If you are a foreigner in Japan looking for a part-time job, you probably already know that Japanese resume writing is almost a job in itself. Here I would like to tell you about ‘rirekisho’ (resume) writing strategies that will help you land the ‘arubaito’ (Japanese for part-time job) that will pay for the good things in life.
The submission of the written resume is one the most critical stages in any job application in Japan, but the good news is that if you follow certain rules, you will be much more likely to get an interview. However, do keep in mind that this is not an absolute guide, but a support reference that is especially helpful for those who don’t know where to start.
In my experience, writing a Japanese resume is the most complicated task in the whole job application process. The reason is that Japanese companies find it very important how a resume is written: but the good news is that in order to make the perfect resume, you mainly just have to follow the rules.
Take for instance that one of the filtering criteria for hiring companies is whether the resume is hand-written or not: this way they can see the neatness of your Kanji, and overall alignment. They are looking for kanji that are written clearly and are well-balanced and a consistent alignment. In a culture that cares about neatness and cleanliness, this seems to make a lot of sense. No doctors’ handwriting allowed here!
Remember that a handwritten resume reflects your “hard-working effort” very much appreciated in Japan, and therefore, is more appealing than a printed one. This fact might land your resume on the shortlist just because it is handwritten!
The next thing you might want to reconsider is the photo you are attaching to the rirekisho. As a general rule of thumb, you want to appear as professional as possible in order to portray personality traits that are hard to convey in the written part of the resume: being responsible, being well-organised, cleanliness, and professionality. In most cities there is a vast number of specialized photo-boots where you can take official pictures where you can have your resume picture taken. Just look out for them at your nearest station, university, or shopping center.
One thing that I actually like about writing Japanese resumes is that by far most of them are standardized, and are pretty straight forward to fill out. The rirekisho is usually divided into 7 major sections:
- Personal Contact Information
- Education and Employment History
- Awards and Certificates (Accomplishments)
- Application Reasons
- Desires, Dreams, Hopes
Regarding sections 4 to 7, depending on the kind of job you are applying for (whether it is for a part-time or full-time job) some sections might be omitted.
Section 1 is quite straightforward as you are only required to write down your personal information. An interesting fact is that while in some other countries you don’t have to disclose your birth year, you have to in Japan. But don’t worry as the Employment Measure Act prohibits age discrimination for hiring.
Section 2 is also very simple, the only thing you should be aware of is to list your educational and work history in ascending order (oldest to most recent). Also, you are not required to write down a work description or specific educational achievements here.
Section 3 is where you will be writing your record of achievements, certificates, or even licenses obtained. Once again, you should write down your awards in ascending order. Be sure to include relevant awards for the job position you are applying for.
Section 4 is arguably one of the most important sections of the resume. Here you need to be sure to reflect your values, skills, and goals (in a very concise manner) that describe you, while at the same time are appealing to the hiring staff. This not something you can write down in 5 minutes, but spending some extra time and effort for this section will definitely have a positive effect on the people who will be screening your application.
Note: when applying to different kinds of jobs, this is the one section that you should re-write for every job.
Section 5 has to do with skills. For this section, I suggest that you divide them into two categories: language skills and technical skills. I recommend listing your skills in a bullet-style list, starting with your strongest skill. Remember to write next to the skill your level of mastery, either as ‘advanced’, ‘intermediate’, ‘beginner’ or as percentages.
Note: do not make up skills that you don’t possess: be honest here because it is very likely that you will be questioned about your skills during the interview.
Section 6, Application Reasons, is arguably THE most important section of the whole rirekisho. In this section, you need to clearly and broadly state why you want the job, but more importantly why you would be the best match. To summarize, you need to make the hiring staff believe that you are what they are looking for. I strongly suggest you to try and apply your specific skills and past experiences (educational or work experience) to the company or job position.
Section 7 is related to the professional aspirations that you have. In this particular section, it is always good to relate to the particular job position and company you are applying for. For the simpler part-time jobs, this section is probably not of utmost importance. The best way to describe the importance of this section is “case-by-case”, it is probably especially important when you are applying for a job for the long term, and as a means to climb the career ladder.
Working in a part-time job in Japan is a great opportunity to get acquainted with basic business manners, get used to the hiring process, and to build Japanese language proficiency, and all this while earning some extra cash. Whatever job it is you are writing a rirekisho for, it is always advisable to treat it as the one chance to get to make a good first impression on the hiring staff. Invest some time to make a good first impression, as this could make the difference between being invited for an interview or not.
Lastly, I would like to mention to be ready to be rejected (it will happen more often than you can imagine) and to just keep trying. There will be a job for you out there. Perseverance is key when it comes to the job search, never give up!