Job Hunting In Japan 101: 5 Tips on How to Write a 履歴書 (Rirekisho) or Japanese Resume

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

By: Quilleran Cronwall

Published date: September 28th, 2019

Writing a rirekisho is an essential part of the job hunting process in Japan. Like a resume, a rirekisho is a tool to help you show off your skills to a potential employer and distinguish yourself from other applicants. Read on to learn for tips on how to write a job-winning Rirekisho.

Writing a Rirekisho (履歴書), or Japanese resume can be a daunting task. Not only is a rirekisho more in-depth and complicated than your typical resume, there’s also the challenge of writing in Japanese and making sure that your handwriting is clear and without mistakes. To help you through writing your Rirekisho, here are 5 essential tips:

Shukatsu 101 "Job-hunt for new graduate is very different in Japan"

In Japan, companies don't offer specific positions to new graduates, instead companies give "tickets" to students get into the company after graduation, and then his/her position will be decided after the first few months. Let's talk about some key differences between Japanese and World standard for new graduate recruitment.

2 major section of Rirekisho : 自己PR and 志望動機

What is 自己PR? Directly translated, 自己PR means "Self-promotion", and is about promoting yourself by presenting past experiences and achievements, in another words "Your Strengths." At SPeak Corp.(Jport Journal's founding company), we define 自己PR as what makes you "different or stand out" from other candidates. You can include both soft skills and hard skills in this section, yet companies have a tendency to look at your soft skills more than your hard skills unless you have a specific skill that companies require. Interviewing a new graduate, most companies will focus more on soft skills, potential or experiences.

What is 志望動機

志望動機 is the "reasons why you want to work for a particular company and why the company should hire you", in another words "Your Purpose".

According to SPeak Corp. a good 志望動機 should include the followings:

① What you like about the company & How you can contribute

② Why the company should hire you over other candidates(Similar to 自己PR)

Technical tips for writing Rirekisho

1. Use a black pen and make sure to have legible handwriting.

Using any other color is seen as unprofessional. Handwritten Rirekisho are less common these days, but smaller and more traditional companies may require you to submit a handwritten copy. Remember that no mistakes are allowed on hand written copies, so even a single misplaced period will cause you to have to rewrite the whole thing. One tip to help you write more neatly in Japanese is to use a thinner pen. This will make it easier to space your kanji correctly, and create more room in longer writing sections.

2. School and work history are listed with dates from oldest to newest.

Your most recent occupation or education would be listed towards the lower part of the page. Make sure that when listing dates, years are written using the Japanese calendar, for example, 1998 would be Heisei 平成10 (Heisei 10) Finally, when listing your education history remember to include your high school.

3. Make sure your photo is the correct size, and that in it you are wearing business attire.

Your photo should be 2.4-3cm width and 3.6-4cm height. Photo booths designed for taking passport photos have a rirekisho size setting when printing photos, so they are the easiest way to obtain them. In your photo smile sightly without showing your teeth as if in a passport photo. The image below demonstrates the approximate size and style of a proper rirekisho photo.

4. If you applied for a job online, make sure to bring a copy of your rirekisho to your interview.

If you are job hunting you’ll most likely be filling out many Rirekisho that are customized for the company you are applying for, thus remembering what you wrote for a particular company can be a challenge. Bringing an extra copy to your interview will allow you to brush up on what you wrote and provide your interviewer with an extra copy in case he/she neglected to print one out.

International Student Voices on Rirekisho

Jonathan, an Indonesian student currently job hunting in Yamanashi Prefecture had the following to say about Japanese resumes:

What were some of the challenges you faced in writing Rirekisho?

"Japanese language skill. Sometimes I’d I write things that I thought made sense, but then when I took them to my Japanese professor, he had a lot of corrections for me to make. Learning how to write in business language was a real challenge that I’m still getting used to."

How is Rirekisho different from a normal resume?

"I haven’t written a normal resume myself, but I think the Rirekisho is fairly organized. I’ve seen resumes that my friends have written, and each one of them looked different. I guess resumes can have a custom format, while there’s not much difference between different types of rirekisho."

Did you write your rirekisho by hand most of the time, or could you submit online?

"Most companies I applied to wanted a handwritten resume because it shows you worked hard for it. The problem with writing by hand is that you can’t make mistakes."

Do you have any advice for foreign students writing their Rirekisho in preparation for Shuukatsu?

"Look at samples online before writing your own. Job hunting websites have “how-to write a resume” pages that make it easy for foreigners to see how it’s done. Also, if you’re still in college, talk to your advisor. They can help with translating what you want to say, and help you find out how to market yourself. You have to know how to sell yourself. Different companies want different types of workers. When I applied to work at a hotel I wrote about my people skills, but when I applied for an office job I wrote about my computer skills.

Also, be familiar with the content of your rirekisho during an interview. You will be asked questions based on what you wrote, and if you can’t answer you won’t get the job.

Word of advice: Staying organized with the different rirekisho you write for the companies you apply for is paramount to success. One way to organize your various rirekisho is to place a one copy for each company in a separate folder, so when you get called back for an interview you’ll immediately have a copy on hand."