How to write a Japanese resume

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Much like in other countries, applying for most jobs in Japan will require a resume, regardless of part-time/full-time or industry. However, Japanese resumes have a fairly strict structure so be sure to adhere to the unique rules.

Rirekisho (履歴書 literally means background form. In addition to the rirekisho, depending on the position a more detailed list of responsibilities and achievements in a shokumukeirekisho (職務経歴書) may be required. For students and new grads usually a rirekisho would suffice as most don’t have much work experience to be expounded on. When in doubt, always check with the application guidelines or the appropriate HR staff.

What is a Shokumukeirekisho?

Unlike resumes in many other countries, Japanese resumes do not include your job scope and your achievements in previous companies. They only include the names of the schools you attended and the companies where you worked in the past.
Some companies require a Shokumukeirekisho, where you indicate your career history and achievements.

Important points when writing

Although some Japanese companies may prefer hand-written resumes, in recent years most of the companies will accept typed resumes. If you make a mistake, you must use a new paper. Always print or buy extras in the case you need to use another one. Even if Japanese is not your first language, hiring personnel will appreciate your efforts put into the application.

If it needs to be mailed in, use a large envelope instead of folding it. Place all supporting documents in a clear file in the order that the requirements are listed in the job posting before placing inside envelope.

Even if you are confident of your Japanese skills, it’s always best to have someone familiar with job applications to look over your resume. Since it will most likely determine if you are called in for an interview or to proceed to the next step in the screening process, pay special attention to detail and have someone check your work.

Do not photocopy one to use in another application, even if you’re proud of your good work. HR personnel will be able to tell and it will give them an impression of laziness. That said, certainly photocopy one for your own use so you can use it to copy from when writing a new one. Make sure you write the correct date!

passport photo booth Japan

Resume photo

The resume photo is the only image on the resume and play a big part in the form. In Japan, it is customary to judge a resume by the photo, among other factors. That is to say, it’s not important whether you are attractive or not, but look like a trustworthy, hardworking person.

Photo booths are available at train stations, convenience stores and around the city where you can select the appropriate sizes. You can also go to a studio to have professional photos taken. Make sure it’s a recent photo (within 3 months) and is taken with a plain background in the right size (usually 4cm x 3 cm).

Write your name on the back of the photo in the case it falls off the resume. Glue it on the form, don’t use tape except for double sided tape that may come with the resume form.

You should look the same in the photo as you would at an interview. Wear your glasses if you regularly wear them and you will wear them to the interview. Wear a dark suit with white or light colored shirt and a conservative tie for men. Make sure your hair is not covering your face and smile slightly, without grinning.

Application date/date of birth 日付・生年月日

For the application date, write the date that the application is turned in, not the date you are filling it out. If mailing it, it should be the same as the post-marked date. If bringing it into an interview, fill out the date that you will bring it.

Write the date in either Japanese years or Western years and stick to it for the rest of the resume. Generally Japanese companies still prefer Japanese traditional years but for foreign companies or industries like IT may prefer Western years. The important thing is to be consistent throughout the resume.

Address/phone number 現住所・電話

Write complete addresses beginning with the prefecture. Don’t abbreviate and include apartment/condo names. For example, instead of “1-2-3,” write “一丁目2番地3号.”
 Write both your home phone and cell phone numbers if you have both, but one or the other is accepted.

Contact information 連絡先

In the JIS standard form, the renrakusaki (連絡先) section is for an alternate address. It’s acceptable to leave blank or to write your e-mail address or other contact information. Do not write your current employer’s address if you are employed.

Education and work history 学歴・職歴

Both the educational and work history sections are usually in the same section of the resume. However, you should section them off by writing “学歴” and “職歴” at the top of each section, centered.

Generally, write from the oldest to the newest. For education, write the year you started and the year you graduated on separate lines. Include your majors and research topics as appropriate. Generally, it is accepted to write your final two degrees. For example, if you have a bachelor’s write your high school graduation, university entry and graduation.

For work history, only list full-time positions. Part-time positions as a student, etc., are generally not included. Next to company names, you may write the number of employees and a brief outline of duties if you are not separately submitting a shokumukeirekisho.

At the end of the history section, write “現在に至る。” if still working, and regardless after that write in the next line, write “以上” aligned right.

Licenses/certifications 免許・資格

Generally, write the name of the licenses and certifications as “Name of license 免許 取得” or “Name of exam 検定 合格.” You can either write in time order or in order of relevance. You can also list other skills here.

Reason for application 志望動機

This section is extremely important. As with an interview, answer the question “why do you want to work here?” Write in complete polite sentences ending in “です・ます” Research the company and write how you would like to contribute using your strengths, skills and experiences. This should be different for every job application.

Self-promotion points 自己 PR・アピールポイント

This is the most important part of the resume to set yourself apart from other candidates. Highlight your strengths, skills and experiences you can bring to benefit the company. Write in complete polite sentence form as with the previous section. You could include brief examples that support your points.

Commute time 通勤時間

Write the time it would take to commute from your house to the office at the fastest route. You should look up train times online or through a train app.

Requests/notes 本人希望記載

This section is for requests, however it’s best to discuss work-related details at the interview. It’s acceptable to leave it blank, or write something such as “勤務条件は貴社の規定に従います。” or “○○職を希望します。” to briefly indicate what you are interested in. You could also write available times for interviews or any additional information you would like the company to know.

Get a template

You can easily find templates online to download and print on your own. The JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards) template can be found on the Hello Works website. Although there are slight differences, most are pretty similar in style.

Depending on which section you would like to highlight, you may find a better fit version. Resume templates can also be purchased at convenience stores, stationary stores, department stores and grocery stores.

Many samples are available online and in books, so in addition to the previous tips and guidelines, try to look at several different resumes to help you in writing your Japanese resume.

Now you’ve completed your Japanese resume and sent it off, you just have to wait for an interview. Good luck!

For more information about living in Japan, check out the Go! Go! Nihon blog.

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