There are more resources than ever for getting an English teaching job in Japan, but I made this guide to help get you a better paying job, not just anything going.
First thing to note: there are two distinct times a year most companies hire English teachers. While many employers hire year-round in Japan, we recommend you pay special attention to the following two months for job hunting:
The start of the new school year in Japan. Looking for teachers to start in April will usually start around January and go all the way through until March, but may start much earlier for more prestigious schools or universities. Honestly you’ll want to start your search in November if you are qualified and experienced, as this is when most of the more prestigious institutions start hiring.
School will be looking for English teachers for the second school term. Hiring begins often as early as July or August. So you want to apply by July or August at the latest.
This post is all about the main resources and methods you can use to find jobs in Japan. In our experience knowing how to speak at least a basic daily conversational level of Japanese is a big bonus, but don’t let that stop you from applying. As we mentioned in our previous articles, you don’t have to know Japanese in order to get a job here.
If you know of any more strategies or resources for getting a job in Japan, please comment and we’ll put it in the list here.
The Most Well Known- Gaijinpot Jobs
Gaijinpot.com is the by far the most well known job board in Japan with likely the largest employment board for teaching jobs in Japan on the internet.
How to sign up for Gaijinpot:
- Sign up on Gaijinpot’s webpage.
- Make a profile and resume on Gaijinpot with your details of work related experiences.
- You can make a cover letter template.
We highly recommend you tailor this cover letter to each company you are applying to. People know when you are copying and pasting so try to say something specific about the company so they know you actually looked into them. Although you do not have to make a cover letter, know that many of the other applicants will, and you’re missing an opportunity to show yourself off if you don’t.
- Great resource to learn what companies are out there, what positions exist and who is hiring.
- Guaranteed hiring companies listed. Mostly big legit companies as the cost to post an ad is pretty high.
- Easy to use with good search functionality and lots of job postings all through the year.
- High competition = lower chances of getting a response from companies.
- Difficult to find positions with high salaries on the site due to the high supply of willing teachers and often insufficient demand for them.
- You can’t apply to any jobs until you put all of the info on your CV into their online database. This feels a little intrusive and I expect they are selling the data to employers, and it does nothing to help users stand out.
- Lots of listings from the “featured” recruiters, with more interesting jobs at smaller schools falling to the bottom.
What we recommend:
We recommend you use the the techniques we will outline and detail in this article to find higher paying jobs directly. This is especially true in Tokyo where you can earn a lot more than you’ll likely ever find advertised on GaijinPot. Gaijinpot is an excellent resource for getting ideas about what companies are out there and what the demand is like in the market, but it is a first stop, not the be-all and end-all.
One great use for Gaijinpot and other job boards mentioned here is to use them to scout out companies. Then go call them or visit them directly with your resume in hand. Your chances of landing an interview increase exponentially by doing this and the company won’t have to pay a fee to recruiters, which could potentially go back into your salary.
The Underdog – JobsinJapan.com
JobsinJapan.com is a site that has been helping people find jobs here since 1998, and has been renewed recently under new management. It is starting to have a good selection of smaller schools with fewer employees, a place where good teachers can improve their skills and their salary as well.
While this board has actually been around for a long time, only recently with the help of former staff of G+ Media (owners of GaijinPot) did it become a much more valuable ground for foreigners here in Japan. The price to post an ad here is much lower here than for many other job boards, so it is becoming a great place to find some of the smaller schools who will be more personable and less corporate. These are usually better places to learn and grow as a teacher and set you up to have better experiences for the future.
- New jobs added throughout the year.
- For employers the cost to post an ad is much cheaper than GaijinPot, so you’re more likely to find smaller schools than bigger faceless companies.
- You can apply with your own resume/CV as opposed to other websites filled forms. This is important, as those resume forms you have to fill out on other sites like GaijinPot stop you from standing out with your well crafted resume narrative we talked about before, and make you look just like everyone else.
- Not as big as GaijinPot, so if you’re just looking for something in your area there may be fewer jobs available.
- Search functions on the site are not as detailed as GaijinPot and it is harder to see at-a-glance relevant details about the job – you’ll have to look through to the individual job pages for many details that you might prefer to see before clicking through.
The Jobs Boards – Ohayosensei
Ohayosensei.com has a good list of teaching jobs throughout Japan. The main difference from Gaijinpot is the layout. Jobs are not searchable in the same way as Ohayosensei’s bigger and more robust cousin, Gaijinpot. It is a job board where you can just see available jobs in plain text.
How to use Ohayosensei:
- Look up companies on the site and contact them directly.
- Email the contact listed on Ohayosensei and attach your Resume, a CV and whatever else they ask for.
- Bonus Tip: If the company has a website, often you can find the names of key players in the company or information about specific goals they have. Mention these in your email or CV to show you actually did your research.
- Bonus Tip Two: As mentioned in our first podcast about the Grandpa Method, when you go to the company ask for the key player you researched (from the tip above) directly and hand your resume and cover letter to them. This way you know that they have influence and aren’t just going in blind.
- Easy to find and unrestricted info for all the companies hiring by simply scrolling up or down the website.
- Higher paying and more prestigious positions appear on Ohayosensei quite regularly. In general the real international schools are more likely to post on here than on Gaijinpot as they wouldn’t get as many applications here, and don’t have to sift through so many people sending in CVs who clearly aren’t qualified for the job they are posting for.
- Harder to sift through jobs by category, location, or pay scale than Gaijinpot due to the simple nature of the board. Try doing a ‘find’ query in your browser (Ctrl+F in Chrome for Windows) and search for the city you want to work in (i.e. Tokyo) and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
- Only updated twice per month so there can be outdated postings for jobs no longer available.
There are plenty of other job boards and recruitment websites to sift through. But if you follow our advice listed herein and our other articles mentioned, you should do well no matter where you look.
See below for a few more job board we recommend:
- Myshigoto: A job board for finding jobs in Japan.
- Dave’s ESL Cafe: This is for TEFL jobs mostly. You can not only apply for jobs but find institutes and online schools to get TEFL certified on this site.
- Career Cross: Primarily for Japanese speakers but the English site is a good place to find all sorts of jobs in Japan and isn’t limited to ESL jobs. You can often find English corporate teaching positions or higher paying ESL jobs through job boards like Career Cross.
- ELT News: A great website for news on all things ELT. Click the link for the job board
- TES: For certified teachers primarily but still a good place to look even if you are not certified. TES lists international schools, kindergartens and nursery schools as well as private schools. TIE is also a good place to find similar international schools positions in Japan.
- JACET: The Japan Association of College English Teachers. This job board is mostly in Japanese for colleges and universities in Japan.
The Direct Method – Apply To The School
With higher chances of getting an interview this is one of my favourite methods of applying for a job in Japan.
How to apply:
- Find a school that you like the look of and apply directly to them. You can use the above list, a Google map search, an internet article or anything else.
- Find the school’s website or contact info online.
- If you go to a school and see the name, you may be able to look up their phone number and call them if you cannot find the email.
- Best: email first with your resume and CV + call them a short time after and tell them you emailed them.
- If you call or email, it really helps to know the name of a key player or hiring manager in the school or company. Gate keepers do not like being emailed with resumes. People in a position to employ you do.
- Apply to a school or company out of the job board system- this means you can be free to email them directly or if they have multiple emails, you can email all of the ones you find, instead of just what you find on Ohayosensei or Gaijinpot.
- You can apply to companies that do not list their job postings on the popular job boards, and they are more likely to invite you to interview due to the lower number of applicants.
- Takes more work to craft your CV.
- Employers may not be expecting your application and the process may not go as smoothly as with the other companies or schools that advertise on the main job boards.
- They may not be expecting a call or email from an applicant in English. It may be necessary to use Japanese at some stage in applying to employers like this or, due to language barrier issues, it may take more time to talk to someone who has influence over hiring.
This takes a lot more work than the first two options as you have to craft your CV, cover letter and application to the school directly, and do some homework on them rather than just applying to everything within a 20 mile radius and hoping for the best. Some people say that applying for an English teaching job in Japan is a numbers game, but they are only partly right. Sure, applying to fifty schools might yield more chances than just applying to one, but if your application to that one school is deep and thought out, and it shows that you have passion for working there, then that’s all you need, right?
Charlie’s Experience with this Method
This is the method I have used to get two jobs in Tokyo, and one of those jobs paid 320,000¥ a month with an additional 400,000¥ of bonuses spread throughout the year. Direct applications tend to give schools much more leeway to give you a better wage, as they do not have to pay for advertising the position, and they wouldn’t need to pay any kind of fee to a recruiter that would have usually come directly out of your paycheck.
In this circumstance it is essential that not only your application is incredible, but that you also interview very well. Be on time, polite, knowledgeable, passionate, friendly… basically be perfect. Alternatively, you could check out our interview skills article and improve your chances of getting hired.
The Not So Trodden Path – Craigslist Tokyo
And I say Tokyo deliberately – this is not particularly reliable at the best of times. I’ve met people who have found jobs on craigslist in Japan. It can go very well in some cases, or your can wind up with “black company” employers. A black company in Japan means a bad company- maybe their finances are bad, the management is corrupt or something of this nature. Apply at your own risk.
How to Apply:
- Find listings in the [Jobs] section.
- I advise not sifting through job types. Many people put postings in the wrong categories. If you only look in the [Education] section, you may miss opportunities in the [ETC] section or in cases when people put the teaching job in the wrong category.
- It helps if you create email and cv templates. This way you can apply to more listings more quickly.
- However, don’t be too template focused. Make sure to adjust your templates as necessary for the individual jobs. If the listing is really intriguing, you may be better off rewriting everything just for that one special company.
- Email all the listings you see that match your criteria.
- Prioritize listings that name the company or link back to their public website. A real company would be happy to write its name in a listing. A fake company would be less likely to do this.
Positions advertised don’t always have much bearing on the actual job: often the company job descriptions are deliberately vague and have no salary indication, and so you may find yourself wasting more time on here than you might like. Personally I prefer to use the other methods we are talking about here, as it is not worth my time to set up an interview somewhere to find out after the fact that it only pays 1200¥ per hour, for only 4 hours a week.
Then again adding any resource to your list is good if you are really looking for a job and want more prospects.
Martin’s Bonus Tip: Go to Martin’s article about using IFTTT (IF This Then That) to make a recipe with the [Jobs] or [Education] sections so you can get email notifications every time a new listing in your area of interest is put on the site. I am able to be the first to apply to many jobs by getting notifications like this in my inbox.
Last word on Craigslist. The barrier to entry is very low. This means that there can be a lot of shady characters on the site, but there are a lot of great listings there too. Caution.
The Savvy Teacher – Networking for Higher Paying Jobs
This one is a critical way to start rising above the rest and getting a much better pay from your skills in Japan. If you have been in Japan for a while you’ll start to meet people. These people can get you jobs. I’m not talking about other just-here-for-a-break-from-real-life teachers who don’t have a passion for education. Be friends with them, but definitely be on the lookout for people who have been in Japan for a long time and make friends with them.
I repeat: they can get you jobs.
How to find jobs through savvy teachers:
- Make friends with long-term expats in Japan.
- After genuinely being friends with them and knowing them for a while, tell them you are looking for a better job/higher salary.
- Tell them what experience you have and talk about ideas you have about teaching, techniques you like. Then they will know that you are a passionate teacher.
- Ask if they know of any opening positions or if they can introduce you to teaching opportunities.
- The vast majority of jobs in Japan are known as 非公開 hikoukai – Not publicized. If you find a job through people, you will have little to no competition and much more room to negotiate your rate.
- The best positions often are 非公開 hikoukai – in terms of working conditions, benefits and potential for advancement.
- You have to know someone to get these kinds of positions.
- If you do something wrong like show up late for the interview, or if after a few months you don’t do as well as expected and are fired, your friend will likely hear about it. This may even damage their reputation a bit.
That can be devastating for some people but it is life. It is just a part of the working world because sometimes people just aren’t right for a certain job or don’t fit into that workplace’s culture. Sometimes it comes down to circumstances, sometimes it comes down to who you work with. If this happens, the right thing to do is tell your friend who helped you get the position first so they hear it from you.
Charlie’s Experience with this Method.
I recently got a job through a friend like this, and landed myself a really nice position at a private school after acing the interview, and a job for which there were only two other applicants. These are my favourite kinds of positions to talk my way into as they generally offer exceptional pay (this one is nearly 6000 yen per hour with expectation of prep outside class) and more favourable working conditions. I’ll be sure to update this article based on my experience of the job, but I’m sure it’s going to be a good one.
For me, networking is a simple case of being willing to put yourself out there, and also helping other people. For example, if you know someone who is looking for work and you know someone who is looking for a worker, and you can put those two people together, you have helped them out and they will be willing to help you out in the future. These will be people who know you and trust you because you have been a genuine help in their lives, and they will be happy to put themselves out there to recommend you for jobs that aren’t even on the market.
As we said before, most of the best English teaching jobs in Japan are never even advertised as the most prestigious schools and academies already know a lot of the better teachers in the area through acquaintances or current staff, and they will use their expanded network to find those people rather than putting out an ad or getting a recruiter. Know those people, meet them at events, through other friends, by going to meetup groups and talking to people. Genuinely help them out and they will help you.
I know this one is harder to define and actively work on but there are tons of great opportunities out there if you have a good network of people who know that you are a passionate teacher.
The Grandpa Method – Walk In And Get A Job
We have talked about this at length in our podcast, but the general gist of it is that if you really need a job and you need it right now, go to English schools, Private schools and smaller Eikaiwa schools in your area with a CV, looking smart and ready to go and you can get a job. Our friend Marco did it and he explained how in our first podcast here at Live Work Play Japan!
This is just another tool in the toolbox that can allow you to find jobs that are not being advertised but that pay well. This is especially true in the weeks leading up to the new school terms in April and September.
Imagine you are a hiring manager at a school, and you had someone for the job but they backed out at the last minute for a family emergency, for example. Now you have a week until the school starts and you are minus one English teacher! Then some guy walks in off the street, vaguely qualified and smart looking who can fill the role and help keep you from losing face in front of parents of students who are paying to have an English class. You’re going to take that option.
Use the Grandpa Method to get jobs that are outside your qualification bracket and with higher pay than you might be used to.