Working in Japan: The Interview

So you applied for the job and landed an interview!  Hurrah!

Here’s some handy info about how Japan often conducts interviews, as well some dos and don’ts to consider.  I think many of them are common sense, but a few are unique to Japanese interviews in particular.

 

The interview is where you want to come off looking your best.  Make sure you confirm the time, location, and place the interview will be held, as well as the person’s name who will be interviewing you.

Be aware that some overseas recruiters might require to you travel long distances to an interview location.  When I was interviewing for my first job I lived in Oregon, and there were two instances where I had to drive up to Seattle and fly down to San Francisco for an interview session.  Hopefully this information will be part of the job listing.  If the employer is based in Japan, they’ll likely want to conduct a Skype interview if you’re currently overseas.  If you’re residing within Japan, be prepared to meet in person and/or possibly demo a lesson (for teaching jobs) or be given a tour of the company/sit in on some classes.  I’ve had interviews ranging anywhere from 1-4 hours, so if you have any time constraints, let that be known beforehand.

Dress Well
No matter if it’s in person or via Skype, dress up in business attire/a suit.  General interview attire is Japan a black suit and white button up shirt for women, while men should wear a black business suit, white collared shirt, and tie in muted colors (but not white or black).  This is especially true for entry level hires, and some companies prefer women wear a suit with a knee length skirt and skin colored pantyhose.

If you aren’t going for an entry level position, you might be able to be slightly more flexible depending on the company.  A gray or black pinstripe suit might be more acceptable, and for women the shirt may not necessarily need to be a white button up.

In either situation, men and women should avoid wearing jewelry, and women should only wear minimal make-up.  Visible tattoos or piercings on men are a no-no.  While ear piercing on women is acceptable, I recommend not wearing any earrings if you can, or only wearing plain studs.  Japanese people are discouraged from showing up with a hair color other than black, but foreigners can generally get away with their natural hair color or a natural-looking one as long as your roots aren’t showing.

A picture of happy foreigners smiling because they wore the right attire to their interviews and got hired. ;)

A picture of happy foreigners smiling because they wore the right attire to their interviews and got hired. 😉

Be Punctual
You’re probably aware of this already, but in Japan being punctual means arriving well before the time given.  The interview time given is the point when the interview itself will begin.  Arrive prepared and ready to go at least 10-15 minutes beforehand, or be logged into Skype at least 5-10 minutes before the scheduled interview time.

What to Bring
If the interview is in person, bring copies of your resume and any certifications you have.

I generally make it a rule to research as much as I can about the company and prepare some questions about the company/position in advance.  If there’s anything you’re unsure about regarding the position, be sure to make a list of things to ask clarification for during the interview.  If the interviewer doesn’t mention it, I usually inquire about the time frame they plan on informing successful interviewees of a decision.  You might look at an interview as a way for companies to size you up, but it’s also a chance for you to get the information you need and to show companies you are truly interested in the job in a way that doesn’t always come across or stand out well on paper.

 

If you follow all these tips,  and you’ve got a great personality and the experience on top of that, you should have no trouble!  🙂

– J

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