Job hunting in Japan: How to ace your job interview!

This is the third and final instalment of the “Job Hunting in Japan” series.

As a foreigner, interviews can be an especially daunting part of job hunting in Japan. Luckily, Eleanor Gray has shared her top tips with me so that you can ace your interview and score your dream job in Japan. Eleanor studied Japanese, linguistics and Asian studies at the University of Melbourne and has been working in Japan for two years now.

This article will teach you how to nail your job interview in Japan!

What are job interviews in Japan like?

The interview format depends on the company. The bigger you go, the harder it gets. So if you are applying for a company like Mitsubishi, Sony or Fujitsu, you will probably have around five rounds of interviews.

If you are applying for a bigger company:

  • You will usually have to pass the web test first, which is ‘psychometric testing’ and all in Japanese.
  • Then you have to write statements about yourself so they can understand your personality and motivation for applying.
  • After that is usually a group interview with other candidates in a room with people from the human resources team who will ask you questions.
  • Depending on what job you apply for, you might have to do a skill-based practical interview. For example, you may be given a scenario and then have to come up with a solution in a short amount of time.
  • If you pass these, then you can go on to the interview.

If you are applying for a smaller company:

  • Smaller companies will usually forgo the web test or group/ skilled interview and just have a one on one interview.
  • The one on one interview can occur multiple times and will usually go from recruiter to employee to manager to company president.
  • Some companies require multiple interviews while others will offer you a job after one interview.

Is there anything I need to know about before the interview?

Japanese job interview manners:

There is a specific way you are meant to enter the room and way you are supposed to speak. For example, you knock before you enter the room (there are example videos of this online that you can see) and say ‘shitsureishimasu’ 失礼します(excuse me). You don’t sit down before they ask you to sit down. When they do, say ‘shitsureishimasu’ again and bow and sit down. Only speak when you are allowed to. That’s the rules basically. Overall, Japanese job interviews are very rigid and format structured.

For more information about Japanese job interview etiquette, check out this comprehensive guide.

It is important to make a good first impression, so make sure to prepare for your interview.

Common interview questions:

Usually, the interviewer will start by asking you to say a self-introduction. So make sure you have a self-introduction prepared.

Then they will ask you to explain the reason you applied or your ‘JikoPR’ 自己 PR (your strength/s).

Sometimes interviewers ask about things you wrote in your resume. Otherwise, they will continue on to standard job interview questions.

For example:

What is your weakness?

What is your strength?

Can you give us an example during university or your job where you have failed? When did you feel the most successful?

It is best to prepare for these in advance. Of course, if you are stuck on the spot, you can say, “Sorry, I don’t know.”

Making a good impression:

With Japanese interviews, the skills they want to hear are “persistence and resilience.” These are very important skills for working in Japan as Japan has a culture of  ‘gaman-suru’ 我慢する(having patience and endurance) and ‘ganbaru’ 頑張る(doing one’s best).

Another important skill is teamwork, as you will most likely be working in teams a lot of the time. Being able to find support is also important. If you are a foreigner in Japan, you need to show that you can find and support yourself and be independent. So show them how you have been able to do that as well.

Also, if you don’t understand anything they are saying in Japanese, say it. Don’t pretend that you understood, as that is going to show them that if you get the job you won’t be able to speak up and say when you don’t know something, which isn’t a good look. It’s okay if you don’t know, so just say it.

What clothes should I wear for the interview?

When it comes to dressing for Japanese interviews, be as conservative as possible. Whilst job hunting, it is typical to wear a standard suit or “recruit suit.” You will see it all the time in Japan, but it is basically a very simple black blazer and white shirt.

Men wear trousers, while women typically wear a skirt. It is changing though, some women wear pants, but usually, they will wear a skirt, see-through tights and heels. It is typical to wear your hair in a low ponytail (so tie your hair up if it is long) and put your bangs aside so that it is easy to see your face.

It is best to wear a conservative suit for job interviews in Japan.

There are some little subtleties about how to dress depending on the industry you are applying for, so make sure to check that online. If you are going to a recruiting fair, make sure you have blister protectors or bandages to protect your feet. Also, there is a specific bag that you are supposed to carry when you are job-hunting, so make sure you have one.

Any final tips?

I think the most important thing is practicing your ‘keigo’ 敬語 (Japanese honorific speech). It leaves a good impression and shows that you understand Japanese culture. Even if it’s not perfect, it shows that you are making an effort. You need to know ‘keigo’ for speaking, but also for writing emails, such as when you are doing business with another company online.

Having a friend that you can practice interviews (and speaking Japanese) with is also really helpful. Friends and connections can help with finding and landing a job. I cannot emphasise that enough. My friends checked my resume and knew of job openings at their companies. They are the reason I have gotten through and been accepted for jobs.

Be ready to share why you are interested in Japan and the job you are applying for!

Also, make sure you have a story of why you want to work in Japan, as that shows you have persistence, which is what you want to emphasise when you are job hunting. So be able to explain why you are interested in Japan and why you have studied Japanese. It’s also good to connect that to the reason you want to work for that company.

Thank you Eleanor for sharing your amazing tips about how to have a great job interview in Japan. It has been a pleasure working together with you to create the “Job Hunting in Japan” series. The team at Asia Options wishes you all the best with your future endeavours!

For more information about working in Japan, check out the following articles:

How to successfully network in Japan for a job during COVID

Job hunting in Japan: Here’s everything you need to know

Job hunting in Japan: Everything Needed For Mastering Japanese Resumes

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Yasmin McGarva

Yasmin is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Japanese and Media and Communications. She has undertaken a semester exchange at Hokkaido University and volunteered with ISA Australia as a group leader teaching English in schools throughout Japan. With a deep interest in cultural exchange, Yasmin aspires to work connecting Australia with Japan and the Indo-Pacific region.

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