How to Prepare for a Japanese Job Interview

BY Coto Language Academy – JAPAN TODAY.COM

Dreaming of working in Japan, you have fought hard to finally get your chance. You have received a job interview proposition for a Japanese company. Now it is time to learn how to prepare for a Japanese job interview. A job interview is probably one of the most intimidating time of your life even more when you are you doing it in Japan, where language and manners differ grandly. You will have to prepare yourself in order to make a good first impression and to show that you are up for the position you are applying to.

The first step of your preparation is no more different than what you would do in your homeland: studying the company profile and philosophy. However, as a foreigner, you must be even more serious doing your research, to show that you are as motivated as a national. Of course, you will make sure to be up to date with the company’s news.

The next step is to train yourself and practice for your interview. That means to check what questions could be asked and what would your answer be! If you know that your interview will be in Japanese, it is extremely important to be comfortable with the vocabulary that could come up. If the interview is planned to be in English, still get prepared in case of the interviewer decide to check your Japanese level.

Keep in mind that we only give you some basic examples! You can be more elaborate and polite, but we advise you to keep it simple if your level of Japanese is limited. Do not let your level of Japanese stop you from applying! You do not need Japanese fluency to apply for a position. Do your best by preparing a self-introduction with the vocabulary you know.

Step 1: Self-introduction

You will most likely be asked to present yourself, as it is customary in Japan. Train your listening ability in order to understand what is the person asking.

Please present yourself.

Practice your self-introduction. It includes telling where you are from, your name and some other information about you that could be relevant. For example, a previous working experience in Japan.

Example: 「スペインのオレンジで有名なバレンシア出身のアントニオ・ガルシアです。日本に来るのは 3回目で前回は大阪のレストランで働いていました。」

“I am Antonio Garcia and I am from a city famous for its orange in Spain, Valencia. It is the third time I come to Japan and last time I worked in a restaurant of Osaka.”

Step 2: Frequent questions and answers

Depending on the job you have applied for, the range of questions will vary. Be always prepared by searching on the internet what kind of questions could be asked by this specific company. When you prepare the answer, be short and precise. Japanese people like straightforward answers and it will be easier for you not to make Japanese language mistake. For example:

*When did you come to Japan?

A very good and straight to the point answer would be “2014年3月に来ました”. I arrived in Japan in March 2014. The type of answer you should avoid: “前の会社でプロジェクトマネージャーをしていて、日本のお客さんと一緒に仕事をしました。そのとき日本にいる同僚が忙しくなったため、私が日本に来るこ とになりました”. “I was a project manager in my previous company. I was working with Japanese clients. At that time, because my colleague based in Japan was very busy, I was sent to Japan.”

As previously stated, questions might vary depending on the type of interview. Nonetheless, we believe the following ones would most likely come up.

*What do you know about our company?

The company will be curious to know why you have applied and we advise you to think deeply about your reasons.  Of course, we know that applicants might have applied to several places especially when their goals is to get to work in Japan.

*Why did you apply to our company?

As you are a foreigner, your Japanese level could be one of their concerns. So be sure not to skip this preparation! If you have prepared the JLPT, state your results and precise how often you study!

*How well can you speak Japanese?

  • 2015年12月にN2に合格しました: I passed the JLPT N2 in December 2015.
  • 3ヶ月日本語学校で週に5回3時間を勉強しました。I studied 3 hours 5 days a week for 3 months in a Japanese school.

The interview will also focus on your specifics reasons as to why you wish to work in Japan. Be sincere and positive about what you like! Do not hesitate to emphasize that you like Japan! Cities, culture etc. and why. Of course, they will want to know your past experiences and achievements, strengths and weaknesses.

*Why do you want to work in Japan?

*What kind of work have you done until now?

*Could you tell us about your strengths and weaknesses?

Finally, the interviewer could ask personal questions such as what you enjoy doing as a hobby. The range of personal questions could be wide, so you should prepare your answers as well! The working place is not only about work: it is a community where it is important for everyone to share.

*What is your hobby?”

ou did great. The interview is almost over. Now, it is your turn to ask questions. Asking questions is very important and will give a good impression. It shows that you are interested and that you have thought about the position. You would be advised to ask for example, about your team, tasks you would be given. You can also inquire about working hours and business trip for example.

*Do you have any questions you want to ask us?

Step 3: Review your manners!

Have you heard that outfit and behaviour at an interview matter almost as much as answers and qualifications? Before the interview, you should make certain to check the expected “outfit”. Your appearance is very important and unless you have received specific orders, always aim for the conservative business attire. Now let’s take a look at the Japanese etiquette specific to Japan.

  • Be punctual: actually, it would be better to arrive 10 to 15 prior your interview. If you have an emergency, immediately contact the company in order to inform them of your delay / cancellation.
  • When you arrive, you should take off your coat at the entrance hall.
  • You should knock on the door – usually 3 times and say “shitsurei shimasu” (excuse me) and wait for the interviewer to say “douzo” (please enter). The tricky point to remember is to enter the room, close the door and face the interviewer(s) and repeat again “shitsurei shimasu”. You should know by now that bowing is also mandatory.
  • Most often, you will see a chair designed for you. Before sitting, you should introduce yourself and give your greetings:”Nice to meet you. Thank you very much for today. My name is … Thank you for your time*”.
    “はじめまして。 本日はありがとうございます。… と申します。どうぞよろしくお願いします*”.
    *For the translation and the meaning of douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu, please refer to our previous article.

You will bow a second time and wait to be invited to sit down with “どうぞ座ってください” (douzo wo suwatte kudasai, please sit down).

  • Sit shallowly in your chair with your back straight up
  • Talk in a confident and clear voice
  • Be sure to answer all questions clearly and squarely
  • Talk only after your interviewer has finished
  • Do not talk too much about unquestioned topics.

Step 4: What you should avoid doing!

During an interview, your attitude and behavior are very important. The do’s and don’ts of a Japanese interview might not be very different than what you have learnt in your culture. Nonetheless, just check our list!

  • Fidgeting
  • Sitting cross-legged
  • Folding your arms, hands in pockets
  • Rest your chin on your hand(s)
  • Talk in a low voice

Take the time to prepare yourself for your interview and everything will go well. One more important point! Sleep well the night before your interview and plan your way to the interview place in order to avoid any surprises! Believe in yourself and do your best.