Things to ask at a Berlitz job interview

Here are some hypothetical questions which would be good for an applying candidate to ask at an interview.  We’ve added in the answers.

Q) Is the health insurance going to cover pre-existing conditions?

A) Berlitz travellers insurance does not. Nor chronic illness which persist after 6 months.

Q) Does national insurance offer different schemes?

A) It offers two.

Q) What are the benefits of being on Shakai Hoken (Corporate based) insurance?

A)It covers preexisting and chronic conditions. When you are on Shakai hoken you also can be enrolled into the Benesse Pension plan at no cost to you.  It offers (60%) coverage of wages after your third day of illness if you are hospitalized or incapacitated.  This way you still draw earnings. The other insurance, Kokumin Hoken which is for private contract workers/farmers and artisans, does not offer this benefit.

Q)What effect does a disrequest have on my employment security at Berlitz?

A)Depending on the type of disrequest, it can lead to oral and written warnings, suspension from work and eventually to your termination. According to Berlitz management in union collective bargaining sessions, there should never be disrequests; Berlitz expects satisfied customers.  However not every teacher is a perfect match for every student.  What number of disrequests is enough to get terminated or non-renewed at year end? If you teach 2000 lessons a year, fewer than 10 disrequests seems like a pretty high expectation level- clarify it with your interviewer. Make sure they clearly explain the relevance and consequences of a disrequest to your career at Berlitz.

Q) Your initial training will be reimbursed to you later?

A) No.  The week of unpaid training is that- unpaid.  The company considers it your investment into the company. The Union has asked Berlitz in the past to reimburse employees at the end of their first year, but MGT says all training after you pass your training test and sign your contract will be paid, but not before.

Q) Will you be asked to do work outside of billable hours?

A) According to Japanese Labor Law any kind of work is to be paid.  The company may expect you to do “extra.” Where you draw the line is where they will stop asking you to do unpaid work. Coming in to work early to meet with the boss, staying after hours for the same reason or working on free time between lessons are all unpaid work if you let it fall in your free time.  If they ask you to do extra work, expect to be paid for it.

Q) Does Berlitz salary increase actually go up each year?

A) Theoretically yes, but the first year you work is not taxed for local/residents tax so your  take home salary in year two will be less than year one (after local tax deductions) even with the best evaluations. (Local taxes are calculated on the previous year’s salary. Local taxes were just increased by 2.1% to pay for earthquake reconstruction.)

Q) Berlitz will be increasing their base pay in the near future?

A) Apparently not.  Berlitz has not increased the base wage since the mid 1990s.  The required number of lessons per week has increased from 35 a week to 40 a week, but the base wage remains the same. Berlitz says the industry is highly competitive and while Berlitz has significantly lowered labor cost by increasing the number of lessons taught by the instructor and shrinking the pay scale increases for salary, they are waiting for a time they can increase fees before they give a base up to instructors.

Q) Does Berlitz offer employment security?

A) Until May 2010 Berlitz had a system of automatic renewable contracts which they changed  to yearly renewable. The burden now falls upon employees to make sure they receive paperwork and they notify Berlitz of their intent to continue work. They must also receive approval from their local Manager to renew.

Q) Will schedules be compact?

A) That depends on what you negotiate with your local manager at the learning center you teach at.  Some teachers will “float” a contract but that means from day to day they have no idea when they will be teaching. You have the right to demand a set schedule- and to float it is your choice. Most instructors don’t want a 4 lesson contract spread out across 8 to 17 units of time. Sitting around not teaching and not being paid for dead time between lessons is a waste of time. Insist on a print out of your agreed to schedule before you start work. It only takes a  minute for the Manager to print it out.

Q) Your two days off will be consecutive?

A) Ask if you want it.  Many times the manager will just sit down and say  “these are the times we need you” and you are expected to accept. You can negotiate. You might be studying Japanese or have other things you want/need to do with your time in Japan.

Make sure you get clarification of this in your interview, you can also ask for a schedule template of what  hours you will be working. It can be printed out at the school. It takes about 1 minute to do so.

Q) Does Berlitz offer safety training for each and every employee since the March 11, 2011 Earthquake?

A) It is currently on a voluntary basis, but with so many teachers not able to speak Japanese, the union has demanded several times that all teachers and staff go through the appropriate drills. Currently MGT has suspended safety drills for the remainder of this year 2013 as mentioned in the June 2013 collective bargaining session.  Other companies along with local governments across the Kanto area will be holding safety drills to mark the September 1, 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

Q) Does Berlitz have a union?

A) Currently in Berlitz Japan there are 3. Begunto (Tokyo) has a sister union in Osaka named Begun, and there is one more union based in Tokyo.

Q) Does Berlitz discriminate against union members?

A) The union asked MGT in a demand dated February 20, 2013: “Does being a member of Begunto, Begun or any other union of employees in Berlitz Japan jeopardize a memberʼs chances of continued employment – specifically in the area of renewal of contract?”

Managementʼs response dated March 12, 2013:“…being a member of Begunto, Begun or any other union is not considered and does not have any effect when making decisions regarding contract renewal.”

There have been several union members who moved up into management positions.

When in doubt, take notes in your interview and ask for things in writing.

Have you ever had an interview at Berlitz?  Give us some feedback.

Our mission is to maintain and improve working conditions and that only happens with employee participation.

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