Working in Japan

How To Become a Direct Hire ALT

How to become a direct hire ALT?  The competition is fierce yet there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot. Using this guide should hopefully make the journey easier. What is a

How to become a direct hire ALT?  The competition is fierce yet there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot. Using this guide should hopefully make the journey easier.

What is a “direct hire” ALT?

A direct hire ALT is an assistant language teacher directly employed by the Board of Education (BOE) in particular city within a prefecture. Many at first may be employed by a dispatch company before making the transition to become a direct hire ALT. The board of education, unlike some dispatch companies, are more stringent in their hiring process. This may be particularly true when it comes to hiring foreigners. The simple truth about this is that they are way too busy to be looking after someone. Therefore, when hiring they tend to favor the candidate that can work independently. The implication of this on the applicant is that the requirement to speak some Japanese may be relevant.

From my experience this depends entirely on the city. Some favor the applicant with no Japanese ability since they prefer the ALT to primarily communicate in English. In contrast some favor the Japanese speaking applicant for easier communication with BOE staff and teachers.

Some preliminary requirements may be a minimum of two years teaching experience, again this may vary depending on the city. However, the focus tends to be on how well you can function independently.

For those making the transition from a dispatch company, this may need some getting used to. As a direct hire you are directly in contact with your school.

For example, if you need to leave early you no longer need to call anyone to call the school and make the request on your behalf. You directly ask the school, there is no middle man. In a way you are responsible for your own working condition.

The benefits of being a direct hire over dispatch companies

Ask yourself what your plans are here in Japan, if you are someone who wants to work in Japan long-term and have good grasp of the language to work independently then the direct hire route could be your career choice.

A direct hire ALT is more than just an ALT… there are more responsibilities attached to this role.

You may be expected to stay after work hours to attend meetings. You will most likely be asked to attend work on weekends if there are events being held. Doing all this has the benefit of making you more than just another ALT but someone who is a part the school.

Benefits of being a direct hire include having 20-day sick leave and full pay all year. That means including the months of August and December when you will not be working nearly as much. Most dispatch companies pay a pro-rated salary to reflect the days you have actually worked, so direct hire ALTs often get a considerably larger all-year-round salary.

Some dispatch companies will offer up to ¥270,000 whilst others as little as ¥180,000. However, direct hire ALTs tend to have a starting salary of at least ¥260,000, with some prefectures offering ¥300,000 or more. Therefore, its clear where the money is.

There is also the added advantage of a possible pay increase based on seniority, and experience similar to a Japanese teacher. In addition to this, a full health check is included every year.

All you have to do now is ask yourself how serious you are about you time in Japan and what your long-term goals are.

When should I apply?

Applications open main around January. Keep a lookout here on as there are sometimes jobs directly with a BOE, but in other cases you’ll want to connect with the BOE directly. In certain events there may be openings around August, however these are very rare. You may also check the cities official web page for application openings. Some cities tend to advertise mainly on the city’s own web page or on local newspapers. This means it is likely to be in Japanese.

One thing to bare in mind is that each city has its own application template. This may either be filled in Japanese or English. You can find the template on the city’s website. Here is the link for the Utsunomiya city application template.

The application process will require various supporting documents such as reference letters from previous place of employments along with a copy of your graduate degree, and a possible academic reference. Once you have prepared everything make sure you have everything in place and post to the board of education in your city. Some cities require that you also include two stamps and a envelop with your return address printed on it for a decision letter. Once is all submitted make your self a cup of tea (or thirty) as the waiting game begins.

The wait…

Approximately after a month you should receive a pink envelope confirming the BOE’s decision. If your application was not successful there is no reason to feel down since you can reapply at a later time. If you were accepted the letter would outline the date of the interview and the length of it. In my case the interview lasted for 40 minutes in which 30 minutes of it was in English and the remaining 10 minutes in Japanese. There is an example of some questions you may want to consider prior to your interview.

  • Why did you come to Japan?
  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work as an ALT?
  • How are you going to communicate with the Japanese teachers?
  • Would you be okay with eating school lunch? Is there anything you can’t eat?
  • Tell us a bit about your teaching method?
  • How would you deal with a difficult class?
  • Which do you prefer elementary or junior high school?

The questions are nothing to have you worried, so just do some further research on the position and you should be okay to fire away. The interviewers were very friendly and helped create a very relaxed atmosphere, though this doesn’t mean that yours will.

As for the Japanese interview goes the kind of questions you may consider are as follow:

  • Why our city?
  • Tell us something you enjoy about the Japanese culture?
  • How long have you been in Japan?
  • Briefly introduce yourself in Japanese?

If you struggle to understand the questions you can simply ask them to repeat the question. Having said that go into the interview with an open mind and be prepared for anything. Don’t memorize answers to a set of questions you may expect to be asked at the interview. Since in a way you are limiting yourself. The important point is to try. They want to see you attempting to speak Japanese. This can also help them see how well you will integrate with the teachers at your schools.

You should hear the results of the interview within a month.

How does it differ to a dispatch company?

As briefly mentioned above you are more independent, and in a way responsible for your own working conditions. Furthermore, you are paid equally all year around including the month of August and December. In contrast with dispatch companies you are paid per day that you work therefore for the holiday months the pay is pro-rated and very low. Especially the month of August where you normally have the whole month off.

Additionally, you are now provided with 20 days sick leave this is great since you won’t have to use your paid leave to take a day off if you feel under the weather. In regards to the job being a direct hire you are expected to act like a Japanese teacher. Occasionally you may be asked to attend events on weekends to provide assistance. Also considering how busy the teachers are you may be required to stay after working to discuss lesson plans. The paper work you need to will need to fill out will all be in Japanese but there is always someone at school who can help.

A short interview with a fellow direct hire ALT

A good friend of mine who has numerous years of experience as a direct hire ALT spent a short time with me to answer some of the most common questions.

Me: What do you need in terms of qualification?

Aatif: A university degree in any field is a must obviously teaching related is even more attractive. TEFL and TESOL certificates can also help some, especially those without a lot of work experience.

Me: How much work experience would you suggest be adequate?

Aatif: Not a lot but if you have some eikaiwa (English conversation school) experience, ALT experience or business English experience it helps your profile.

Me: Japanese ability?

Aatif: My Japanese is good enough to be able to get my point across. You should have enough Japanese ability to effectively communicate your ideas and lesson plans.

Me: Any tips or words of advice?

Aatif: You should give your employer the impression that you are a responsible, reliable and mature person. Someone who can and is willing to work with Japanese teachers not order them or try to run the show.

(Good advice!)

Becoming a direct hire ALT is not unattainable!

I hope this article has been useful and it brings you a step closer to becoming a direct hire ALT. Persistence and a strong reference can help accelerate your chances of winning that contract. Written by Shahriar Ektesabi.

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