A couple of years ago, I shared the Japanese-style resume forms (履歴書, rirekisho) I've collected and used in my own job searches. As easy as the resume forms are to pick up at a convenience store in Japan, I found that it's actually kind of a pain to find good rirekisho document templates online. A lot of people visit that post, and I hope it serves as a helpful resource for bilingual job hunters.

However, I didn't talk much about how to actually write a Japanese resume. And the other day, a close friend of mine contacted me with a plethora of questions on the matter. To help him out, and to refresh my own memory on the subject, my next few posts will take a look at the format of the rirekisho:



Writing By Hand
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Japanese resume is traditionally written by hand. Every employer I've had in Japan has asked me to handwrite my resume, even if it was just a formality--one employer even sent me a resume form in the mail with instructions to fill it out by hand after they called me to say I got the job.

When I applied for that particular job I'd been using typed resumes just because of the sheer number of applications I was sending out. But for my soon-to-be employer, having a handwritten resume on file for every employee was workplace policy. I think that's just the way things are done at a lot of established, traditional businesses in Japan, and personally I don't find it troubling--but we'll get into that later.

So, I'm not trying to say that a typed resume will be immediately sent to the round file. In fact, if you're job hunting through a career fair, I'd actually recommend typing yours. Save your hand from terrible writing cramps and your mind from the constant paranoia of ink smudging. You may be asked to handwrite one later, after you've had an interview, but by that point you'll already know the employer is interested in you, and you'll already know exactly what to write (thanks to the typed one), so you can concentrate all your efforts on producing the prettiest ballpoint pen kanji you've ever written.

That said, most of the Japanese participants I met at career fairs had written out resumes by hand for all the dozens of companies they intended to interview with, and on asking I usually found out that they'd handwritten several more copies to keep in their bags, just in case. I figured they were all sleep-deprived or crazy. (I had extra copies in my bag, too, but mine were typed, minus the 志望動機 section, which I left blank to later tailor by hand.)

Follow the Categories
Minus a little variance form to form, Japanese resumes are broken into the following categories:
1. Name and Contact Information
2. Education and Work History
3. Licenses and Certifications
4. Mission Statement
5. Skills
6. Requests

Each of these categories has peculiar rules to follow when writing. Yes, it is retentive. But especially as a non-Japanese applicant, paying attention to detail here shows a potential employer that you're willing to learn a new way of doing things. Remember, if they hire you, they already recognize that you can bring something different to the workplace. If they wanted another employee who "acts Japanese," they would have screened for and hired Japanese applicants.

But there's a balance between being different and petulantly refusing to play the game. A prospective employer wants to hire someone who will get along well in the office, and an applicant who refuses to display care in preparing a resume because he (or she) feels the procedure is arbitrary and meaningless demonstrates not that he's a creative thinker but more likely a contrarian.

Pick your battles. In my opinion, agreeing to the writing standards here is a small price to pay for a position in which you'll be able to make a real and meaningful difference later.

Over the next couple of posts, we'll examine the sections in detail and provide some examples of good resume writing style.

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