Rirekisho: the traditional Japanese resume
The first type of resume we are going to talk about is Rirekisho (経歴書). It’s considered to be the most traditional CV format in Japan, because it has been used since the end of the Second World War. It was mainly used to recruit graduates. Until the 90’s, the Japanese standard was to stay in the same company throughout his career.
Despite its age, this model is still very popular with large Japanese companies. This type of resume allows them to massively recruit new graduates at the end of their last academic year: between March and April. But it’s not only made for new workers, since many Zaibatsu, the biggest Japanese corporations, expect more experienced candidates to send a Rirekisho to apply.
This format leaves very little room for creativity. Unlike Westerners, Japanese don’t create their resumes from scratch using word processing or publishing software, such as Microsoft Word or Publisher.
Indeed, you’ll only have to buy a form which you will have to fill in with a black pen with your personal information and your educational and professional background. Rirekisho’s virgin models can be purchased at konbini, Japanese convenience stores, for around 100 yen.
Otherwise, you can find free copies in Town Work. This free magazine, which you can find in most subway stations, lists the job offers in your city. These are mainly part-time jobs, the famous “Baito”, perfect for foreign students in Japan.
This system facilitates the work of recruiters who can easily compare several applications at the same time, without having to worry about the whimsical designs created by the candidates. This also relieves the person who completes his resume in Japanese, who then has to focus on his personal information without spending hours creating a model from scratch.
Rirekisho form example
Here is an example of a traditional Japanese resume. The original document is normally in A3 format.
There are actually several models of Rirekisho each with slight differences. These variations make it possible to better adapt to the profile of the candidate (novice or expert) and to the type of employment sought (part-time or full-time, qualified or not). But 95% of the document remains the same, no matter which model you use.
Download a blank Rirekisho template
Nipponrama members can download a blank traditional Japanese resume template in PDF. You can complete it on a computer and then print it yourself.
How to write a Japanese CV in Rirekisho format?
You have your Rirekisho in paper or digital format but you do not really know how to fill it? In this part, I explain how to complete all sections of a Rirekisho without making a fatal mistake for your application!
You know it necessarily. Write it in Romaji (Latin letters) if you don’t have a name that can be written with kanji (Chinese characters).
In the field “Furigana”, write the phonetic transcription of your name in hiragana if the title is written with this writing system (ふりがな) or in katakana if it is marked “フリガナ”.
ID photo (写真)
This may seem strange in some cultures, but it’s imperative that your Rirekisho be provided with a photo ID. Some Japanese recruiters don’t hesitate to reject candidates on the basis of this single photo. This may seem unfair, but it’s the sad reality of the Japanese market. Make sure to look serious and professional on this image.
The format of the photo is governed by very specific rules. First, its size should be 4 cm by 3 cm, with a uniform background. You can print this kind of photo in photo booths you can find in stations, konbini or in some shopping centers.
Another important point is that your picture should look like you during the interview. Which means, you must have a professional outfit: a black suit with a light shirt, preferably white or blue. Ideally, men should wear a non-whimsical tie. If you wear glasses daily, they must be on your photo.
You cannot use an old photo to look younger or attractive. Recruitment is like Tinder in Japan, you will look bad during your first appointment if you lie on your profile.
Smile, but don’t show your teeth, it’s bad. If you have long hair, fold them behind your ears.
Some resume models ask you to stamp your CV with your Inkan (or Hanko), your personal stamp that acts as a signature in Japan. If you don’t have one, sign this part by hand without overflowing out of the box.
Date of the candidature (日付) and birth date (生年月日)
Before going into these two fields in more detail, I need to tell you about a Japanese quirk. The Japanese use two dating systems: one that is used in the Western world and that is derived from Christianity, and another system that is purely Japanese. This second model is based on the reigns of the Japanese Emperors. The counter is reset each time an Emperor is enthroned and each of these eras has a specific name (Heisei, Showa, Taisho …).
Traditionalists will tell you that it’s essential to use the Japanese dating system on your Rirekisho. In fact, nothing prevents you from using the other method if you are afraid of making mistakes. But it’s imperative that you use only one of these two systems throughout your resume, to remain consistent.
In addition, also pay attention to the structure of dates. Regardless of the dating model you choose, you must write the year (年) first, then the month (月) and finally the day of the month (日).
Regarding the “Application Date” field, you should not include the date on which you fill in your Rirekisho, but the date on which you send the document to the company. If you hand in your Japanese resume, write the date on which you meet a company contact.
Rirekisho is very traditional about this point. You’ll not have access to cisgender, only to Man and Woman. Circle the kanji that best suits your situation.
Your address (住所)
Here, you must write your full Japanese address using as few abbreviations as possible. If you live in “Shibuya 1-2-3” you will need to clearly write your district, block and building number using the appropriate kanji:
- 丁目 : District.
- 番地 : Block.
- 号 : Building number.
The result on your traditional Japanese resume will be: “Shibuya 一丁目2番地3号” or “Shibuya 1丁目2番地3号”.
In some models of Rirekisho, you’ll find a section called “連絡先” (Renrakusaki), it’s used to add a second address. You can leave this field empty or put your e-mail address there.
Your phone number (電話番号)
You have enough space to write two phone numbers. You will be able to write your landline phone number and your mobile phone number. As in the West, young Japanese use less and less land lines and prefer to use their smartphones. It is therefore totally accepted to write only one number in this section of Rirekisho.
Don’t forget to add your international dialing code at the beginning of your phone number if you live abroad or if you don’t have a Japanese phone number yet.
Education (学歴) and professional experience (職歴)
The sections Education and Professional Experience is in the same part of the Rirekisho, it’s up to you to delimit each of these two parts with titles:
- “学歴” : Education;
- “職歴” : Professional experience.
Unlike Western resumes, you must write your diplomas and professional experience in chronological order, that is, from the oldest to the most recent.
As a general rule, it’s advisable to mark only your two or three last post-high school or specialized degrees. There’s no point in writing that you have studied in a high school in Toledo, Ohio.
If you graduated from abroad (meaning “out of Japan”), start each line with the country and then the state or province of your school. This will help recruiters find information about each institution.
Add the professional experiences that seem relevant to the position you are applying for, or to enhance your application. Some Japanese recruiters say you shouldn’t add your part-time jobs (“Baito” in Japanese). Personally, I think that each of your jobs says something positive about you. I’d advise you to register all your experiences, including your internships, in your Japanese resume.
Remember to add the number of employees next to the name of each company you worked for. Many managers think that people who have worked for big companies are more competent than candidates from a SME. Japan isn’t a “Startup Nation” yet.
Use the official names of the companies you worked for, not their trade names or their brand. Most of the time, the official names of Japanese companies include their status (such as Kabushiki Kaisha, abbreviated to K.K., for example).
Write “現在に至る.” (Which can be translated as “Until now”) at the end of this section if you are currently working. In any case, write “以上” (translatable to “That’s all”) at the bottom right of this part of the Rirekisho.
Other diplomas and certificates (免許・資格)
I advise you to list all the certificates you have in this section. Whether they are valid in Japan or not. If any of the exams you have passed are of no value in Japan, briefly specify it.
These licenses can cover professional fields, language (JLPT, TOEIC, TOEFL …), sports … You can also add that you have the Japanese driving license (or a translation) in this part.
If you absolutely want to complete this part of the Rirekisho perfectly, you’ll have to write the name of the certificates as follows: “Name of the certificate 免許取得” or “Name of the examination 免許取得”.
You can inscribe your certificates in the order you want.
Your motivations (志望動機)
This part of the Rirekisho is very important. It has a function equivalent to the cover letter. You’ll have to answer succinctly the following questions: “Why do you want to work in this position and in this company?” and “What makes you the perfect candidate for this job?”. Explain also what appeals to you for this position.
As with motivational letters, try to personalize your answer as much as possible. Don’t make a simple copy and paste of the same generic text on each of your applications, the recruiters will understand it quickly enough to reject you.
Make sure you link your strengths, experience and hobbies to the job description. Don’t mark that you want to join the company to gain more experience, recruiters might believe that you want to use the company as a stepping-stone. This is rather frowned upon by large Japanese companies who want to keep their employees as long as possible.
This part allows you to stand out from the crowd. You must convince the recruiter that you’re a perfect candidate for the job. Your sentences must be complete and written in a professional Japanese (Keigo), unless you don’t have the language skills to do so. But, never use bullet points.
Travel time (通勤時間)
In this part, you must indicate the duration of your journey between your home and the office by taking the shortest route. Make sure you’ve found the right workplace address for the position you are applying for.
To make this estimate, you can use Google Maps or a Japanese app that shows train schedules.
Japanese employers are interested in this information because most of them pay the full cost of their employees’ transportation. This is a significant investment because public transportation is rather expensive in Japan.
Specific requests and notes (本人希望記入欄)
You can make specific requests or add information about yourself that isn’t somewhere else in your resume here. Some candidates take advantage of this space to indicate their availability for an interview.
If you have questions about the work, it is best to address them during your first job interview. You can leave this section of your Rirekisho empty or write that you will follow the conditions set by the company with this entence: “貴社規定に従います”.
Some models of Rirekisho asks a lot of private details. Sometimes you have to indicate if you have a spouse (配偶者), a person you need to help financially (配偶者の扶養義務) or the number of dependents in your household (扶養家族数).