• Shiori W

How to write a Japanese resume and cover letter when applying for a job in Japan.

Have you ever written a resume and cover letter in Japan?

Generally, there are 3 documents a person is supposed to submit when applying for a job. These documents are usually submitted before being called in for an interview.

The three documents which are usually required by companies are a Rirekisho (履歴書) , Shokumu-Keirekisho (職務経歴書) , and the Soufu-jo (送付状).

1. Rirekisho (履歴書)

A resume is a document where one writes their name, address, contact information, education history, and employment history. In most cases, it’s printed on A3 or B4 paper.

2. Shokumu-Keirekisho (職務経歴書)

This is separate from your Rirekisho (Resume). It is an additional document sometimes included with a resume. Shokumu-Keirekisho is generally printed on A4 paper. On it, an applicant should detail their employment history, including the name of the company an applicant has worked at, the period of employment, job description, job title, and applied technical skills. The information should be listed chronologically.

3. Soufu-jo (送付状)

This is a cover letter to be included with a resume. In Japan, a cover letter is supposed to be printed on A4 paper and included as the first document on top of an applicant’s resume if it is being mailed. You should not write your reasons for applying for the job or why you should be picked. You should, simply, address who you’re sending the documents to, write a simple greeting and sign off, and list the documents that you will be sending so that the person can confirm that they’ve received everything.

Have you seen these three items before?

If not, why don’t we learn more about these documents together.

Japanese and Western style resumes have some interesting differences.

Learning the basics Japanese resumes and the job application process in Japan will help you when applying for a job in Japan or when checking a Japanese resume sent to your company! It can also help to understand what a Japanese applicant wants to express in their application.

Today’s topics

  1. Background

  2. Basics of composing a Rirekisho (履歴書) Resume

  3. Basics of composing a Shokumu Keirekisho (職務経歴書) The additional document to be sent sometimes with a resume.

  4. Basics of composing a Soufu-Jo(送付状) Japanese cover letter.

1. Background

About seven years ago, around 2013, I handwrote many resumes in my search for my first job.

It is widely believed in Japan that “One’s handwriting and style of writing shows their personality.” I remember having to start over many times and wasting a lot of paper because I wrote a single letter wrong. I really wanted to write my resume using a computer but at the time it was inadvisable.

Nowadays in the year 2020, that belief and custom of writing resumes by hand is changing. In some cases, it is even alright to send a resume via email in electronic formats. There are, however, still industries that prefer or require a handwritten resume so I recommend following guidelines stated by Japanese HR agencies.

Let’s take a look at what people in Japan usually include in their resume! I will introduce some tips and the basics of writing a resume in Japan.

2. Basics of composing a Rirekisho (履歴書), a resume

Link to a free template for a resume.

(This link will link will take you to a Japanese HR Agency’s site that has a free resume template. Please try to download the top orange one, the site is explained in Japanese so please use the site’s auto-translation function.)

Start by filling in the form from top left corner section first.

Date of when the form was filled out (記入年月日)

Fill in the date the form was filled out and write your name.

Should we use seireki (西暦), the Gregorian calendar or wareki (和暦), the Japanese calendar?

Generally, Japanese people usually write the date using the Japanese calendar year when filling out official forms. However, since it can be a little tricky for non-Japanese people to use the Japanese calendar, it is alright to use the Gregorian calendar year if you are not confident.

*Please be sure to keep the way you write the date consistent throughout your application. For example, if you write one date using the Japanese calendar, please continue to use the Japanese calendar date format for any other dates you need to write.

Please use the free items online to check more!

How to write Japanese calendar in Kanji?

Free Japanese calendar converter

Shimei (氏名), Name

Write your name in Japanese characters, your last name comes before your first name. Be sure to write the furigana above it. The furigana tells a person how your name is read.

Why is furigana required?

Furigana is used to confirm how to read a name in Japan. Japanese uses a variety of Chinese characters, called kanji (漢字). Often a character can be multiple ways so furigana is important for making sure the name is read correctly. Japanese people often confirm how to read a person’s name when meeting for the first time. Checking how the kanji can be read and remembering it can make it easier for some to remember people they’ve just met.

On documents, furigana must be written in hiragana (ひらがな) or katakana (カタカナ) . If Furigana is written in hiragana like this ふりがな, people generally write their name’s furigana in hiragana. If it’s written in katakana like this フリガナ, people write their name’s furigana in katakana.

So please confirm how furigana is written on a form before writing.

Gakureki (学歴), Education Background

List the schools you went to starting from junior high school (secondary school).

Include the date you enrolled in each school and the date you graduated. Be sure to write the date you enrolled and the date you graduated on separate lines.

After you’ve completed listing everything, write “以上” (ijou, means “that’s all”) on the next line.

Shokureki (職歴), Employment History

After the education background, the next section is for writing your employment history. List the jobs you’ve had and the companies you’ve worked for. Write the date you entered the company and the date you left it, on different lines. People, generally, only list jobs they had after graduating school. Any part time jobs one might have done while in school usually aren’t listed.

Be sure to include one of these set phrases on the line where you write what date you left a company or job. “一身上の都合で退職” isshinnjo no tsugo de taishoku, which means that you left the job for private reasons or “会社都合による解雇” kaisha tsugo ni yoru kaiko, which means that you resigned because of company restructuring or bankruptcy. It is common to write “private reasons”.

Shikaku (資格), Qualifications/Certifications

After writing your education history and employment history, next is the section for listing any qualifications or certifications you may hold. Be sure to write each certification on separate lines.

Not all Rirekisho (履歴書) have the same format, some have a section titled “特技・趣味” (特技 tokugi is for writing one’s strong points or what you’re good at doing / 趣味 shumi is for writing one’s hobbies). Writing something in this section can help you during an interview because the interviewer will have something to talk about with you.

Haigu-sha (配偶者), Spouse

配偶者(haigu-sha, means spouse) This section is for writing if you have a spouse or any dependents 扶養家族 (fuyo-kazoku). Please check either 有 (means “Yes, I have”) or 無 “(No, I don’t).

Honnin Kibou Kinyu-ran (本人希望記入欄), Notes about the interviewee

This is the section to write anything you wish to inform the company or interviewer about. For example, this is where you would write your work availability like being able to work on weekends. Being able to work weekends usually leaves a good impression on the HR person reviewing your application. Writing your availability can also help avoid any potential scheduling conflicts.

If there is nothing you’d like to note or say, simiply write, “特になし” tokuni nashi means nothing special. Leaving the section blank can confuse people or make them assume you forgot to fill it in.

3. Basics of composing a Shokumu Keirekisho (職務経歴書)

Links to a Japanese HR agency’s website that has free templates for Shokumu Keirekisho.

Please use the items in green circle.

A Shokumu Keirekisho is generally written in word or excel. It’s often sent via email to a company as a PDF file or mailed after being printed on an A4 sized paper.

The shokumu-keirekisho is a more detailed account of the information written in the rirekisho (resume).

When writing a shokumu-keirekisho, go into more detail about the companies and jobs listed in your employment history section. Be sure to write what industry the company was in, how much capital the company has, and the number of employees the company employs. This information will help the interviewer understand the size of the company you worked at previously.

People often check the websites of companies they were previously employed at, to get the information needed.

Include data for what you did in your past jobs.

I recommend that when writing about your past jobs, you should include hard numbers with your achievements.

For example, if one of your past jobs was in a customer service department.

1. I worked in the customer service department. I worked there resolving a large number of claims for two years. I dealt with the same claim a lot so I often worked with the logistics department. After cooperating with the logistics department we were able to reduce the amount of claims by 20% for the following 6 months.

2. I worked in the customer service department and handled about 500 claims during my two years there. I found that there were over 70 cases of the same claim over a period of three months. I reported this and cooperated with the logistics department to fix this issue. The number of these claims decreased by 20% over the following six months.

Which sentence helps you to better understand the person’s experiences? Which sentence leaves you with the impression that you’d like to work together with that person?

Before beginning to write your resume, I recommend organizing your thoughts about your work experiences.

In other cases, you can also write about things such as how much you helped to increase revenue, how many hours you usually worked, or how you raised productivity. It is recommended that you include hard numbers with your claims.

Shibou-douki, 志望動機 Reasons for applying to the job.

Explain logically but not too strongly.

On the latter part, finally one can explain the reason of applying for an interview. In this section, you can finally explain the reason you are applying for that job in particular. I think it is better to explain your reasons in a logical manner using your past experiences and being subjective about what you accomplished while in your past jobs. I think it is also good to include what you would like to challenge yourself to do and learn in the job you are applying for. Unlike Western resumes and applications, it’s best not to use language that is too strong or certain. For example “I can help the department by increasing productivity” might be a bit too strong; “I might be able to help the department by learning from my seniors and increasing productivity” this is not as certain and comes off as more professional and able to cooperate with others. Speaking less surely or strongly gives a better impression on Japanese interviewers because it gives an impression that you are willing to be a team member and not be a one-man show. It shows more humility. Please explain your achievements in a subjective manner.

Don’ts: Don’t exaggerate accomplishments to make you seem better.

Exaggerating your accomplishments or qualifications can cause trouble for you if you join the company. Your coworkers will expect more than you’re qualified to do. If you are not able to live up to expectations, then the company may use that as reason to fire you.

Ikaseru Sukiru (活かせるスキル), Applicable Skills

Please write any skills or qualifications you have here.

For example

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

*I can use the IF-function in Excel

HTML5, CSS, Javascript I have two years of experience in using these programming languages. I mainly used them for creating websites.

Daily conversation level English/I can speak English at a daily conversational level

Business level Chinese/I can speak Chinese at a business level

The best policy is to be honest. Being honest can help make sure you avoid a job that you may not be qualified for.

For people who switch jobs in Japan, the training for their new position is often lacking but they are expected to be able to do their job and learn what they need to, on their own. Saying yes to everything in an interview can lead a false representation of yourself and if you get the job, you may end up not being qualified for the work. Being honest is the best policy that will help the interviewer understand you and to decide if you fit the job.

4 Basics of composing a Soufu-Jo(送付状) Japanese cover letter.

Links to the site where one can download a free format of sofujo online.

*Please scroll down to around middle section, then there is a blue link to download the format.

If you are required to send documents via post, please include a cover letter on top of the documents. Collect all of the documents in an A4 sized clear file and then place that into an envelope to be mailed. You are not required to write your reasons for applying to a job on the Soufu-jo. Write a list of the documents you are sending so that the person receiving it can confirm that they have received everything.

How about today’s tips?

I hope all of you readers are staying safe at home.

It’s not clear when the world can open each country for business trips. However, we can share our tips via online, if you are looking for Japanese content writer, please feel free to contact me. It’s not clear when countries will open up again, allowing for travel for business but we can share tips online and continue to learning. If you are looking for someone to write content about Japan, please feel free to contact to me.

I will update with new content soon! See you later!