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Interviewing in Japan

Some general guidelines to follow if you’re going to attempt an interview with a Japanese company

Naturally, the same rules that apply in other countries apply in Japan as well – standard formal attire, pen, paper, and be sure to arrive early.

Sumisu-san to apo ga arimasu

"I have an appointment with Mr. Smith"

Where Japan does differ however, is in the first few minutes, when you are introduced to the group that will be conducting the interview. Chances are there will be at least three people, including the human resources person with which you have been corresponding.

Introduce yourself in Japanese:

Watashi no namae wa … des. Dozo yorushiku onegaishimasu

"My name is… Please favor me"

Complete this self-introduction with a small bow and proceed to hand out your meishi (business card) to all present; ideally, you should give the most senior member your business card first. Hand a copy to each of them with both hands, and they will receive with both hands, as your business card is somewhat sacred:

– In Japan a business card is essential to any first meeting. It’s just as valuable as a full resume, containing nearly as much


The recruiters will in turn give you their business cards. Accept them with both hands and read them immediately; when you are finished, place them carefully on the table in front of you to use as reference.

Most likely if you are inteviewing with a Japanese company, it will be for a native-English speaker (whether this is teaching, proofreading, etc) – my apologies to those competent enough to speak Japanese at JLP 1 or 2. An interview for a native-English speaker will naturally differ from a typical Yamamoto Coporation from this point on. You might be asked to give a small introduction and explain some of the finer points of your resume. Don’t hesitate to show your versatility, such as how you might enjoy the finer aspects of Japanese culture (i.e. my pilgrimage plans to one of the southern islands next month, Japanese hot springs, and all my travels).

Next up – perhaps a questionnaire distributed to all candidates, in English. Many questions, the most prominent being: do you have a problem working overtime with no money? This is known as zangyou in Japan: after time. Japanese are expected to stay extra hours despite when no work is required – of course, sometimes deadlines do approach. Even with all the fourteen-hour days, this method was discovered to be no more efficient than western work habits.

If you’re applying for a position which requires some Nihongo, now might be the time to test your Japanese skills. The questions might be very simple, regarding your time in Japan, where you’ve travelled, what did you enjoy… If you’re not very confident in your skills, apologize:

Gomen nasai. Nihongo yoku hanasemasen.

"I’m sorry. I don’t speak Japanese well."

Stress that, if required, you will make every effort to improve your skills.

Finally – there could be a written portion, in Japanese or English. A simple test of your average work in the position (proofreading example, a lesson plan, etc), and perhaps an explanation regarding your intentions in their company.

Stand up when they decide the interview is concluded, and give each of them a long bow.

Ojikan o domo arigatou gozaimashta

"Thank you very much for your time"