For our next chapter of The Guide, we’re looking at the Japanese equivalent of a resume: the Rirekisho (履歴書). This document is very important to get right and you can make yourself standout by doing so.
It’s not too complex so read on!
Consider this: Japanese employers will judge you by a series of assumptions based on the fact that you are not Japanese. They will expect both cultural and communication problems. So the best way to break these assumptions is to do things the way they expect.
Step one – writing a correct Rirekisho.
While a Rirekisho should be written in Japanese, even without a high level of Japanese language you can still complete one. It just might take some time. Don’t freak out… here at TGD we have made it through the job application process without a high level of Japanese as well so we trust that you can do it too.
Let’s start with a quick comparison between Japanese and Western resumes. In western culture the resume can be used as a tool to present a designer’s work. Finding the right layout and typeface is challenging and very important for an interviewer to assess an applicant’s skills and approach to design.
Once again Japanese culture is very different and, in this case, probably more practical.
The Rirekisho is a standardised document: A3 landscape, the fields you need to fill are pre-defined. All you have to do is fill it in. The Rirekisho is sold as a pre-printed document almost everywhere, including the ubiquitous conbini (convenience store) as well as stationery shops.
In Japan, designers tend to be more expressive on their business cards and with their folio. Some designers even have several different types of business cards to use depending on the client, pitch or situation. This is especially true for freelancers.
Recently the application for a design position became easier than compared to only five years ago.
What’s really changed?
Well, design companies have started being “open minded”, embracing a new philosophy for job hunting. Nowadays you don’t need to write a formal Rirekisho, especially for Japanese startups and companies run by international designers or local offices of global agencies. But since not all companies are like this, it is still useful to know how write one.
Rirekisho is taken as a sign of your dedication to your application
But if your ability with handwritten Japanese is not so high and you’re not a Japanese applicant, you can get away with a Rirekisho typed and printed instead of handwritten. Just going to the effort of preparing a correct Rirekisho will set you in good standings.
Generally the Rirekisho is used by interviewers to get an overview of your background and skills, but you don’t put as much detail into it as you would a western resume. For example, for work experience you add the dates you started and finished and role but you don’t need to expand on your duties or responsibilities. These will be covered in the actual interview.
You will find some fairly personal questions on the Rirekisho such as your age, marital status and other details. These are not uncommon questions to ask in Japan on a resume and you are expected to fill them in, or your prospective employer will likely ask you directly in the interview.
TGD has made a detailed guide for you to fill in the Rirekisho. See the attached image as a reference.
1) This is the application date and it needs to be in Japanese calendar years. Use this online converter to get the current date.
2) Your name should be written in Romaji (Roman letters) with Furigana (reading in kana characters) above. The order should be Surname and then First name, but I personally write my First name and then Surname. Basically in Japan people are referred to by their last names in the office, but if you want people to use your first name then write it Firstname-Surname..
3) This is the space for your Hanko (判子) or seal. If you have one, this is the time to use it. Otherwise just leave it blank.
4) Insert a photo here, make sure it fits exactly to the frame. The photo should be of your face looking towards the camera in professional clothing. As this is the design industry you don’t need to wear a suit but a jacket/blazer and button up shirt is a good compromise.
5) Birthday date, age and gender. Yes, you are expected to give your age on the Rirekisho and unlike other countries it is not unusual to do so in Japan.
6) Address in Kanji with the reading in kana above.
7) Contact Telephone number
8) Emergency contact person in Japan such as a close friend, spouse, or in-laws.
9) Telephone number of Emergency Contact.
10) Gaku-reki is the chronological history of your studies from oldest to most recent. In this section you are expected to list your entire academic history including Primary and Secondary.
However, as there are limited spaces here we recommend leaving out primary and even secondary in favour of tertiary education. For example: If Dean’s parents had moved while he was in school and he had gone on to do both a bachelor’s and a PHD degree, he could leave off his Primary education to include his Secondary and Tertiary.
The most annoying part of this is that you must include a line for your entrance (入学 nyuugaku) and graduation (卒業 sotsugyou). Which means writing each institution out twice.
11) Shokureki is the chronological history of your work experience. All you need to do is specify the name of the company and your position. No need to include details on the responsibilities, etc. You can attach an additional sheet with these details or simply explain in the interview.
As in the Gakureki, you need to specify the year and month you started working for the company (入社 nyuusha) and the year and month you resigned (退社 taisha).
As crazy as it sounds, you are expected to also include the reason for your leaving the company. However the best way around this sometimes hairy question, is to write “一身上の都合により退社” (isshinjouu no tsugou ni yori taisha), which means “I left for personal reasons”.
At the end of the these fields you need to write “以上” (ijou) that means “that is all” or “finished”.
12) Certifications and licences, if you have a Japanese driver’s license add that here.
13) This space is for you to briefly talk about skills, personal goals, and the reason for your application. Keep it short and sweet.
14) Commuting time from your home to their office.
Now we start to get a bit personal…
15) Dependents in your family.
16) Marital status. Choose 有 (ari) if you are married and 無 (nai) if not.
17) If 16 was a bit personal for you, you’ll love this – Do you support your spouse financially? As above choose 有 (ari) if you do and 無 (nai) if not.
18) In this area, add any specific requests such as if the company has several offices, which you would like to work in. But generally if you’re applying for a specific job this will already be detailed in the ad.
BUT there is one very important detail that needs to be included here: your expected salary. Now there are a few ways to approach this on your Rirekisho:
年収 (annual salary here) 万円以上であればと思っております。Use this if you have a specific salary in mind as it directly states what you want to earn, politely of course.
前職と同程度年収 (annual salary here) 万円以上であればと思っております。If you want to earn the same as your current/previous job or more, use this phrase.
ご相談させて頂きたいと思っております。Finally use this phrase if you want to discuss the salary in person, instead of placing it on your Rirekisho.
19) Legal Guardian. Now this won’t apply to most of you, but perhaps if you are applying for an internship or for some other reason you are underage, you will need to list your legal guardian here.
Okay, so that’s the Rirekisho sorted. Now above we mentioned that you can also submit a “standard” or western resume to some agencies and companies. This should still be written in Japanese unless the directors of the company are international or it is a global agency, in which case English should be okay. Another good sign is if the job posting is in English! To be safe, I would recommend always checking before submitting.
But there are some important changes you should make to your Japanese language resume based on the Rirekisho.
Firstly, list the information in the same order as a Rirekisho – Education, work experience, short courses/certificates, then skills etc. Secondly, this information should be listed in order of oldest first instead of most recent.
I learnt this the hard way: watching Japanese interviewers flick back and forth through my resume during an interview, obviously confused by the formatting.
When I first arrived in Japan I found a great article which goes into more detail on how to write a Rirekisho and includes a word template for the Rirekisho – very helpful indeed!
Now you’re equipped to create a Rirekisho and start applying for jobs!