Breaking into the Japanese job market can be a complex process given that many cultural differences can be found throughout the recruitment process. Naturally, the Japanese use a very distinct approach to resume writing compared to American resume writing and certain aspects of it can be confusing for a Westerner.
A Rirekisho (履歴書), although being widely translated as ‘resume’ in English, does not necessarily fit our generally-accepted image of what a resume is. The term rirekisho is the Japanese word used to describe a document, often hand-written, which is sent or given to companies and recruiters in Japan to serve as a candidate’s job application.
The whole format of a Japanese resume varies greatly from the US style and learning what is included in a resume for Japan is vital if you are planning to work in the country or for a Japanese company elsewhere.
To gain the attention of Japanese hiring managers, it is crucially important to provide a rirekisho document, a culturally-specific Japanese resume, which shows your dedication to the job application and to the company. Similarly to resumes in other parts of the world, a resume in Japanese should be adapted to the particular vacancy.
The following guide gives candidates the right knowledge and tools to create a winning Japanese resume that includes the relevant information in the correct format with tips and examples.
Writing a Resume in Japanese
Creating a Japanese resume entails much more than a basic translation of your current resume. A resume in Japanese uses a pre-designed set-up that is accepted all over the country and by Japanese companies in other parts of the world.
However, with the job market expanding rapidly in the digital age of start-ups, an increasing number of Japanese companies around the world are warming to different styles of resume formats.
Traditionally, there is only one style of the rirekisho document in Japan which includes the exact same sections for every candidate. This means that there is a widely available template from shops or that can be downloaded, which candidates either fill out by hand or occasionally complete via a word processor.
The basic rirekisho is generally accepted for entry-level candidates or students, who do not have a long work experience, whereas, professional candidates may be expected to apply for a job in Japan using a shokumukeirekisho (職務経歴書) document. A shokumukeirekisho allows a more in-depth look at a job applicant’s professional achievements and responsibilities.
Optimize your Japanese resume by applying some of the following expert resume writing tips:
- Each resume should be adapted to the position and company the candidate is applying to, in order to ensure that the hiring manager sees the effort and commitment that they feel toward the role. This means that jobseekers should not photocopy their resume but instead, create a different Japanese resume per vacancy.
- Jobseekers should always research the Japanese company so that they can tailor their resume to the position adequately. All candidates must ensure to be aware of any specific recruitment regulation in place in that company that could affect their candidacy, for example, if they accept digitalized resumes or only traditional hand-written rirekisho.
- An essential aspect of Japanese resumes to consider when it comes to writing the education or job history is that all dated experiences should be written in chronological order. This is the opposite of western resumes, which are structured in the reverse-chronological order, despite often being known as the chronological resume style. This means starting from the oldest and listing down to the most recent position held or diploma attained.
- When writing the dates of any information for the applicant, most Japanese employers prefer to see the Japanese date style (Nengo 年号) used. This refers to the Japanese era to be used in place of the Gregorian calendar year. Take special care to make sure you indicate the right dates throughout. Foreign companies within Japan or occasionally Japanese companies abroad will accept resumes that include dates reflecting the westernized calendar years, as long as the date format is correct: year (年) month (月) and day (日) at the end.
- Finally, all Japanese resumes should be proofread very carefully and not submitted with any errors. It is very important to hiring managers that a candidate’s job application reflects careful diligence and attention. No matter how confident you may feel of your level of Japanese, it is always advisable to have your resume read by a native Japanese person who can correct any errors and ensure that all the characters are in the right order.
With these tips, candidates can apply, safe in the knowledge of how to write a resume for a Japanese company. But another way to ensure a well-presented and professional Japanese resume format would be to use a template or online resume builder which offers guidance for each step.
Japanese Resume: Layout and Sections
Just as with any type of resume, there are certain rules to understand when it comes to writing a Japanese resume and what concerns the sections listed and the general format.
Given the strict nature of employment regulations for Japanese companies, it is advisable for candidates to stick to the format of application offered by the specific company.
If you have the freedom to create a modern resume, Japanese resume examples may be very useful to help you understand the importance of certain details offered to hiring managers.
There are parts of Japanese resumes which would not normally be seen on resumes in the US that can cause alarm at first glance for westerners but once you have the right information, building an effective Japanese resume will be just as easy as creating one for an American company.
What to include in a Japanese resume
The first aspects to be considered in a Japanese resume are the different sections that must be included. Before structuring the different elements, it is important to start the document indicating the date (日付) in which you are applying, not the date it is written!
Once the date has been stated appropriately, according to Japanese writing rules, candidates can begin formatting the layout by incorporating the following key resume sections:
Personal and contact details
As with most resume formats you will be familiar with, resumes in Japanese also begin with the candidate’s contact details. The basic information is gathered and presented in a table style with the following data:
- Name – 氏名
- Stamp/seal – 印
- Date of birth, age, and gender – 生年月日
- Phone Number – 電話
- Address – 現住所
The names should be written in reverse order with the last name (姓) first and the first name (名) last. Use Hiragana or Katakana for foreign names.
Dates should be written using the Japanese nengo calendar.
Finally, the address should also be written in reverse order with the following structure:
Prefecture, Ward/City, Town, XX Chome, XX Ban, XX Go
Although it is uncommon to give some of this information on a resume in the U.S., it is completely normal practice for Japanese companies and they will expect to see a candidate’s age and gender listed in the basic personal details.
Using a photo is not a common theme in recruiting in the U.S. In fact, it is often frowned upon because it can result in discrimination on the basis of gender, skin color, appearance, etc. However, the professional headshot is a compulsory part of a Japanese resume.
The Japanese resume photo should be a passport-sized photo, taken in a professional environment with a clear background and the candidate should be conservatively dressed as if attending a job interview.
The photo should be physically attached to the resume if being delivered by hand or mail, whereas, a digital copy is preferred to no photo. It should be placed in the top right-hand corner of the resume.
The Japanese resume education section must be displayed in chronological order, from first to most recent, and can list several of the latest diplomas achieved.
Each entry in the academic history must include the date of starting the course and the graduation date. The information displayed here should contain the name of the institution, with location and the name of the certificate awarded or course undertaken.
For student resumes, candidates are advised to demonstrate information about projects, courses, other honors, and curricular activities that could be beneficial to the overall job application.
At the end of each academic entry, on the right-hand side of the next line, you should introduce the characters 以上 to indicate it is the end of the entry.
Often listed in the same section as education in a Japanese resume, the work experience part of a rirekisho lists the previous roles held by the candidate in chronological order beginning with the first relevant position to the most recent.
In traditional Japanese resumes, the jobseeker does not need to include duties or responsibilities when listing their previously-held jobs, however, these details are expected when creating a professional rirekisho or shokumukeirekisho as it is sometimes known.
The information included here should list the following for each position mentioned:
- Official company name (not commercial name)
- Dates of entry and departure from the company
- Reasons for leaving:
- If the candidate left of their own doing, it is acceptable to state that they left for personal reasons: 一身上の都合により退社
- If the candidate was let go, it is common to indicate that it was the business’s decision: 会社都合により退社
- If the contract was temporary with a fixed end date, the candidate should mention the contract finalized: 契約満了により退社
Entry-level candidates can use this area to demonstrate the internships or voluntary work they have been involved in which benefit their career and apply to the vacancy on offer. Here there is no need to explain the reasons for leaving.
Similarly to the education section, in the work experience section of a Japanese resume, jobseekers should put the characters 以上 to demonstrate the end of each entry.
Qualifications, licenses and certificates
This section is dedicated to different accomplishments or licenses that a candidate has accumulated in their professional career. Traditionally on a Japanese resume, the qualifications section tends to include any and all types of certifications but nowadays, it is recommended to list only those that are practical and pertinent to the position on offer.
For foreign candidates, listing any Japanese language certificates and a driving license is perfectly acceptable.
Reasons for applying/Motivation
This section is vital for any Japanese resume to be considered seriously by a Japanese recruiter or company. Similar to a resume objective for an American resume or summary statement, this section is an open area for candidates to describe why they are interested in taking on the specific role they’re applying to.
This part of a Japanese job application can be more creative and allows candidates to demonstrate their personal interests, skills (特技), and to use the keywords from a job application to ensure they stand out in the recruitment process.
Although this part should remain brief and concise, it is possible for jobseekers to show off a little here about what makes them a good candidate for the position by indicating their strengths and accomplishments.
Use examples and quantifiable evidence in this area as well as exploring how your soft and hard skills would make you a good fit for the company. It is important for Japanese resumes to demonstrate how well a candidate would do in the company because recruiters want to know that the applicant is interested in sticking around and engaging in company projects.
Typically, there is another customized section in Japanese resumes where candidates traditionally indicate any of the following:
- Commuting time (from home to office) 通勤時間
- Marital status 配偶者
- Number of dependents 扶養者
This information is not completely necessary if you are uncomfortable offering it. However, it is recommended to at least mention a commuting time if applicable.
The final section of a Japanese resume is a third personalizable section where each jobseeker should state their expectations of the new role.
Here, candidates can explain what they hope to earn in terms of salary, any specific ideas they have for the future of the role, working hours, or the location of the job if various offices are available, etc.
If you do not put anything in this section, it can display a lack of interest in the position, but there are ways of getting around being very specific without being rude.
The sentence 勤務条件は貴社の規定に従います signifies that you are willing to negotiate or accept the conditions offered by the company at the interview stage.
Japanese Resume Example
Whether you are completing the rirekisho traditional template or are able to submit a modern Japanese resume for your job application, employing a Japanese resume example is a sure-fire way to avoid committing any mistakes that could cost you your chance at an interview.
The level of difficulty of the Japanese language is not the only obstacle that can appear when building a Japanese resume. Candidates should also be aware that they will need to adapt their job application to be mindful of any cultural differences including the possibility of including information that might otherwise be omitted in a westernized resume.
Using Japanese resume samples, jobseekers can get a better idea of what is expected to be included in terms of textual content, images, and even furigana to guide pronunciation for certain personal details.
If you choose to print your Japanese resume, it is advisable only to print in black ink because colors are inadmissible on Japanese job applications. On other occasions, Japanese businesses can expect to receive only hand-written resumes. In these cases, candidates should only use black ink to write their resumes and ensure not to leave any mistakes visible.
Difference between American and Japanese Resumes
The vast differences in American and Japanese culture also extend to the recruitment process as can be seen by the variations in how to complete a Japanese resume as compared to an American one.
One of the main differences between American and Japanese resumes that stands out most is the traditional Japanese resume template that is most commonly used all over Japan. This specific set up allows candidates only to include the information requested by the structure, similar to application forms. Whereas, in the United States, candidates are openly encouraged to make their resumes unique and one-of-a-kind, with the Japanese standard resume, candidates would struggle to catch the employers attention quickly as the format is uniform for all applicants.
This, in turn, means that although the rirekisho template may permit more equality for the different levels of jobseekers, there is only one universally-accepted style, unlike the thousands of variations that can be found for an American resume design.
Another of the major differences between American and Japanese resumes is that the oriental job application requires a chronological list of work experience and academic achievements, going from the first to last position held, in comparison with the reverse-chronological order of western resumes which display the most recent experience first.