AEON Interview – Day 1

ARRIVAL

When you get to the AEON office in L.A., everybody meets in the same conference room. My group had 8 applicants, including myself. There was an even range of male/female, but most were under 30.

Some of the AEON teaching materials (books, workbooks, CDs) were on display on the side table. Pay close attention to these books — this is what you’ll be selling if you get the job.

After about 10 minutes of getiing to know eacvh other (everybody was really friendly), the 3 AEON-ers came in: 2 Japanese females, 1 American male. Right from the get-go, they talked to us like we were all elementary school students, with a constant forced smile and “Okay, everyone!” demeanor — straight out of Disney World. Practice your biggest smile. This is the “genki” you’ll be selling if you get the job.

THE INTRODUCTION

There’s a brief introduction and I suggest you take notes. You’ll be quizzed on this stuff on Day 2 if you get called back for an interview.

AEON operates “A” schools (adults only) and “B” schools (adults and children — mostly children). The “B” schools are the money-makers because of increased pressure to start English-learning at a young age to give children a competitive edge in the future marketplace.

The AEON-ers break down the types of beginning-to-advanced lessons, and the structure of the classes.

*No Japanese will be used in the classroom or AEON offices: English-only.
*They want 80% student-speaking time.
*Each class is 50 minutes.
*There will be 5-7 activities each class.
*Class size can vary from 5-12 students

THE VIDEO

The AEON-ers showed us a 5-year-old video “documentary” about happy white people teaching at AEON.
“It’s great.”
“I love my co-workers.”
“I love my students.”
“I love Japan.”
…etc.

****
What’s missing from this video:
“I have to pass out flyers on the street on my free time.”
“I have no time to prepare my class materials inbetween sessions.”
“My supervisor pressures me to get students to buy more books/classes/CDs.”
“Don’t wear black jackets – it looks too corporate. AEON employess have to look ‘fun'”.
****

After the video, the AEON-ers talk a bit about cleaning and office maintenance duties.
There’s talk about “working with the team” and “not rushing out as soon as your shift is over.”

THE LESSON – DEMONSTRATION

The Aeon-ers demonstrate basic lesson procedures. First there’s an adult conversation lesson, and then we each mimicked these exercises in pairs.

Then there was the “baby” lesson for elementary school kids. Lots of physical repitition with vocabulary.

By themselves, these are pretty good lessons. What makes it AEON-ish is the extreme level of praise you’re expected to give.
Every single vocabulary word/movement/sentence should be followed by a huge smile and “GREAT JOB!!”

THE LESSON – INDIVIDUAL

Eveybody gets a chance to get up and deliver their prepared lessons. This is where they see if you’ve been paying attention to the demonstrations.

I actually changed my lesson at the last minute to allow for more student talking (remember: they want 80%). Some of the applicants didn’t make that adjustment, and ended up with almost pure lecture. And yes, I “genki’d” it up with a lot of praise.

THE TEST

After everyone’s given their lesson, there’s a short written grammar exam, and a questionnaire on how you think you’ll be able to “help the company.” The questionnaire also asks you to identify what time of year you think you’ll be “financially” ready to go to Japan. (= your plane ticket, your meals for 1 month, and your student drinking money)

AFTER THE LESSON

While 2 AEON-ers stepped outside to tally up the scores, 1 stayed behind to review work procedures.
*You can’t work for other eikaiwa once you arrive in Japan. — i.e., if you quit AEON, you cant teach anywhere else.
*They don’t pay for your plane ticket.
*Your apartment rent comes out of your check starting immediately.
*Your training pay is less than your teaching pay.
*It will be 10 weeks before you receive your full salary because of rent deductions.

They encourage you to save money so you can start going out with students right away.
“We don’t want you to say ‘No’ when a student invites you out.”
–What???

The big secret about eikaiwa is that most students expect you to go out drinking/eating with them.
AEON expects this, too.
Why?
If the students think you’re friends, they’ll keep signing up for your classes. Period.
AEON doesn’t care if you want to save your money.
AEON doesn’t care if you go broke going out for drinks and karaoke every night with a different set of students.
AEON wants everyone to fall in love with your American “fun”.
The lessons are just the excuse to get you there.

THE SCHEDULE
Lessons are 50 minutes. Great! 10 minutes planning time in between…. right?
Wrong.

The 10 minutes inbetween classes is for “lobby time” — free casual conversation time that you must do as an AEON employee.
This is not paid teaching time. This falls under “administrative” time.
AEON must keep your “teaching” time under 30 hours to avoid paying benefits.

AEON Daily Schedule
12pm – 12:50 Class 1 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
1pm – 1:50 Class 2 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
2pm – 3pm Administrative Time*
3pm – 4pm Break**
4pm – 4:50 Class 3 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
5pm – 5:50 Class 4 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
6pm – 6:50 Class 5 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
7pm – 8pm Administrative Time*
8pm – 8:50 Class 6 … +10 minutes Lobby Talk Time
[9pm – 9:30pm Unpaid office cleaning time]

6 classes/day x 50 minutes = 300 minutes.
300 minutes x 5 days = 1500 minutes.
1500 minutes/60 = 25 hours…. safe!

*this can include “evaluation lessons” where you teach a “sample” class, but it’s not official teaching time. This can also include “counseling” sessions where you “encourage” students to sign up for additional classes or purchase additional materials from AEON.
**this can also include passing out flyers on the street to people who notice your genki American smile. This is not paid time.

To AEON’s credit, they are up (mostly) front about the expected schedule, but when they mention “occasional” extra work, it means “almost always.”

If you have never been to Japan, you’ll want to understand that if you walk out of the building at 9:30pm, you’ll likely meet up with your newfound Japanese friends at 10pm or later. They’ve already eaten. They’ve already seen that live music show. So you’ll be constantly feeling late.

Also, “most” (read: all) AEON offices operate Tues – Sat.
Why? Mondays are where the holidays come in.
So when your other friends plan that weekend trip to ______, you won’t be able to go.
When that boy/girl you like wants to have a picnic / dinner date / movie date, your choices will be somewhat limited.

So for the most part, you’ll be “experiencing” Japan on weekday mornings, Sundays, and late nights. If that’s your desire, good luck!

THE LETTERS

The AEON-ers return and hand everyone their sealed letters. Inside is (a) a rejection letter or (b) an invitation for a second interview the next day.

“We can’t tell you why you were/were not chosen for a second interview.”
“We can’t give you any suggestions for improvement.”
“Yes, you can apply again.”

I got an invitation to come back the second day for an “interview.”
(Spoiler: not just an interview.)

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How to Help or Destroy your chances of AEON Offer

How do I get ready for my interview with AEON? What are they looking for? How do I make sure I meet their expectations?

HELPERS:

  • Just out of college.
  • Unmarried.
  • No kids.
  • Fly in from out of town for interview.
  • Conservative appearance.
  • White.
  • Male.
  • You “”love” working with kids.
  • You’ll go “anywhere” in Japan.

DESTROYERS:

  • Ask a question about work hours.
  • Ask a question about pay/overtime.
  • Ask a question about vacation schedules.
  • Ask a question about benefits.
  • Ask if it’s okay to say “no” to socializing/eating/drinking with students.
  • Demonstrate Japanese-speaking ability.
  • Demonstrate teaching experience.
  • Facial hair/piercings/tattoos
  • Indicate you have good friends/family in Japan already.
  • Express any preference for a particular city.
  • Express any preference for “A” school (adults) over “B” school (adults + kids).

The AEON Interview Letter (Part 2)

This is the letter you get from AEON at the end of your first interview if they want you to come back for an “interview.”

Notice the absence of anything about teaching a lesson during that interview.

AEON Interview Letter

AEON Interview – Day 2

THE AEON PERSONAL INTERVIEW

When you get to the interview (and you’d sure as hell better get there early, that’s to test if you’ll fit in with the punctuality required), you get brought into a tiny room with a tiny table and one of the AEON-ers places a textbook in front of you.

They ask you if you took notes during yesterday’s session about the AEON style of teaching a lesson. Of course, your answer is yes.

They turn to a lesson and ask you to begin teaching the lesson, just reading from the textbook. In my case, it was a math lesson based on apartment shopping. No prep, no read-through. Read and go.

I have real classroom teaching experience, so it wasn’t that hard to get into the groove, but I was upset they hadn’t warned me I’d be teaching a lesson. I was ready for the “personal interview” they’d requested on the letter.

As you teach the lesson, the AEON-er roleplays as the student. This goes on for about 10 minutes. The AEON-er gave me some notes, essentially on the points of:

  • Get the student to talk (about a lesson they don’t understand)
  • Give lots of praise (for anything and everything that comes out of the student’s mouth)
  • Encourage the student to attend more lessons

After the notes, they brought in the American guy and he observed as I taught the same lesson again, incorporating the notes I’d received. 200% genki, 200% verbal praise, etc.

After the lesson, there was just a brief conversation about financial readiness to go to Japan in 2 months. (Why? High turnover.) About the references I’d brought in — sorry, didn’t need to see those. Bachelor’s diploma — yes we’ll keep that on file.

I walked out with instructions that I’d receive my results shortly. But I knew I wasn’t what they were looking for. I wanted to teach, but this was a sales interview.