Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The ESL Job Search Really Begins - Interview with ECC

Degree. Check.

CertTESOL. Check.

Money saved. Check.

Sheer desire to teach overseas and get get the hell out of the UK. Double check.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I attended my first English Language Teacher interview outside of the JET Programme.  

ECC are quite a well-known company both inside Japan and amongst the ESL community. In terms of negative press, there is very little on the internet and their benefits package, teaching schedule, locations...etc, is pretty darn good in my opinion so if you're looking to teach English in Japan,  definitely check them out.

As it's a Japanese company, we were instructed to come in formal dress. I don’t really own a suit, but I do have a blazer and a pair of trousers that happen to be the exact same colour. I also, had a shirt. So fundamentally, I wore a trouser suit – the exact same one I wore for my JET Programme interview…and parts of which I wore to my graduation.

Regurgitation for the win.

Money spent.


As I wasn’t banking on London transport into the city, I decided to leave 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be there. I donned make-up, perfume, acquired a “handbag” – albeit, it’s actually more a practical bag that I take to the club sometimes (don’t worry; there were no sparkles) – and made my way down there.

I got there over one hour early.

Keen much?

So I took a walk around the area, bought a bottle of water because it was surprisingly warm that day. I showed a lost woman where a university was – my good deed for the day – and then rounded back to my interview location. I was the first to arrive and literally about thirty seconds after I entered the room, the door opened and more people walked in.

Sixteen of us arrived and the day began.

We spent the first couple of hours undergoing a presentation of the company. I think I made myself known from the beginning without even realising it and I wonder if my enthusiasm to answer questions or put my hand in the air might have annoyed people in the room – including the interview coordinators. It got to a point where one of them even looked at me expectantly for the answer when no one else sprang up to give a response. So yes, I felt like I came off like this:

while everybody else was like this:

Okay...not quite...but you get my drift.

What followed was a grammar test. We had been told that if we failed this test, we would not be able to progress onto the subsequent sections of the interview. A lot of us were bricking it and even though I had brushed up on my grammar a couple of weeks prior, when it was set in front of me, the nerves kicked in.

From what I can remember, a great bulk of the test was about indicating which words or phrases were incorrect in some way. There was a section on inserting the correct word into a sentence. There was a spelling section – I thank my lucky stars that I’d looked up some spelling a couple of days before. (The word “occasion” came up and I’ve spelt that word incorrectly for most of my life so I couldn’t help but smile when it was in there). There was a definitions section. There was a paragraph where we had to identify which word or phrase matched up with which particular term e.g. preposition…etc and right at the end, there was a matching task where we had to match a statement with a teaching method. I tore through the questions that I knew in 30 minutes and then went back and filled in the many blanks that I’d left behind. I then went over any one’s that I was unsure of, made some corrections, moved things around, panicked and spent the last five minutes checking my answers a second time. By the end of the test, I didn’t know what to think, but it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what “obloquy” meant.

We broke for lunch and I went to one of the branches of my place of work to get a soup. As I already work for them, I was entitled to a discount – but I didn’t have my ID card so no discount for me.


We came back and almost immediately, we were cut down.

Sixteen became ten.

Initially, I sat myself at a table with two guys. I looked down and the middle button of my shirt had come undone exposing the pretty blue bra underneath. I look back and think to myself – no wonder those boys looked incredibly uncomfortable.

Irrespective however, one of those guys wasn’t supposed to be there so we became nine. And then we were split into different groups and asked to generate a teaching demo of which we would each have three minutes to demonstrate.

I virtually improvised my insert and was told that my facial expressions were good.

I hadn’t even realised that I was making facial expressions.

There was feedback after every group and then we were cut again.

Nine became five.

This was the section of the day that I hadn’t prepared for in the slightest as I was too panicked about the grammar test more than anything else. So I was a little concerned. My interviewer asked me the standard “why us?” question and then decided to challenge me with questions pertaining to why I’d left it so long to apply for teaching work overseas considering that I’d done my CertTESOL back in September 2012. I answered that money was an issue and then he further countered it by implying that I could have gone somewhere else for much cheaper had I wanted. I answered that Japan had always been option number one.

I was asked about preferences of location and flexibility and whether I’d want to go back into psychology considering that it was my degree. I think I waffled a bit at this point and I look back and realise that I said things that maybe I shouldn’t have.

I didn’t get the job. I was devastated for the entire weekend as I realise that I wanted it pretty badly…even moreso than JET. I keep thinking to myself that maybe they thought I was false or maybe it was just highly competitive. My group was the last group to be interviewed in London and then the interviewers went on to Dublin as well. Maybe there were some really good specimens or maybe spaces were limited. Or maybe I just sucked and came off all wrong.

My advice to all the prospective teachers out there. Be yourself. Or at least, be the person you’d want to be in a classroom. I probably wasn’t perfect but I don’t think I could have done anymore…except maybe prepare a bit more for that one on one interview...or bought an actual suit.

Ultimately, nonetheless, I’ve picked myself up again. I’m still determined to find work overseas. I’ve actually expanded my search from Japan now so we’ll see what happens there. Who knows? Maybe I might end up in Hong Kong…or the Phillipines…or South America instead.

The world is my oyster, right?


  1. Hey there - I'm in the middle of applying to work at Peppy Kids. Your blog has been so helpful & inspiring. I hope you're doing well!

    1. Thank you and you're welcome. Hope everything works out for you. :)