED to read 4 times over in its entirety).

I actually applied online back in October or November for AEON, just knowing that it was one of the big English school in Japan. Within a week (it might have actually been even sooner than that), I got a call from their Chicago office asking if I’d like to come up for an interview. Knowing that I wouldn’t be graduating until May, I postponed it. They called me back again in January, and I finally scheduled an interview for March 16. I drove up to Chicago the night before, and checked into a hotel. I had most of my application materials they requested printed and ready to go, with the exception of my demo lesson plan: you’re supposed to have a 15 minute lesson plan written up, with the understanding that you’ll actually demonstrate 5 minutes of it. Now, until I actually did some research (by reading other peoples blogs), I had assumed this would have been something fairly basic. I read, however, that some people did things much more elaborate, and felt that I should do the same. I mean, if more people were doing things like that, I should probably do the same to “stay competitive.” After putting it off until the morning of, I wrote out a 3 page lesson plan on “What is there to do in Tokyo,” complete with vocab words, a handout diagram, and 3 conversational phrase structures for the students to practice. It actually looked pretty good I think.

I arrive at the interview place about 15 or 20 minutes before the 1PM interview time. Actually, I realized later that the time was supposed to be 1:30; good thing my mistake got me there early rather than later. They were located on the 21st floor of this huge building in downtown Chicago, sharing a large office suite space with a law firm or something. Since I was there so freaking early, I was sitting in the waiting area for almost an hour. Great. Of course I was the first one there. The second person to arrive was a guy wearing khakhis and a tie; let’s call him Muttonchops. I found out later that this guy with the huge sideburns was from Oklahoma and he worked in a Japanese restaurant. That seemed to be his main motivation for applying. Third person to come was a tall guy who looked really nervous, wearing a suit and a big bookbag, and he had a really skinny neck. Let’s call him Neck. Last to arrive was a girl who seemed to be escorted to the office by her dad (or a really old boyfriend maybe?); we’ll call her The Chick. We now have our cast of characters set up so I can keep telling my story. And yes, it was just 4 of us interviewing; I really thought there would have been more.

The interviewers/presenters from AEON were 3: a Japanese lady and two American guys. We entered the conference room and they start off by talking about the program, the company, and all that stuff. We then watched some videos, showing the “making of” and then the actual finished products for 2 of the AEON commercials airing on Japanese TV. One is starring Ai Kato, the other was a famous Japanese dude who I’ve seen on posters and stuff (including the AEON ones) in trains, and maybe TV also. These were kind of cool and interesting to watch. Huge sets, camera set ups, tons of extras, and even a crane and tracks were all used for these commercials. After that video, we got to watch another longer video about a Day in the Life of an AEON teacher. It was mainly focused on this freaky looking old white lady, who taught at the AEON branch school right near MotoYawata Station (本八幡), where I actually have been several times (it was only about 3 stops away from Nishi). Freaky, obviously staged video, but it was interesting to watch anyway. After that video, Neck stands up and goes to talk to one of the AEON guys outside the room. Since the conference room wall was big and all glass, it was only good for blocking the sound. After they talked for a few seconds, Neck comes back in to grab his bag and he leaves. I guess it was too much for him; I have no idea. Maybe he didn’t like to idea of living in a small Japanese apartment (the one in the video was almost exactly like mine over the summer).

So all that’s left now is me, The Chick, and Muttonchops. The recruiters talked some more, then we had a break. I got to talk to the other 2 candidates a little bit during that time, which was good because we needed a little more familiarity for the next part of the session: the demo lessons. We each had to stand up and introduce ourselves, give some info on why we applied, and then give our 5 minutes of fame. Actually I don’t think any of us actually used up all 5 minutes, but that’s cool. The Chick apparently is studying education for kids with speech impediments or something like that, so her lesson was geared towards little kids (complete with an old McDonald’s Farm book and cards). Muttonchops’ wasn’t bad, but it seemed very short and basic. My lesson wasn’t bad, but since the other 2 interviewees weren’t actually Japanese and thus didn’t know anything about Tokyo, it wasn’t as smooth as I had written out. Either way, it went well. After that, we talked again about AEON, and had to fill out a form. One part was a survey/short answer thing about AEON and living in Japan, including “what if” ones like “what would you do to help your school manager attract more students.” The other side of the paper was 5 English grammar questions (circle the part of each sentence that is incorrect), which was harder than you would think. I haven’t taken a class on English grammar since maybe sophomore year of high school, and actually had to think hard about 1 or 2 of the questions. After that was taken care of, we gave them our papers and waited for about 10 or 15 minutes (watching the end of the Tennessee game).

After waiting what seemed like a really long time, the AEON people came back to greet us goodbye for the day and to tell us whether or not we got a second interview. Rather than just telling us straight up, they gave each one of us a sealed letter. Secret Agent style, they told us not to open them until we were alone and outside of the building. A very interesting way of doing it, I’d say. As I headed out to the elevators with the other 2, I was wondering if they would open up their letters once we were out of sight of the AEON staff. I was definitely ready to open mine, and curious about how we all did. Muttonchops made a joke about doing it, but it seemed like The Chick was really apprehensive about it. We didn’t open them on the elevator, but I opened mine up in the lobby near the train entrance. It was really short, but I did get an interview for the next day at 2PM. Awesome.

Second day: I met up with Bryan for lunch (Giordanno’s Pizza), which was really awesome, then I headed back to the AEON building. I was wearing the same suit, a different colored shirt; I hope they didn’t care. This time, it was a personal interview (just me), and it ended up being only one of the AEON guys interviewing me (Rob). When he came to pick me up from the waiting area, we went back to a small room. There was a whiteboard and 2 copies of a page from an English book. I was given 10 minutes to prepare a 10 minute lesson about verbs. It’s really hard to think about how to explain basic English grammar when you’ve just been using it like it’s nothing for the past 20 or so years. Thank god the lesson was something basic like this, rather than something more complicated like interrogatives or gerunds. I figured out a basic lesson, wrote stuff on both sides of the whiteboard, and got ready mentally for what I was going to say. After time was apparently up, Rob comes back roleplaying as a Japanese college student. He actually did a pretty good job getting the mannerisms and stuff down on what a Japanese student would sound like, so I was pretty impressed.

Lesson went pretty well, but Rob really did get me pretty good on some “real life situations,” like when the student didn’t understand the meaning of “seriously” or “annoying.” I was very impressed with that; I think they must have had that prepared from the get-go. Anyway, after that I ended up being interviewed (just 1-on-1, I have no idea what happened to the other 2 recruiters from the previous day) for over an hour. By the end, of course, my throat was dry and I started coughing from talking for so damn long. Stuff during the interview was a lot like any regular interview: talking about why I applied, stuff about my work at IUSTV, and a lot about my previous experiences in Japan. He asked right off the bat why I got involved with Japanese in the first place, which I never really have a good answer for (how DID I get started on this?). Anyway, things went very well I think. I told him I’m interviewing with Nova next month, and I have an offer from Sears. I’ll know from AEON sometime before April 7 via phone (if I get an offer) or via postal mail (if I get a rejection).

One of the nice things about AEON is that if/when they give you an offer for a job, it comes along with the exact school that you would be placed at. No risk of going to Japan blind and getting stuck in Podunktown, Nippon. I talked during the second interview a bit about my placement preference, and of course I strongly pushed for Tokyo or Chiba. Rob was trying to push for “greater Kanto area” but I really don’t know how happy I would be in some smaller part of Kanagawa or something. We’ll see. Who knows if I even get an offer. Well, that’s enough for now; I’ve written way too much. If anyone out there is interviewing with AEON and finds this little mini-guide to my experiences helpful, I’m glad. Please comment or something so I know you’re reading. Wow this is way too long; sorry about that.