How to write a Japanese resume: The only guide you need + Free PDF template

Are you an international job hunter looking to find new career opportunities in Japan? Take note! One of the first things you can do to make your job application stand out in Japan is to write a good Japanese resume, also known as rirekisho (履歴書).

That’s why today we will show you exactly how to write a Japanese resume that will get you your dream job.

The global economy opens up wonderful opportunities for international employment seekers. But with it also come differences from one culture’s expectations on resumes to another.

Don’t just throw together an English resume and hope for the best when applying abroad. A Japanese resume, or rirekisho, is vastly different from an English resume. You’ll need to get ahead of the competition by brushing up on what is expected here! 

In this blog post, we’ll explain the nuances between an English-style resume and Japan’s rirekisho so you can craft yours like a pro! You can also read our guide on the steps to start working in Japan.

The Basics of a Japanese Resume and Rirekisho

First, let’s start with the basics. An English resume is a document used to present your skills, experience, and qualifications to a potential employer in English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

It typically includes sections such as personal information, education, work experience, skills, and achievements. The goal of an English resume is to highlight your strengths and accomplishments and make a strong case for why you’re the best candidate for the job.

On the other hand, a rirekisho (履歴書) — which translates to “personal history sheet” — is a standardized form used in Japan. It includes personal information, education, work history, and a photograph.

The rirekisho is often accompanied by a shokumu keirekisho (職務経歴書), which is a separate document that more closely resembles an English resume as it provides a more detailed account of your work history and responsibilities.

Like an English resume, submitting a Japanese resume is the first step of the hiring process. If you pass the screening section, you will be contacted for an interview. For foreigners, this is where your potential employers see how can deliver an answer with confidence and proper Japanese.

Check out our guide to answer common Japanese job interview questions here!

Now that we’ve established the basics, let’s dive deeper into the specific differences between an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho.

The English Resume: A Quick Breakdown

In the English-speaking world, the standard format for a resume is a one or two-page document. Here’s a brief overview of the titled resume sections:

Contact InformationThis section should include your name, address, phone number, and email address.
Objective or SummaryThis section provides a brief overview of your career goals, skills, and experience. It should be tailored to the job you’re applying for and highlight why you’re a good fit for the role.
EducationThis section lists your academic qualifications, including the name of the school, degree earned, and dates of attendance.
Work ExperienceThis section highlights your previous work history, including your job titles, dates of employment, and key responsibilities and accomplishments in bullet points. It should be listed in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first.
SkillsThis section provides a list of your relevant skills, including both hard skills (technical skills that can be measured) and soft skills (interpersonal skills that are difficult to measure).
ReferencesThis is an optional section that lists the names and contact information of people who can vouch for your work experience and character.

One of the key features of the English resume is its brevity. Employers in the English-speaking world tend to prefer resumes that are concise, focused, and easy to read.

They’re looking for candidates who can distill complex information into a few key points and demonstrate their value clearly and straightforwardly.

That being said, even if you’re in Japan, there are times when you might submit an English resume instead of a Japanese rirekisho. This is particularly true if you’re applying for English-speaking jobs in Japan that don’t require a lot of Japanese, such as English teachers or recruiters.

The Japanese Resume as Compared to the English Resume

In Japan, the standard format for a resume is known as a rirekisho. Unlike the English resume, which is typically one or two pages, the rirekisho is always a two-page document that was traditionally filled out by hand.

Now, it’s common and acceptable to type resumes (that’s such a lifesaver for those of us who struggle to write kanji freehand and neatly).

Passed the screening — and moving on to the first round of interviews? Check out 10 useful phrases for a Japanese job interview.

Format and Length of Japanese Resume

One of the most notable differences between an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho is its format. The format of an English resume is more flexible than that of a Japanese rirekisho.

Resumes can be presented in a variety of styles, including chronological, functional, and combination formats. They can also be any length, although most employers prefer resumes that are no longer than two pages.

On the other hand, the format of a rikishi is standardized and strict, and there is only one accepted format on A4-sized paper. In a rirekisho, the sections are not titled, and bullet points are not used.

Nevertheless, they are organized into clearly marked areas for personal information, education, work history, and a photograph.

1. Personal Information and Photo

Both an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho require personal information, but the level of detail and what is considered important differs between the two.

In an English resume, personal information is usually limited to your name, address, phone number, and email address. In some cases, you may also include your LinkedIn profile or other professional social media accounts.

However, it’s important to remember that you should never include personal details such as your age, marital status, or religion, as this is considered inappropriate and workplaces can be considered discriminatory for using that as criteria to assess your candidacy.

However, in a rirekisho, personal information includes:

EnglishJapaneseRomaji
Name氏名shimei
Address現在所genzaisho
Phone number電話denwa
Email addressメールアドレスmeeru adoresu
Birthday生年月日seinengappi
Age〜歳~sai
Gender性別seibetsu

Also, more detailed information is required such as your marital status and even your blood type may be on the rirekisho! In Japan, it is common for employers to request this information, as they believe it helps them to get a better sense of who they are as a person.

Photograph (写真・shashin)

One of the most significant differences between an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho is the inclusion of a photograph. In Japan, it is common to include a photograph with your rirekisho, whereas it is not common to do so in an English resume.

The photograph should be a professional headshot, and it is important to dress in a nice shirt and suit jacket and present yourself in a professional manner. You should opt for normal suit colors like black, navy blue or gray.

The photograph should be recent and clearly show your face. You can either crop a photo digitally to fit the required size or you can get a photo taken and printed at photo booths all across Japan (i.e. outside of supermarkets, in convenience stores and in train stations) for 500-600 yen.

2. Education and Work Experience

Education (学歴・gakureki)

Both an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho require information about your education, but there are some differences in what is expected.

In an English resume, you typically list your educational history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent degree.

You include the name of the institution, your degree, and the date you received it. You may also include any relevant coursework, awards, or honors.

In a rirekisho, you are expected to provide more detailed information about your education, including the name of the institution, the department you studied in, your major, and the dates you attended.

You may also include any relevant coursework, awards, or honors, but it is not as common as it is in an English resume.

Work Experience (職歴・shokureki)

In an English resume, work experience, or professional experience, is typically organized in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job.

You include the name of the company, your job title, the dates you worked there, and your key responsibilities and achievements.

It is common to use bullet points to concisely summarize key responsibilities and make them easy to read.

In a rirekisho, work experience is organized in a slightly different way. You still list your previous jobs in reverse chronological order. This includes the name of the company, your job title, and the dates you worked there.

You may also include information about the size of the company (how many employees), the size of the department or team you were assigned to and the industry it operates in.

However, Japanese resumes do not include your responsibilities and achievements in previous companies.

3. Special Skills, Certifications or Licenses: 資格・免許 (Shikaku and Menkyo)

In an English resume, you typically include a section that highlights your key skills and qualifications. This section can include both technical and soft skills, as well as any relevant certifications or licenses you hold. It is important to tailor this section to the specific job you are applying for.

In a rirekisho, there is also a special skills and licenses section. Here, you’ll input the name of the license or skill and the year you acquired it. You might also include any JLPT qualifications since that can be official proof of your Japanese proficiency.

For Japanese companies, JLPT N2 or N1 is typically desirable. You can even include your driver’s license. If you don’t have anything to include in this section, you can write “特になし”.

4. Personal PR and Appeal Points (志望の動機、特技、好きな学科、アピールポイント)

This section is basically where you can list anything else that you feel is interesting about yourself and/or relevant to the job you’re applying to.

志望の動機 (shibou no douki) is “motivation for applying”, and you want to do your best to catch the employer’s eye here.

特技 (tokugi) is “special skills”, while 好きな学科 is interests or hobbies.

アピールポイント (apiiru point) is appeal points, and these are pretty similar to special skills and hobbies. If you have more to add here, just try to tie it into how these points can benefit the company.

5. Commute Time, Family Situation and Other Details

Sections 4 and 5 in other rirekisho templates you find online may differ from the ones here.

Section 5 as pictured above asks for details such as commute time (通勤時間・tsuukin jikan) and anything else you may think is relevant. While not explicitly written, you could include your family situation. Here would be some terms to include or look out for:

Spouse (配偶者 or haiguusha): If you have a spouse, circle “yes” (有・ari). If you aren’t married, circle “no” (無・nashi)

Spouse obligation (配偶者の扶養義務 or haiguusha no fuyou jinmu): If your spouse is supported by your income, circle “yes” (有). If not, circle “no” (無)

Number of Dependents (not including spouse): 扶養家族 (配偶者を除く). Input how many people you support on your income. For example, if you have two children, you would write “2” or “2人” here.

6. Personal Request: 本人希望記入欄 (honnin kibou kinyuuran)

This section of your rirekisho is dedicated specify any specific requests related to your preferred salary, job type, working hours, work location, or any other preferences that you have for your ideal job. This section allows you to clearly set your expectations and preferences for potential employers.

In most cases, you might not have any specific requests or requirements. In this case, you can just write:

貴社の規定に従います。
Kisha no kitei ni shitagaimasu.
Comply with company’s regulations.

Example of a Japanese Resume

Download Your Free Japanese Resume Template (with Example)

Cultural Norms of Japanese Resume

The differences between an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho can mostly be attributed to cultural norms. In Japan, there is a strong emphasis on personal relationships and social hierarchy.

As a result, the rirekisho includes a photo of the applicant, which is not typically included in English resumes.

In Japan, it is also common for employers to place a high value on a candidate’s personality and character, which they feel is reflected in the content of the rirekisho.

In English-speaking countries, there is generally less emphasis placed on personal relationships and social hierarchy. Resumes are typically evaluated based on the applicant’s qualifications and accomplishments, rather than their personality or character.

As a result, English resumes tend to focus more on the applicant’s professional experience, education and skills.

Rirekisho vs Shokumukeirekisho

At the start of this post, I mentioned a rirekisho and a shokumukeirekisho. Both are related to job applications, but I wanted to briefly discuss their differences.

As you now know, a rirekisho is a standard Japanese resume that includes information such as the applicant’s name, contact information, education background, work experience, skills, and other personal information. It is required by most employers as part of the application process.

On the other hand, a shokumukeirekisho (職務経歴書) is a document that focuses specifically on an individual’s work experience and job history.

It is also used in Japan for job applications but is typically required for more specialized positions or positions that require a certain level of expertise.

A shokumukeirekisho includes details such as the applicant’s job titles, dates of employment, responsibilities and achievements, and any relevant skills or certifications.

So in summary, both rirekisho and shokumukeirekisho are used in job applications in Japan.

However, while rirekisho is a more general resume, shokumukeirekisho is a more specialized document that gets into more specific work experiences and job histories.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while both an English resume and a Japanese rirekisho serve the same purpose of highlighting your skills and qualifications to potential employers, they still won’t guarantee a job offer.

When applying for a job in Japan, it is important to understand the cultural expectations around a rirekisho and do well during your interview rounds.

Of course, you want to accurately showcase your experience and skills in an acceptable way to give yourself the best chance of securing the role you want! 

Hopefully, this article shed some light on how to craft a rirekisho as opposed to an English resume.

If you to look for a new job or change your career in Japan, Coto Academy offers business Japanese and advanced courses, tailored for working professionals!

We also have classes for intermediate and advanced students. If you’re interested, contact our friendly staff by filling out the form below, and we’ll get in touch as soon as possible!

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How is Japanese resume different from English resume?

In Japan, the standard format for a resume is known as a rirekisho. Unlike the English resume, which is typically one or two pages, the rirekisho is always a two-page document that was traditionally filled out by hand but is now common and acceptable to be typed. Japanese resumes also do not include your job scope and your achievements in previous companies


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