Here’s How You Can Ace Your Job Interview in Japan
It's important that you give a good first impression.
Japan is famous for its rich history, culture, and traditions. Whenever one looks up information about the country’s culture, they’re bound to come across an article talking about the unspoken rules that exist within Japanese society. For instance, when going to a job interview, one should knock on the door three times, wait for the interviewer to say “Douzo!”, before entering the room. Even the timing of one’s bow can have a bearing on an employer’s first impression of the person applying for the job.
Most foreigners, like us, will scour the internet for articles listing down the different “to-dos” and “not-to-dos” in an interview. And honestly, these lists can get pretty overwhelming. But, don’t fret! We asked a couple of Japanese and foreign senpais to share with us their advice on the different factors that matter during a job interview in Japan.
Hikari: Some companies will ask you to wear smart-casual clothes for the interview so you can relax, as well as, let the interviewer see the real you. However, it is still important to match your style with the company’s corporate culture.
Karen: As a foreigner, it takes so much energy to craft a resume before the interview. What I learned from past experience is that using difficult Japanese words isn’t necessarily always a good thing, especially if you’re not as proficient in the Japanese language as how you appear to be in the resume. Although it’s good practice to ask help from your agent in editing your resume, just make sure that you’ll be able to explain everything written there thoroughly.
Yuki: All of us know that it’s unacceptable to arrive late to a job interview. But did you know that arriving too early isn’t good either? This makes perfect sense since your interviewer also has certain tasks to finish and a schedule to follow. What I did was to arrive at least five to 10 minutes before the appointment time. Whenever I arrived too early, I simply kill time by drinking a cup of coffee at a cafe near the office building.
Tomoyo: If, however, due to an unavoidable circumstance, you know that you’ll be running late for the interview, it’s best to call the company as soon as possible. Make sure to inform them of your expected time of arrival in the office too. This will show that you respect your interviewer’s time.
Putri: For a foreigner, it’s very difficult to use keigo especially when you’re nervous during the interview. The more I was unable to put my thoughts into words, the more I lost confidence during the interview. But after getting a job offer, I realized that the interviewers cared more about the context of my responses, my personality, and my motivation.
Rizki: For me, who has been working and living in Japan for more than five years already, it’s normal to be expected to know how to use keigo at a certain level.
The Reason Why You Want to Work in Japan
Kyle: This is the question that most interviewers ask foreign candidates. During one interview, I said, “Because I love the Japanese culture and I want to live in Japan.” But then, the interviewer commented, “That’s what everyone answers. I want to know your deeper insight.” From then on, I started really thinking about what it was that I wanted to do with my career. You see, we often forget to consider the kind of job we want to do or how much we actually trust a company with our future. Sometimes, the determination to work and live in the country supersedes what is truly essential.
Nagisa: Looking back, I’ve learned that showing eagerness and sincerity are both very important. We must always remember that interviews are two-way communication. Listening to your interviewer is as essential as answering their questions. If you’re really interested in the company, you’ll listen carefully to what the interviewer tells you.
Hikari: It’s better to look into the interviewer’s eyes when you talk. However, this isn’t an easy thing to do for everyone. So if you’re shy like me, try looking at their temple or nose area instead. It works!
Grace: Since I’m not that proficient in the Japanese language, I tried memorizing Japanese phrases for typical questions. It didn’t work because my answers didn’t come out naturally. I wish I showed more of who I really was during the interview.
Rachel: Let’s think of it this way: The interview is not only a way for a company to assess if you’re fit for the job, but it is also an opportunity for you to understand each company.
While it is essential to familiarize yourself with the common practices in Japanese job interviews, it is still far more important to show your true self and express your thoughts. Some people are quite desperate to get a job offer when their visas are about to expire. But it is always best to be reminded of the things that you should consider when taking a job or coming in for an interview. Think of it in the long run. It is more meaningful to work in a company that values and inspires you. Vice versa, it would be a shame if you couldn’t be yourself just because you bound yourself to these unspoken rules. Have a heart of respect, and all will be well.
(26 September 2019)