Working in Japan: Applying for the Job

Here’s the next post of this series, this time focusing on how to write your resume and apply for a job.


Japan is a country that often values certification over actual experience. If you have both, that’s great, and you should have no trouble producing a solid resume.

However if you aren’t certified nor have any work experience, you may not be out of luck!  Sometimes all you need for an entry level position is a creative mind and a good attitude.  You might try to think of ways you can use mentoring, club membership, sports, or volunteer work as a way to show you would be a trainable and competent candidate choice.

Say you’re looking at applying to an ALT teaching job, but you have little or no experience in the classroom or getting up in front of students…

– Have you ever tutored anyone or assisted a teacher?
If so, in a sense you already some basic teaching experience or ability, so it could make up for having zero professional experience to go on.
– Have you ever babysat?
If you’re never tutored or assisted a teacher, babysitting experience shows potential employers that you like children and can interact with them in a positive way.
– Have you ever been an athlete or part of a sports team?
It shows employers that you are self motivated, healthy, outgoing, and/or work well in team situations.  That athleticism might also come in handy when it comes time for visiting with students during their after school sports club activities, or during the school marathon/sports day.
– Have you ever done any volunteer work?
It shows employers that you are highly motivated and are possibly interested in a job for reasons other than money.  It also shows you care about others and that you are a team player.

If you do have experience, but it doesn’t relate to the type of job you’d like to apply for, try to consider how some of the goals or skills at the jobs you’ve previously held might be similar or help you achieve some of the requirements of the position you’re applying for.  People can be trained on how to do a job, but it’s harder or nearly impossible to train someone to be a motivated employee or have good common sense, so for jobs where experience isn’t required, but preferred, don’t be afraid to get a little creative.

If you don’t have the qualifications of the job required, it’s best not to apply.  Japanese companies are unlikely to bend and you’ll only be wasting your time and theirs.

Writing a General Resume
However you word your resume, make it appear confident yet humble.  Your resume shouldn’t sound like a sales pitch. Instead of making bold statements like, “I have a wide range of skills that would be an asset to any company,” list any certifications you have under the appropriate section, or list specific skills you learned as part of the responsibility/duty part of your work experience summary.

Most companies require you include your picture on or with the resume. Japan isn’t a PC country, and if they don’t think you look the part, don’t expect an interview. Pictures should be taken in business attire (read: suit) with minimal make-up/no jewelry, a sensible hairstyle, and with a white background/good lighting. Be sure to smile if it’s for a teaching position.

Last, but not least, grammar check and proofread your resume multiple times before sending it off. Most Japanese resumes don’t require a cover letter, but if the job listing asks for one, something short about your interest in the job position and your suitability will do.

Writing a Japanese Resume
The same resume writing rules above still apply, however Japanese resumes are traditionally handwritten on special resume writing paper you can find at any 100 yen or stationary store.  You fill in the sections of the resume sheet with a black pen, and if you make a mistake it means having to re-write the whole thing over again from the beginning.  There’s also a place to affix your photo at the top.  You can take Japanese resume size photos at any quick photo booth in Japan, and the size is 36-40 mm x 24-30 mm.

© J・Broad Co., LTD

Here’s a sample resume for the Japanese version of John Doe.
© J・Broad Co., LTD

Traditionally the handwritten method ensured that you weren’t just casually interested in a position, and companies would make sure candidates had good penmanship as part of the criteria of a new hire.  If you’re applying for a non-bilingual, non-webiste, or non-technology based position, you will probably need to submit a handwritten resume.

Otherwise, if a typed Japanese resume is allowed, its much easier to make and print.  Here’s a list of Japanese resume templates you can download and use for free.

In either case, if you’re not a native or fluent speaker of Japanese, be sure to get someone to proofread it before your send it off.  😉  Good luck!

– J

 

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