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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Japan

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: March 2015

Finding a Job

There are two main routes to getting a job in Japan. The first is to apply for a job in which you are highly skilled. It is best to do this while you are still in your home country. In many cases, you will need to have some speaking ability in Japanese. Secondly, there is work using English available, such as editing and journalism and especially English teaching. The latter is good as a standby, and you may be able to find teaching work even if you are already in Japan. The largest website that caters for this is the Jet Programme.

With the aid of online job portals, you can look for work while in your home country or in Japan as required. The portals enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords. Some of the most popular job portals in Japan are:

Note that although these websites are in English, not all job advertisements are. The following job portals are in Japanese only:

Jobseekers can also turn to private recruitment agencies. If possible, before committing yourself, you should check if the agency is accredited and look at some online reviews. There are lists of recruitment agencies in Japan on the Daijob and Japan Visitor websites.
In addition, there are Employment Service Centres based in the country’s three largest conurbations: Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe and Nagoya. These centres help foreigners with many aspects of finding work, though again, some of the information is in Japanese only.

Once in Japan you can also look in newspapers and browse notice boards in shops. Furthermore, as in most countries, networking in Japan can make all the difference. If you do have any connections, you should not hesitate to make use of them. Lastly, keep an eye out for career fairs and exhibitions, and look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on the websites of organisations that interest you. You might also want to make speculative applications to these organisations.

 

CVs

As your curriculum vitae, CV or résumé (履歴書 or rirekisho in Japanese) is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience. The CV can be written in English if the original job advert was in English. In fact, you should only write the CV in Japanese yourself if you are fully fluent. However, it is often useful to provide a Japanese translation of the CV for your employer as many of them do not speak English well.

A Japanese CV should be no longer than two pages of A4. Stick to the facts, keep out irrelevant details and focus on your suitability for the job in question. The CV should also be well structured. First give your name and contact details, then your age, sex and nationality. Next should come a summary of your qualifications – this does not need to be longer than three lines.

The main body of the CV should contain education and employment history sections, arranged in reverse chronological order and accounting for any gaps. When listing academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study subject and degree obtained. Employment History should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

After this, you can add sections on IT Skills, Language Skills, Voluntary Work, Scholarships and Interests as appropriate. In the latter section, you should include any interests relevant to the job. You can add interests from Japanese culture (such as aikido, bonsai, origami, reading manga comics), as these may pique the interviewer’s curiosity.
In all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used. With a Japanese CV, it is essential to attach a passport-style photo. There is additional information on writing CVs in Japan on the Daijob site.

 

Cover Letters

Japanese employers will normally require a cover letter with job applications. This should be one to two A4-pages long and drawn up as a formal business letter.  The letter should explain your motivation for applying for the position, demonstrate how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and highlight what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and demonstrate how you fulfil them.

 

Interviews

When preparing for a job interview, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are and how you could contribute to its success. Interviews in Japan vary in length, interviewing technique and size of the panel, though they are almost always formal affairs. Though most interviews take place in person, in recent years, telephone and video interviews have become common, especially when the candidate is abroad at the time of interview.

Interviews often start with “Tell me about yourself”, which prompts you to give a brief summary of your background and current situation. The questions that follow will test how your skills match the interviewers’ requirements. This gives you the opportunity to show your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. Interviewers may also ask left-field questions that examine your attitude to life in Japan or test your ability to think on the spot. (Example: “If you were a car, what parts would you be made from?”) Finally, they will ask if you have any questions about your potential future role.

Some Japan-based international companies and large domestic companies use assessment centres for recruiting purposes. These assessments last a day or two and include tasks that test your suitability for the position, such as presentations, group activities and written tests. For more information on interviewing techniques and sample interview questions, see the Tokyo from the Inside and Japan Visitor websites.

 

Etiquette

When attending a job interview, remember that punctuality is vital! It is better to arrive 10 to minutes early; do not keep your potential employer waiting. Another important rule is to dress formally. Men should wear a smart suit, have a short haircut and avoid any facial hair. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still best to choose business-wear in discreet colours. Women should avoid using eye-catching jewellery or heavy make-up. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit up straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!

Once you have successfully obtained a job, you may be eligible for a working visa. For more information on how to apply for working visa, see Expats Working in our Immigration section.

 

 

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