Job Hunting in Japan: The Resumé and Interview

Wayne K. Johnson & Ken Dillon, JALT Job Information Centre


In part one of this series we described the qualifications needed to get started job hunting in Japan, and suggested some sources of further information. In this second installment we will discuss applications and interviews, and will introduce aspects of cross-cultural communication.

Resumé The first contact a potential employer will have with you will most likely be through a resumé or curriculum vitae (CV). The CV that you send should be clear, easy to read, and most importantly short--one page is the desired length. We recommend that you attach additional pages only if it is necessary for a publications list, or other information that you feel is absolutely indispensable. In Japan, one page single-spaced is much more effective than two pages double-spaced. A sample resumé may be found at the end of this article.

The advent of word processors has made it possible to stylize your CV in a variety of formats; using any number of fonts. Keep it lean and clean. Two fonts are plenty and go easy on the use of bold and italics. Most CVs at first are only glanced at, getting just thirteen seconds on the first reading. Your CV should be presented simply, and attractively with all the important information easy to find and read.

At the top of the CV put your name in big bold letters in the center, your address in Japan and phone/fax underneath, or if you have two, a work and a home address, place one on the left and the other on the right. In the upper right-hand corner, staple or glue an unsmiling passport photo. After this, the CV may consist of five or six sections.


This should contain your date of birth, citizenship, and health (excellent). It is important to note your visa status if you have one. In this section also goes marital status, along with your spouse's name, and number of children, if applicable. It is also important to point out that employers often want to know the nationality of your spouse--if she or he is Japanese it may increase your chances of being hired. In Western culture there tends to be a strict separation between one's professional, personal, and family life. In Japan the distinction is less clear.

Education and Credentials

Inion. If you have presented at a conference of the Japan Association of Language Teaching (JALT), or the Japan Association of College English Teachers (JACET), you should indicate that they are Japan Science Council (JSC) members. JSC is an important umbrella organization that is well know and highly respected in Japanese academia.

Specialization and Interests

In this section you should very briefly describe your interests that are relevant to the kind of job you are soliciting. Examples of some of the areas that you might mention include: content-based teaching, classroom management, computer assisted language learning, and pronunciation.

Professional Associations

This would include membership in such organizations as JALT, TESOL, or SEITAR.

Finally, across the bottom of the page write the following: "Documentation, Letters Of Reference, And Copies Of Publications On Request," or something to that effect. You should refrain from enclosing letters of reference until they are requested unless they are from very well respected Japanese sources. You should be prepared to send unofficial copies of all university transcripts and degrees, and either copies of letters of reference, or names and phone numbers of persons willing to give you recommendations. In most cases, it is not necessary to provide official transcripts unless and until you are asked to do so.

Some employers may also want a resumé in Japanese, written on a form called a rirekisho. This can be purchased at most book stores and stationery shops in Japan. This document asks for all the information we have outlined above, but in a Japanese format.

Cover Letter

If you are sending CVs to universities, it is essential that you include a cover letter. Write this letter carefully as it maybe as important as your CV itself. If at all possible, address your letter to a specific person and in it state how you learned of him or her. Be as specific as possible. If it was through a friend, state his or her name; if through a book or article published by the person state that too. Even if you got the person's name from the school catalog or from the phone book, it is best to mention that rather than say nothing at all. How you learned of the person, where the introduction is coming from, is extremely important because it sets the tone for the relationship. Again, keep your letter concise, formal, and clear. If you are interested in part-time work at a college, you may want to write which days and times you are available as universities usually have set schedules. If possible, it is a good idea to put one or two reference addresses and telephone numbers at the bottom of your cover letter. One foreign and one Japanese reference who can be easily contacted is preferred. The best type of recommendation in Japan is a personal introduction by someone known to the school. "To Whom It May Concern" letters are usually not valued and may be counterproductive.

Remember, it is important that submitted documents be as neat as possible, so it is a good idea to arrange and staple them together. Make sure the appearance and form is perfect as this is often as important as the contents of the documents themselves.

It should be noted that in writing your CV and cover letter there are also a number of don'ts. Do not include a "Career Objectives" section. In Japan the objective of any job seeker is to be a good employee. If employers are truly interested in your objectives, they will ask you at your interview.

It is not a good idea to include a section, (or to go into in great detail at an interview), about your interest in Japanese culture--Zen, judo, tea ceremony, calligraphy, or Kanji. Schools may prefer to hire someone who is not in Japan to study its culture, but rather to teach language and Western culture. Showing off your knowledge of Japanese and Japanese culture may often work against you. Talking about your overseas experience in teaching might prove more useful because this is the expertise that your employers are looking for.

One final note on your documents. You are applying for a position as an educator. Your CV and cover letter should be grammatically perfect, without technical errors, inconsistent punctuation, or spelling problems. Check your documents carefully!


Your first contact with a prospective employer will probably be a telephone call inviting you to an interview.

This call may actually be the first part of the interview so be careful how you respond. It is important to use appropriate language and register as school officials often take notes on the phone and this first impression may shape their opinion of you even before the interview takes place. Before the interview, try to find out who is responsible for hiring, who will be interviewing you, and as much as you can about the school.

At the interview you should be circumspect and culturally sensitive. Wear conservative clothes and hair. If you are a male with long hair, keep it neat and tied back. It is best not to be either assertive with your body language or eye contact, nor be too passive. While speaking with the interviewers, especially if they are Japanese, remember that long silences are considered routine and perfectly okay in Japan. In contrast to many places in the West, it is not necessary to fill every silence with the sound of your own voice. One rule of thumb is that if you are asked a question, give it a clear but concise one-minute response. In general, if employers want more information they will ask for it. When answering questions about yourself, be modest without being self-deprecating, and answer the questions without endless augmentation--very often Japanese professors will listen politely but may not actually be interested in what you are saying.

Although it may seem that this information is telling you to act like someone other than yourself, this is not so. It is important to be yourself, but at the same time, be your refined, cultivated self. Probably the most important point to realize about the interview is that those doing the interviewing are trying to find out whether or not they can work with you. Try to give the impression that you are flexible and sensitive.

Finally, you should realize that if you are introduced to a school by someone, your performance and attitude at the interview and at work will be associated with him or her. It is not just you who will suffer or benefit by what transpires but also the person who recommended you.


Although all of the information we have supplied is useful for seeking employment, one cannot overemphasize the importance of affiliations and relationships with those in the field. Connections (jinmyaku) are important in any culture but in many cases seem to be a necessity in Japan. The best positions are usually not advertised in journals or newspapers, rather they are acquired by word-of-mouth. Basically, the chances of getting a good job are directly proportional to the quality of your connections.


In the first two parts of this series we have presented some tools you will need to find employment in Japan. After you have secured your qualifications, published articles, submitted a CV, passed an interview, networked with other teachers and acquired a post, you must understand the social climate of your institution. In part three we will discuss aspects of Japanese society and issues within the educational culture which may affect how you carry out and maintain your position.


Your Serious Photo Here



Gerald John Garcia
Ikenoucho-cho 45, Nishinokyo
Ukyo, Kyoto 615
(075) 321-2672


  • Birthdate: 11 December 1953, Quincy, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Visa Status: Professor.
  • Health: Excellent
  • Married: wife's name, Makiko Tanaka Garcia.
  • Daughter's name, Karen Keiko Garcia.


  • The School For International Training (S.I.T.) Vermont, USA.
  • Master of Arts -- TESOL, 1990.
  • The Center for Language, Osaka. Intensive Japanese, 1991.


  • University Of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  • Bachelor of Arts: Intercultural Communication, 1985.


  • Ritsumeikan University -- Kyoto, Japan; April 1993 - present.
  • Faculty of Law, EFL Instructor, Advanced English Program (Fukusenko).
  • Kyoto Gakuin University -- Kyoto, Japan; April 1993 - present.
  • Department of English & European Studies, EFL Instructor; Advanced English conversation and composition.
  • Sapporo University -- Sapporo, Japan;
  • Department of Science & Engineering, 1991-1993. EFL Instructor.
  • ECC Foreign Language Institute -- Sapporo, Japan; 1986-1989.
  • EFL Instructor, Curriculum Development.
  • Roxbury Community College -- Boston MA; 1985.
  • Adult Education Program, ESL Instructor.


  • Thesis: The Importance Of Community Formation In The Language Classroom.
  • The School for International Training (S.I.T.) Vermont, USA, 1990.
  • "Using Peer Journaling in Conversation Classes," JELL: Journal in English Linguistics & Literature, (Journal of Kyoto Gakuin University ), 10/1994, p. 11-23.


  • "Learner Training -- Teaching Students to be Productive Learners."
  • Hokkaido JALT Conference, Sapporo, 2/21/1993.


  • Content-based teaching, Classroom social organization, Composition, Pronunciation, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).


  • Japan Association of Language Teaching (JALT), member Japan Science Council (JSC).
  • Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR).

References and Documentation Available Upon Request

The authors would like to offer special thanks to Preston Houser, Phil Lewitt, Harold Melville, Masaki Oda, Thomas Robb and Craig Sower, who either read the manuscript or provided much of the information presented here. Any and all mistakes are ours alone.