Gaijin Recruit

For job hunting foreigners in Japan

Writing a Japanese Resume

Anyone who has been job-hunting, will know the basics of how to create a resume. Any country will have slightly different requirements in build, what to include, what to exclude and how to write it all down (the "tone" of the document).
The Japanese resume may be different to the ones you are used to. Below we will explain the basics and do's and do-not's of the Japanese resume.


Introduction

The Japanese resume, or Rirekisho (履歴書) is an overall standard format document. You can buy templates (with or without envelope) at combinis, stationery shops and even 100-yen stores. Furthermore, a free print for part-time job applications can be found in the free "Town-Work" magazine; a magazine that lists part-time jobs.
While the format is overall the same, you may come across slight differences between the templates. The reason is that in reality each template has a different target use. There are templates for people who just graduated, for part time jobs (バイト), for full-time jobs, for when you switch jobs… The major differences lay in how much space you are giving to write your details. A new graduate is not expected to have any job experience apart from part time jobs, and part time jobs are generally not listed on the Japanese resume.

For foreigners wanting to work at a Japanese company where English skills will be valued, it is advisable to also have a simple English resume and send it together with the Japanese one. However, never send only your English resume, as the Japanese Human Resources department will not take it in kind.

You can download the following Word template to create your own Japanese CV. Keep in mind the build as written below.


Build

Date (日付)

If you send the resume by post, use the date of postal.
If you bring it with you when you go on interview, use the date of the interview.
The year is written according to the Japanese calendar.

Personal Information (氏名・住所・電話番号)

Here you fill in your name, birthdate (using the Japanese calendar – see the converter here), your current age, your sex, the full address where you currently reside, e-mail address, phone number and a contact address if it is different from your living address.
Take care to write your name and address in kana as well. Rule of thumb: if the kana line says “furigana” in hiragana (ふりがな) use hiragana, if it says “furigana” in katakana (フリガナ) use katakana.

Picture (写真)

A picture usually graces your CV. If you stick it on, make sure to write your name on the back first.
Regarding the picture, make sure it is business-like and gives of a "clean" feeling:

  • Plain white or cream background.
  • Picture is taken from the front, from the chest up.
  • Hair tucked behind the ears.
  • While a slight curve of the lips is allowed, absolutely do not show teeth.
  • Beard/mustache is neatly trimmed (though most Japanese companies prefer no beard or mustache at all)
  • Wear a suit or business attire.
  • The size is passport size, dimensions 3/4 (i.e.: horizontal 24mm~30mm; vertical 30mm~40mm.)

Education (学歴)

Start the block by writing 学歴 in the middle of the first line. There is no need to leave an empty line between this “header” and the education information.
Usually the oldest information is written at the top, and you go down chronologically.
It is common to start with the high school graduation date (year-month format).
Use one line for enrolment, one line for graduation. Write down the country, school name and, if applicable, the program title and level. The format to use will look something like this: 「年月 - 国、学校名(、学部) - 入学・卒業」.
In the case your education stopped at high-school level, it is advised to write as many details, no matter how trivial, as further education.

Work Experience (職歴)

Leave one line empty after the last line from the education block and write 職歴 in the middle of the next line.
Work chronologically from oldest to newest and use one line for when you started your job and one line for when you left the company. Do not include part time jobs (バイト).
There is no need to write your job responsibilities in detail as they will usually be discussed during the interview.
If you have no experience at all, write nashi (無し).

Licenses and Qualifications (免許・資格)

Write your qualifications and licenses (think of driver’s license, language qualifications such as JLPT, TOEIC, TOEFL, etc.), starting with the date when you acquired the license, followed by the title and level. If written on the document, also write the document’s validity date.

Reason for Application (志望動機)

Explain your reasons for wanting to join the company. Be sure to add details specific to the position you are applying for, connecting them to your personal strengths, hobbies and experiences.
One thing to watch out for is writing that you want to gain skills at the company and give off the impression you want to use the company as a "step-up" for your future carreer. Japanese companies, old ones in perticular, do not appreciate it when their employees leave the company for something better.

Personal wishes (本人希望記入欄)

If there is anything you want in particular, such as salary, position, work location, you can write it down here.
In the case you do not have anything to write here, you can write that you will follow the company's policy (貴社規定に従います).

Remaining details

Here you can fill in your maximum desired commuting time (通勤時間), if you have a spouse (配偶者), or have a partner you need to support (配偶者の扶養義務) and the amount of dependents you have in your household (扶養家族数).


Tips

Digital or Handwritten

You may have heard of the Japanese resume being written by hand. Nowadays, printed resumes are completely allowed. We will discuss that in a moment. First, where did this handwritten idea come from?
It is believed that hand-written communication shows dedication to the task and is proof you take the other serious. When you write your resume by hand (using one of the templates you printed or bought), the reader will most certainly impressed, as long as it is completely flawlessly written. A mistake made in a character or sentence means re-writing the entire document as correcting with correction fluid or something similar does not create a favorable impression.
As mentioned, you are allowed to type out your resume on a computer, though it is still preferred you use the standard format.

Accompanying cover-letter

Include an accompanying letter to your resume. Not only in Japan, but elsewhere in the world, a resume without cover letter will mostly be ignored. These letters can make or break your resume, so it is advised to have a Japanese friend check them. If a check by a native is not possible, keep the letter short and simple.
You can use the following template cover-letter, but be sure to read through the article below as only the very basics are written down.

At the top of the page, write the date when you are sending the letter. You can write it on either the left or the right side.
Next, on the left side, write the full name (including type such as 株式会社) of the company you are writing to. If you have the name of the recruiter, address the letter to this person (write their title within the company followed by their full name and sama (様), and DO double check if you used the correct kanji). If you do not have any name, only write "soumubu jinjika saiyou gotantousha sama (総務部人事課 採用ご担当者様) to get it to the recruiter in the HR-department.
Below the company details, on the right side, you can add your own details (address, mail, phone and full name). However, you can also opt to write this part at the bottom of the letter. Either option is fine.
At the top of the letter write you are sending documents to apply for a job. We recommend using "oubo shorui no soufu ni tsuite" (応募書類の送付について) .

You start your letter with required haikei (拝啓). While in normal business communications you can use zenryaku (前略) when you want to omit the proper greeting, we highly advice you to not do this with your cover-letter. It will not convey the image you spent time, blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights on writing this letter.
The first few lines of the letter should consist of the proper greeting such as "貴社ますますご清祥のこととお喜び申し上げます" or anything similar.
Next, you provide the reason for writing; you saw an avert for a vacancy or, in case you are sending a cold resume, you first apologize for the sudden contact before introducing yourself and explaining you would like to work for the company.
You proceed by giving a simple explanation how you and your goals fit the company and the vacancy. Give them a reason to believe you are useful to the company.
You finish the main part of the letter by expressing that you would be delighted if you could be invited for an interview.
End the main part of the letter with the obligatory keigu (敬具).

Proceed with writing down a list of attachments. Indicate this is an attachment list by writing "ki" (記) at the top of the list (in the center of the paper).When you finished the list, write ijou (以上) on the right side of the paper.
If you did not write your name and contact details above, you can write it above or below the attachment list.

Make sure to keep the tone of the letter humble but clear. Do not boast, and do not downright say you are the best person for the job, only imply.


Mailing your resume

If you can send by email, we advise to convert your resume to a PDF as it will guarantee the format stays neat. You can change a Word document to PDF by selecting "save as" and selecting pdf for file type below the document name.
However, most companies would like you to send a hard-copy by mail. This requires a few more details, as you now also need to follow the right procedure for writing and sending the envelope.
First, a few guidelines:

  • Do not fold your resume (other than in the middle where it should be pre-folded). Therefore, choose an envelope the size of your CV.
  • Place your resume (or resumes, if you are sending in multiple languages) with the accompanying letter in a clear file before placing them in the envelope. Not only will this prevent your resume from getting damaged, but it will also keep everything together neatly for the receiving company.
  • Make sure you stick on enough stamps. If unsure how much is needed, take your letter to the post office and ask an employee how much you need to stick on (and buy and send immediately).
Regarding the text on the envelope, you are in luck if you bought a "resume set" including an envelope. Usually there is a guideline included on how to write the envelope, and there will be small boxes for the zip code and a bigger box signifying you are sending a resume printed in red on the envelope itself. However, even is your envelope is pristine white, you check the image on the right to check what needs to go where (click to make it open in a new tab).
  • Front
    1. In the upper right corner, horizontally write the company's postal code (if there are boxes, one digit per box).
    2. Underneath the postal code, still on the right side of the envelope, vertically write the company address. Write the building name or any other details on the left side of the address line.
    3. In the middle of the envelope, write in big letters the company name (including their type, such as 株式会社 or 一般財団法人). On the left of that line, write the department and the full name of the addressee with sama (様) added. If you do not know, write to Human Resources (総務部人事課) and add onchuu (御中).
    4. In the bottom left corner, there will be something like rirekisho zaichuu (履歴書在中) printed to indicate you are mailing your resume. If these characters are not printed, it is advised to write them down.
    5. In the upper left corner, stick the right amount of stamps.
  • Back
    1. On the upper left side, write the date of posting the resume. Write the date vertically, but write the digits in Arabic numerals (and horizontally). For the year, use the Japanese calendar (e.g.: 2015 is 平成27, 2016 is 平成28).
    2. Write your own postal code, address and name in the bottom left corner in about the same way as you wrote the company address on the front. Try to neatly align the characters.
    3. When the envelope is written and the contents checked and placed inside, close the envelope, preferably seal it with a glue stick and write a 〆 mark over the flap in a way that it would not be a neat character if the flap got re-opened.

As some final advice:

If you make a mistake while hand-writing either the resume, letter or the envelope, it is preferred to start over rather than correcting the mistake. Correction fluid, correction tape, or worse, scratched out characters will all look sloppy and convey the image you do not care about either the job or the company you are writing too.

Good luck!