How to Interview for a Job in Japan

Job interviews… in any culture they are stressful. We always find it hardest to talk about ourselves —especially when we are nervous. Interviewing in another culture is even more confusing and nerve wracking.

Living in Japan? Looking for work? Here are some key differences you need to know about job interviews and best practices in Japan.

  1. The resume form- Called Rirekisho in Japanese — The resume sheet used in Japan is very different. First of all it is a standard template- the same for everyone. Second- yes they can ask age, and other details and you have to attach a recent photo! (This would be totally illegal in many countries.) The photo should be in professional dress. Photos are small size somewhat similar to a passport photo. You can get them done in automated photo machines. As a foreigner it is perfectly ok to also bring or send a copy of your regular English CV or resume but in addition to the Japanese one, not instead of. Also the Japanese resume form is often, but not always, handwritten! (crazy, I know)
Make sure to arrive early for your interview. — photo cc from Flickr by Daniel Zimmermann

2. DO NOT BE LATE- ever! The interview process here is a test of character same as everywhere else, but in this case the cultural pressure to be on time for all things dictates that it would be even worse to be late for a job interview in Japan than it would be in other places! Just get there early, up to 30 minutes early would be ok. There will usually be a waiting area. Even if you are early your interview will probably start at the time indicated. Schedules are strict here.

You will have to bow many times so better practice! — photo cc from Flickr by KE-TA

3. Follow the formula for a formal Japanese interview. The pattern goes something like this;

Knock on the door, usually three times and say shitsurei shimasu: which means Excuse me. Wait until you hear the interviewer say: Douzo — Please. Then you can go into the interview room, close the door, say shitsurei shimasu again and then of course, bow.
Stand beside the interview chair and it introduce yourself. My name is XYX and it is a pleasure to meet you. Follow this with another bow. When the interviewer or interview panel indicate that you can sit down, only then do you sit.
In newer startups or more international companies this may not be the process. Try to find out more about the style of the interview before you go.
Good preparation before the interview will help a lot- so study. — photo cc from Flickr by Channy Yun

4. What to prepare — To really rock the interview, be comfortable doing a simple self introduction and be ready to talk about the company. Make sure you research the company as you will be asked what you already know about them so be sure to be prepared. You will probably also be asked why you chose to interview there, so don’t wing it. Think about your answers in advance. The rest of the interview will be similar to interviews in other countries; What do you want to do? Why do you think you are a good fit? What relevant experience do you have? So prepare like you would for any other interview.

To end well — make sure you execute a perfect exit — photo cc from Flickr by Mat

5. A perfect exit — When the interview is finished, stand up again, next to your chair and say a simple “Thank you.” arigatou gozaimashita. Bow, walk to the door, turn around and say Shitsurei shimasu, again while bowing. You can even earn extra credit points for bowing one more time after you go out the door and before you close it.

These small touches in Japan, even if you are interviewed in English, will go a long way to reassure your possible employer that you can be a good fit in a Japanese company.