Work in Japan Advice Board
A rirekisho (履歴書) is a document used to apply for a job in Japan. While most dictionaries would translate it as “resume”, Japanese employers have become accustomed to a certain style of rirekisho. Awareness of the fundamental differences between what is expected in Japan and western countries, in addition to the unwritten rules accepted as the status quo in Japan, will increase the likelihood that your application is successful.
While Daijob offers you the ability to create an online resume in order to apply to job postings, this article will explain the nuances and characteristics of a typical Japanese rirekisho.
It is worth noting that the following advice is very general; some companies provide their own application forms with their own way of filling in the document. We would advise sticking to the format set by the company if submitting a company-specific entry sheet.
The first thing to note about a rirekisho is that a template can be downloaded online or a physical template can be purchased from most convenience stores. While templates for western resumes are not uncommon, there are only minor differences in layout between templates for rirekisho. This indicates the relatively inflexible nature of the form itself.
Traditionally, a rirekisho should be written by hand in black ink, with no sign of correction tape or fluid. Each application to a job opening merits a new form, which means handwriting a new form each time. The form itself should not be folded and should fit into an envelope sized A4 or B5, often provided if purchasing from a convenience store.
These days however, it has become increasingly acceptable to fill in a rirekisho using a word processor. When sending a rirekisho by e-mail, while it is possible to handwrite a form, scan it and then send it in, using a word processor should be perfectly fine.
The final thing to note about the overall writing style of a rirekisho, is that dates should always be written using nengo, the system of writing the year by era (such as Heisei, Showa).
Naturally, the personal information section comes at the beginning of any rirekisho.
For westerners, the name section can actually pose a challenge due to the various different alphabets available to the writer. There is no set way of writing a western name in a rirekisho, but we would recommend using roman characters, with either hiragana or katakana to write in the furigana section to provide a pronunciation guide.
Furthermore, the typical name order in Japan is the reverse of the western format. This can prove particularly troublesome for those with a surname that could be easily be confused with a first name.
To resolve this, we recommend using the character 姓 (sei) to indicate a surname and 名(mei) to indicate a first name on the form.
The top right section of a rirekisho is almost always reserved for a photograph. The author of this article recounts handing in a rirekisho with a copy of a passport photo printed on the form and having it handed straight back, demanding a real passport photo glued to the form itself. Therefore, if handing in a physical document, always use a real glued-on passport photo! In addition, wear a suit in the photo to keep it professional and ensure that make-up is kept conservative if you are a woman.
As mentioned previously, the date of birth should be written using the nengo system and the gender should be circled 男 (otoko) for male and 女 (onna) for female.
There are often two blocks for writing an address. The genjusho is for writing your current address, while the renrakusaki is for writing an additional contact address. Addresses should be written in the following order.
Prefecture, Ward/City, Town, ○○ Chome, ○○ Ban, ○○ Go
For example, the address of Daijob (as of December 2014) would be:
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 7 Chome 5 Ban 25 Go
The readings for town/building names etc. may be written above in either hiragana or katakana.
These days, there is often a section for e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers, which can be used. We highly recommend having a contactable phone number in Japan, if only for the purpose of filling in forms! If getting a mobile phone contract is out of the question, purchasing a fixed line number on Skype may be a useful alternative.
The majority of rirekisho templates will have separate sections for gakureki (academic record) and shokureki (employment history). If the section is the same, start with the gakureki by writing the characters 学歴 in the center of the top box. There should be a space for the year/month and a space to write the location, name and the type of school, followed by either nyugaku (matriculation) or sotsugyo (graduation). Note that contrary to western resumes within which dates are recorded in reverse chronological order, a entries recorded in a rirekisho are recorded in chronological order.
Non-Japanese applicants should start with the country, followed by the state, and then school name. Each school should have two lines dedicated to it, the first of which showing the date the applicant started and the second when the applicant graduated.
Elementary and Junior High schools only truly require the graduation date.
For university entries, it is common to list the name, faculty and then department in the lines for matriculationand graduation. A line may be inserted in the middle if necessary to list any senko (majors) or fukusenko (minors), or a line may be inserted after graduation to list a sotsugyo ronbun (graduation thesis).
After all entries, on right side of the next line write 以上 (ijo, end of entry).
If the academic record and employment history are supposed to be entered within the same block, leave a line after the academic record entries and write 職歴 centered in the largest column. Like previously, entries should be written in chronological order as opposed to reverse chronological order, common in Western resumes.
There are usually two lines per job, one for nyuusha (company entry) and one for taishoku (company departure). The official name of the company should be used instead of how it is known commercially, including suffixes such as kabushiki gaisha (stock company). The employment history section of a rirekisho also typically states the reasons for leaving a previous position. There are three useful expressions for explaining this:
1) 一身上の都合により退社 (left for personal reasons)
2) 契約満了により退社 (contract ended)
3) 会社都合により退社 (left for company reasons)
Applicants should prepare to answer questions at the interview stage regarding why they left any previous position.
Part-time jobs or internships can be listed on one line and no reason needs to be given for leaving. If any jobs were performed through a temp agency, it is common to write the name of the agency followed by haken gaisha on one line, followed by the name of the company dispatched to and position on the next.
After all entries have been created, write 以上 on the right side of the next line to indicate the end of the section.
This section is devoted to listing any qualifications, licenses or certificates the applicant may be in possession of, regardless of their relevance to work. Non-Japanese applicants could use this space to mention their JLPT certificate (if they have one) or a driving license etc. A University degree does not need to be listed here.
While it may depend on the rirekisho template, most will require the following information.
1) 志望動機shibou douki (reason for wanting to join the company)
2) 通勤時間tsukin jikan (commuting time)
3) 扶養者 fuyousha (dependants)
The shibou douki is one of the most important and most difficult parts of writing a resume. You should bear in mind the following 3 points to write this the Japanese way.
1) If you are applying to a specific job opening, the vast majority will include some information pertaining to what they consider to be their ideal candidate. Make sure you address these qualities in your shibou douki.
2) Companies want to see stability and an interest in staying for a long period of time. Express how you see your career developing.
3) Look at the job description or company webpage to find out characteristics of the company. Then present evidence of how you would fit in well with those characteristics.
The tsukin jikan and fuyousha boxes do not require any special instruction, just fill in as necessary as well as any other information requested.
There is often a section in which students can include any request they have regarding salary, work hours, location etc. Be careful about what you write and make sure you show how the company can benefit from your request as opposed to you personally. Also be warned that leaving this section blank may indicate a lack of interest.
If you want to leave it blank, you may use the phrase 特になし (tokuni nashi, nothing in particular).
While these rules are applicable for most rirekisho, there are a number of different templates available and some companies will even give you a specific form to fill in. If a company needs an entry form filled out in a specific way, make sure you follow their instructions!
Also worth mentioning is that the steps outlined above may appear quite rigid, but the aim of the rirekisho is purely to get an interview. It is the author’s personal belief that you should be yourself as much as possible to judge the synergy between yourself and a company, and as such these guides should be taken only as a helping hand to take you through what is considered normal in Japan.
Good luck with your job search!