How to do a Japanese resume? Rirekisho or Shokumukeirekisho?

La création d'un CV est un moment critique lorsque l'on souhaite trouver son premier emploi au Japon. Les candidats japonais utilisent trois modèles de CV, le rirekisho, le shokumukeirekisho et le CV occidental. Découvrez-les dans cet article.

How to do a Japanese resume? Rirekisho or Shokumukeirekisho?

How to do a Japanese resume? Rirekisho or Shokumukeirekisho? 1920 1080 Michaël da Silva Paternoster

You plan to live in Japan but you have not found work on the spot yet? You are in working holiday, studying or with a spouse visa in Japan and you absolutely need cash in order to stay? Your first reaction might be to try to find a job that will allow you to live comfortably in the Land of the Rising Sun. But the first obstacle between you and the employment isn’t easy to overcome without guidance: the Japanese resume.

Do I have to translate my CV in Japanese? In what format should it be? Does it need an ID photo? What will make my resume irresistible to recruiters behind these job postings?

If you ask yourself these questions, you’ve just landed on the web page you were looking for. I was confused when I was looking for a job in Japan for the first time. It took me months to understand what was wrong with my applications. But, fortunately for you, I intend to save you time!

Who am I?

I’m Michaël da Silva Paternoster, a French living in Japan since 2016. My interest in Japanese culture led me to travel and to live in this country. Today, I work as a manager and consultant in digital marketing for Japanese companies wishing to target foreigners, and international projects wanting to make it in Japan.

Let’s get to know:

In this article, I will answer all the questions I had when I arrived in WHV in Japan in 2016 and it was absolutely necessary that I find a job to pay my room in Tokyo and fill my fridge.

There is nothing more frustrating than sending hundreds of resumes in Japanese without knowing why we don’t receive any invitations for interviews. We often question ourselves, but we don’t really know what’s wrong with our application.

My strategy has obviously worked, since I still live in Tokyo today. I really hope that with my few tips you will be able to make a resume that will catch the eye of managers and recruiters in Japan.

Best of all, I already had to recruit for two Japanese companies I worked for. So I have a better idea of what Japanese recruiters expect from an application to be selected.

On this page, I will introduce you to the two most common resume formats in Japan: Rirekisho and Shokumukeirekisho. You can translate these words in traditional Japanese CV and its modernized version. I will also give you some tips for choosing between these two models and the classic resume in English when you apply for a job in Japan.

What will we talk about?

This article covers all the questions you can ask about resumes in Japan. Because of this, it is rather long. This menu can help you jump to the part you are interested in:

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.

Exemple de RirekishoThere 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!

Name (氏名)

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.

Fun fact:

J’ai déjà reçu un CV avec une photo d’une personne se trouvant dans un izakaya. Ne faites pas ça, s’il vous plaît.

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.

Pro tip:

Vous devez fixer votre photo avec de la colle. N’utilisez pas de ruban adhésif. Ecrivez votre nom au dos de votre photo au cas où elle se décolle de votre CV.

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.

Signature

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).

Fun fact :

I have already received the resume of someone born on the 11th of the 28th month of the year. Strange.

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.

Your gender

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.

Man.

Woman.

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.

Pro tip:

Master’s degree are rare in Japan. If you have a specialized master’s degree, a good level in Japanese and a few years of professional experience, you are a real gem in the Japanese job market.

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.

Pro tip:

I think I got my first three jobs in Japan thanks to my three-year experience as a project manager at Orange, a French corporation of tens of thousands of employees. That’s why I often advise people who want to immigrate to Japan to gain first professional experience in their country.

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.

Your strenghts

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.

Pro tip:

This section is the perfect opportunity to state the tools and softwares you are mastering and to highlight your accomplishments with data.

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”.

Additional details

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).

Shokumukeirekisho: the modern Japanese resume

The Shokumukeirekisho (職務経歴書) is a more modern version of the Japanese CV, it is directly inspired by Western resumes. The main advantage of this model over Rirekisho is that it makes it easier to highlight the tasks and responsibilities performed in each of the jobs the candidate has done in the past.

This model is often expected by foreign companies and recruitment agencies, who are rarely fond of the lack of information on traditional Japanese CVs. In addition, some Japanese companies request it instead or in addition to a Rirekisho.

The Shokumukeirekisho is perfect if you already have experience in the field of activity in which you are applying. It will allow you to list all of your skills and tools that you master. On the other hand, fresh graduates will have less interest in using it.

Modern Japanese resume format

Many will tell you that modern Japanese resume is simply a translation of your resume. Although there are many more similarities between the Shokumukeirekisho and the Western CV than with the Rirekisho, it’s false to say that it’s a simple portage in Japanese. The Shokumukeirekisho is most often divided into four parts:

  • Resume (職務要約): Make a paragraph in which you explain who you are and what your professional experience is. Candidates generally indicate the number of years of experience they have in each activity sector and their most important achievements.
  • Career (職務経歴): This part is divided into two sections. In the first half, you need to focus on the essentials. You can use bullet points to be as concise as possible. The second half is much more detailed. I’ll talk about it soon after.
  • Experience, abilities and technologies (活かせる経験・知識・技術): Here, you must list your skills (your know-how). Bullet points will do the trick.
  • Qualifications (資格) : You can add your certifications in this part.
Pro tip:

Contrairement au Rirekisho, vous n’êtes pas obligé de mettre un photo sur votre Shokumukeirekisho. Cependant, si vous décidez d’ajouter votre portrait à votre CV, veuillez utiliser les conseils que je vous ai donné à ce sujet dans la section où je traite du CV japonais traditionnel.

In the second part (職務 経 歴) of your modern Japanese CV, you should detail each of your professional experiences with the following information:

  • The length of time you were involved in the project (期間).
  • Product or service you worked on (物件・担当製品).
  • The title of your project (業務タイトル).
  • What you were doing on this project and other numerical details that could make you stand out (規模・担当業務).
  • The size of the team in which you have evolved and your role within it (メンバー/役割).

This section of your resume can be on multiple pages. You must detail as much as possible your previous projects and your contribution on them.

Download a template of Shokumukeirekisho

I invite you to complete this blank Shokumukeirekisho template. Using this Word file will save you a few tens of minutes, since you’ll not have to create the structure of your file.

When to choose between Rirekisho, Shokumukeirekisho (in Japanese) and a CV in English?

I created this diagram to help you choose between the different models of Japanese resume that we have discussed and a simple English version of your curriculum.

Do I have to send a Rirekisho or a modern Japanese CV?

It is really difficult to give a clear and precise answer on this question. There are three factors that can influence this response: the company you are applying for, its industry and your experience.

As I said earlier, foreign companies based in Japan will tend to prefer a shokumukeirekisho while large Japanese corporations expect a Rirekisho in every application.

If you are applying for a startup or a small business, you will likely be in a multipurpose position. In this case, choose a Shokumukeirekisho in which you can show the full extent of your abilities.

The modern Japanese CV has a lot of interest in the technical fields. If you’re applying to become a developer, engineer or top-level marketer, it’ll be best to join a Shokumukeirekisho to your application, even if a Rirekisho is already there.

On the other hand, if you have very little experience in the field, a Rirekisho can do the trick. New graduates willn’t have much to win from making a modern Japanese resume unless they have already gained a lot of experience through internships or personal projects.

Do I have to write my resume in Japanese or English?

Regarding the language in which you should write your resume, it seems logical that you send a CV in Japanese to job offers written in this language. However, if you are applying for an ad written in English, don’t waste your time translating your resume into Japanese. Unless it’s stated somewhere in the offer, recruiters most often wish to receive applications in the same language as they used to describe the position.

I’ve already helped the Japanese companies I worked for to recruit foreigners. Most often these companies wrote their job offers in English, because the level of Japanese of the candidates didn’t matter. Despite this, we received, each time, Rirekisho written by immigrants unable to speak Japanese correctly. Each time, the traditional Japanese resume has penalized them.

Some additional tips

Complete your Rirekisho with black ink

Employers attached to traditions prefer handwritten resumes. If you aren’t afraid of anything and you have a lot of time to spare, you can complete all your Rirekisho with a black ballpoint pen. The blue ink is also accepted, but don’t use red, green or other whimsical colors.

Also, don’t use different pens to fill the same resume.

Why do the Japanese write their CV by hand? Because it shows that they’re involved in their application. Recruiters take more seriously the people who make the effort to inscribe by hand their course and their personal information.

When to write a cover letter?

You don’t have to write a cover letter if you use the Rirekisho format. Indeed, the traditional Japanese CV model leaves you enough space to explain why you are the perfect candidate for this job. If you’re really afraid of missing out on the perfect job, take the time to rewrite a cover letter in Japanese.

Otherwise, don’t hesitate to fill in your application form with a cover letter written in the same language as the one used in your resume. Remember that the Japanese mail structure is very different from the standards used in the rest of the world.

There is no point in cheating on your language skills

If your level in Japanese is not enough to read a job description, I advise you not to apply. Indeed, it is useless to use a translation software to decipher what is said in the ad, then to have your resume translated by someone else or a machine.

You will not be hired if you are unable to understand a job offer. Don’t waste your time preparing a resume and sending it. Because even if your application is kept at first, you’ll necessarily have to do an interview to get the job. Anyway, you’ll not have any chance to wow the recruiters if you don’t have the language level required to do the job well.

Instead, continue to look for a job that matches your qualifications. I know that it’s often difficult to find a job in Japan that doesn’t require a good level in Japanese, but it’s not something impossible! I am the perfect example. You’ll especially need a lot of patience to succeed.

Be honest about your situation

Don’t lie on your address or visa. Don’t say that you live in Japan, if you have a simple tourist visa or are currently in another country. Don’t say that you can work if your visa in Japan doesn’t allow you. Also, don’t lie on the expiry date of your visa.

Your lies will be discovered sooner or later during the recruitment process. And you risk losing the trust of recruiters in just a few seconds.

How to post a Japanese resume?

Don’t bend your resume in an envelope. Use an A4 or B5 size (a Japanese document format). As for the Rirekisho, you can buy these envelopes in a Konbini. Some packages of blank traditional Japanese resume templates already contain envelopes in the right format.

What if you made a mistake somewhere?

Don’t scratch your resume, cover letter or envelope. I am sad to tell you this truth, but if you made a mistake it’s better to start your document from scratch. This is why you have to write your application in a quiet place where you’re sure not to be disturbed. Don’t hesitate to turn off your mobile phone to keep focused.

Michaël da Silva Paternoster

French living in Japan since 2016. I work as a manager and marketing consultant for several Japanese and foreign companies.

All stories by : Michaël da Silva Paternoster