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Resumes in Japan

Updated: Nov 19, 2019


Nowadays there is a lot of visual-style resumes being made by young employees in English speaking countries. Although it is customary to include a photo in Japanese resumes, the traditional resume is often hand written. The reason for this is in the pre-bubble Japan many job seekers were hitting the market and had very little experience, but their penship was a mark of education.


Contemporary resume advice columns in Japan talk about many of the things that we worry about in English speaking countries as well. For example: When is it appropriate to have more than 2 pages? Nowadays with computer assisted resume reading software, I do not personally feel that the page limit is such a hard and fast rule. However, it is still recommended to keep resumes short except in cases of high-level CEO jobs or academic fields which want to see detailed documentation about your ability to get constant grants and your ability to raise money for your department.


Although Japan has yet to switch to real visual style in there resumes, I think a resume should show who you are and what your goals are from the very first sentence. If the format is not clean and legible--well, it is the same thing as having bad penship. Infographics can be a neat touch, but what skills are they conveying? Maybe in Japan it might be nice to show off your ability to use Japanese in a visual way--but how important is it to be able to show that you are good at using MS office (Except for Excel--If you are a math wiz--rock it!)


Is it OK to have gaps in your resume-- I tend to discourage it, but certainly this is changing. We live in a time, when even in Japan--younger people are changing jobs more and more. The idea that we will stay at one company for the tenure of our adult life is less realistic. So I think rather than thinking in terms of gaps--it is better to show consistency in your story. What are your goals in your career? How has your experience prepared you for it--and how can you take that to the company you are applying too.


The unfortunate reality is many young people`s resumes do not seem to have consistent focuses. And employers are bombarded with resumes so they are going to pick the candidate that is most aligned to the job they are offering. And that means job seekers also need to spend time crafting their application material to the companies they are courting. Gone are the days when you can fire a generic resume to 50 jobs in various fields and expect a call back. That is true not only in Japan, but in English speaking companies as well.


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