Job-hunting In Japan: Basic Tips on Writing an Award Winning Japanese Resume

January 07, 2020 5 min read

Writing a rirekisho (Japanese resume) is an essential part of the job-hunting process in Japan. 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 tips on how to write a stellar Japanese resume.

Author: Quilleran Cronwall | Published date: September 28th, 2019

Job-hunting for new graduates in Japan

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. Keep reading to learn all the tips you need to wow your recruiters. 

Job-hunting for new graduates in Japan is very different from the rest of the world. In Japan companies don't offer specific positions to new graduates, instead companies give "tickets" to students to get into the company after graduation, and then their position will be decided after the first few months. 

Let's talk about some key differences between the Japanese and the world standard for new graduate recruitment.

The key parts of a rirekisho: 自己PR and 志望動機

What is 自己PR?

Directly translated, 自己PR (jiko PR) means "self-promotion" and is about promoting yourself by presenting past experiences and achievements. It focuses on your strengths.

At JPort, 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 the latter unless you have a specific skill that companies require. So make sure to list out the specific soft skills that you have and have demonstrated through experiences. 

Head over to 就活Academy to learn more about what the 自己PR is, and how to write one through our FREE video courses on job-hunting in Japan. 

What is 志望動機?

志望動機 (shibou douki) is the reasons why you want to work for a particular company and why the company should hire you, or said simply, it is your purpose.

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 the 自己PR)  

If you want a more in-depth explanation on how to write each of these, head over to Shuukatsu Academy for access to free courses about job-hunting.

Tips for writing a Japanese resume

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.


School and work history

This section is divided into two parts, your education history and your working experiences. You normally begin with your school history on your rirekisho, starting by your high school then your most recent occupation or education. Make sure that when listing dates, years are written using the Japanese calendar, for example, 1998 would be 平成10 (Heisei 10). You then include your work history in the second section, including company names and a basic explanation of the role you fulfilled there.

Your Japanese Resume Photo


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 slightly without showing your teeth as if in a passport photo. The image below demonstrates the approximate size and style of a proper rirekisho photo.

Online job applications in Japan

If you are job-hunting you’ll most likely be filling out many rirekisho that are customized for the company you are applying for. Hence, 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.

Use your resources

Lastly, remember that you don’t have to do it all on your own. You can use the vast resources that are available, for example you can find samples online on job-hunting websites. This can give you an idea of how to write your own with a professional example. Also, you can ask your career center or Japanese professors in translating and checking the Japanese since the language barrier can be a challenge.

Student advice on your Japanese Resume

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?

"The Japanese language skill. Sometimes I'd 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 a Japanese resume 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.

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 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."

Overall, these are the fundamental tips that you should know for writing your rirekisho during your job-hunting. We also highly recommend you head over to the Shuukatsu Academy site to watch a step-by-step explanation on how writing the 自己Pr and the 志望動機. 

JPort Student Support Team
We create Borderless Japan

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