I have written this month’s guide from my perspective as an English teacher at a large private university in Japan who has looked at the application packages of a great number of native and non-native speaker applicants for both full- and part-time positions. In my experience, applicants can greatly enhance their chances of being selected for an interview through careful preparation of their application package. The following list suggests things to include in an application and pitfalls to avoid.
Format.A formal, academic-style CV with key information (nationality, date of birth, visa status) at the top is safest. Check the format carefully; common weaknesses include unaligned columns, too many fonts, and confusing layouts. Typos are also remarkably common, so have someone read over your application materials.
Language.If the advertisement is in English, and a Japanese CV is not requested, an English-only CV should suffice. Some applicants send only a Japanese CV, but this may inconvenience non-Japanese teachers involved in the hiring process.
Dates. Include the month and year of all education and employment information. Moreover, explain any gaps such as time spent travelling or job-hunting. Many non-Japanese applicants fail to list months or account for gaps; this is a mistake that always gets spotted by hiring committee members.
Photograph. Affix a passport-sized, professional-looking photograph to your CV.
Essential information.Present all essential information, such as age and whether previous employment is full- or part-time, clearly and directly. It is frustrating for hiring committees to spend time searching through CVs for hidden information.
Avoid pushiness.This may go down badly, as it can suggest insensitivity towards Japanese cultural norms. I have often seen Japanese colleagues blanch at apparent arrogance.
Publications.Many institutions require three publications. To meet this requirement, it can be tempting to include anything that could possibly be considered a publication or presentation, such as travel writing or in-house training workshops. However, without appropriate academic publications, an interview is unlikely, so wait until after you have them before applying.
Another problem is applicants who have no recent publications, but suddenly have several publications “in press.” It can look like the person is desperately trying to compensate for years of inactivity. The obvious advice is to maintain academic activity throughout one’s career.
Homepage link. If you provide a link to your personal homepage, make sure it is impressive. A half-built, mediocre website is unlikely to impress.
Forms of address.Research the title of the person you are writing to. Addressing a full professor as “Ms.” or “-san” may make a negative impression. In Japanese universities, “Professor” is the default form.
References. Include recent and current references. Lists of 20-year-old references may look suspicious to the hiring committee. Likewise, formulaic references carry less weight and may even suggest that the applicant is mediocre. Glowing personalised references are much more persuasive.
Recommendations. Applicants sometimes mention contacts they have in the institution. This can help the hiring committee, who are likely to ask the contact’s opinion on the applicant. Needless to say, only mention a contact who can give a favorable recommendation.
Apply early.Applications will be filed as they arrive. Hiring committees may give less time to applications at the end of the file, or may already have selected enough candidates for an interview. Moreover, last minute applications suggest someone who has difficulty meeting deadlines.
Emails. When sending emails concerning the application, ensure they are formal and polite. Overly casual emails in a text-message style are surprisingly common, although surely inappropriate.