What is on a Japanese resume? / 日本の「履歴書」について思うこと (By Kristie)

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8/12/2016  By Kristie Le


When I was studying abroad in Nagoya, it was right during the time of 就職活動 (shushokukatsudo) or Japan’s job-hunting period when students at all universities dress up in similar black attire and head to information sessions held by different companies. Clutching to their perfect black work bags, students nervously sit in rows to listen to presentations and to take a preliminary “job entrance” test.

I was not really aware of the seriousness of this activity until I observed it with my own eyes. The whole process actually looked like a national event that could make or break those students’ lives. One day during lunch, I was chatting with another international student who happened to be on the exchange program with Nanzan University for a year. Somehow we ended up talking about the idea that most Japanese students at Nanzan pursue degrees in English Literature, which was supposedly the most popular and hardest major at the university, no matter where their passions lie. Being able to major in the hardest subject at a good school in Japan might even be considered to be very valuable because companies care most about how prestigious your educational background sounds and thus how hard-working and smart you are to have been able to get in the school and study the major in the first place.

This brought me further to the question of what a Japanese resume consists of and how different it looks from American version.  A resume in Japan is more commonly referred to as rirekisho (履歴書), which standard template can be purchased from most convenience stores. Unlike American resumes that are expected to be typed up with personal voice added to it, all Japanese resumes need to be filled out by hand in a very specific way. Imagine filling out a visa application where you have to use particular standardized words. That’s how strict Japanese resumes need to be.

Interestingly enough, in Japanese resumes, work experience is simply listed without description of responsibilities. You also use space in the back of the resume to write your reason why you want to apply and join the company, instead of a separate cover letter like in America.
Since such a drastic distinction between Japanese and American resumes can simply display a cultural difference between two countries, it’s important to note that Japanese and American companies hold very different values and operate distinctively. Thus, how job-searching process works would be viewed and determined very differently. However, the rirekisho itself can demonstrate that Japan is facing an issue of companies viewing an applicant in numbers and ranking rather through a holistic approach via their passions and experiences. Companies would usually strictly train new employees for the first few months in order to teach them “skills” they need for the job. Therefore, students and young professionals don’t seem to be encouraged to fully optimize their creativity. Lack of opportunity to come into the job and bring new skillset onto the table prevents Japanese people to practice generating ideas and feel a sense of ownership over their own ideas. This problem is becoming more apparent as competition for jobs grows even higher. As changing the mindset of what values are important in Japan would be nearly impossible in the short-term future, we as individuals, as active citizens and as an organization can focus on encouraging more initiative to promote creative thinking whether it’d be through the form of entrepreneurship, art, corporate and education environment, etc.




見ていて興味深いのは、職業の名前が箇条書きされているだけで、職務内容の説明が一切ないということである。また、アメリカでは別紙のcover letterと呼ばれるものに志望理由を書くのに対し、日本では履歴書の裏に設けられた欄を使う。