How to Ace Your Japanese Job Interview

Job interview

Embarking on a job hunt in Japan can be an exhilarating yet challenging experience. Specifically, a job interview in Japan can significantly differ from what many are accustomed to in the West. Consequently, understanding these differences and knowing what to expect can become your strongest asset. With this in mind, let’s unpack the intricate details you might encounter and provide some tips to master your interview.

Online interviews have become the norm with the advent of the digital era, particularly post-COVID-19. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if you are called for an in-person interview. Maintaining professionalism in your attire and demeanor is non-negotiable, regardless of the format. In Japan, interviews often involve multiple interviewers; in high-stakes scenarios, you might face a panel.

As an international candidate, you inherently contribute a unique perspective. Consequently, interviewers may ask you about your experiences in Japan and, furthermore, about your future plans, particularly your long-term stay intentions.

For in-person interviews, etiquette is key. Initially, a respectful knock, followed by a polite entry, and a proper bow can set a tone of respect. Subsequently, always receive and offer items with both hands. This level of formality isn’t merely tradition; it significantly reflects your respect for the company and its representatives.

How to Introduce Yourself in a Job Interview

The self-introduction, or 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai), is an integral part of a Japanese interview. This is not merely an icebreaker; it’s an opportunity to showcase your experience and skills briefly. Keep it brief, typically around a minute, and rehearse to ensure you come across as prepared and confident.


  • Start with a Polite Greeting:
    • Begin with a respectful bow and a simple greeting like “Hajimemashite,” which means “Nice to meet you.”
  • State Your Name and Affiliation:
    • Mention your full name and, if applicable, your current professional affiliation or university.
  • Brief Educational Background:
    • Quickly outline your educational credentials, focusing on the most recent or relevant.
  • Summarize Your Work Experience:
    • Highlight your past job titles and the companies you worked for, emphasizing roles relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
  • Mention Your Skills and Strengths:
    • Identify the skills and strengths that make you a suitable candidate.
  • Express Your Interest in the Company:
    • Show that you’ve done your homework by mentioning something specific about the company that excites you.
  • Convey Your Career Goals:
    • Briefly state how you see this position aligning with your career aspirations.
  • End with a Thankful Remark:
    • Conclude by expressing gratitude for the opportunity to interview.

Key Points to Remember during Self-Introduction

  • Relevance: Keep the content relevant to the job and the company.
  • Conciseness: Aim for around one minute; be concise but informative.
  • Practice: Rehearse your introduction to ensure smooth delivery.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Use polite language and include a slight bow to show respect.
  • Body Language: Maintain good posture and eye contact (but not too intense) to convey confidence.
  • The tone of Voice: Speak clearly and at a moderate pace; avoid sounding rushed or overly casual.
  • Adaptability: Be prepared to tailor your introduction to the interview flow.
  • Professionalism: Focus on professional achievements over personal anecdotes unless directly relevant.

Delving into Your Career History

      • Japanese companies may delve deeply into your


      . This thorough examination stems from the traditional expectation of lifetime employment with a single company. While this is slowly changing, be ready to discuss your career trajectory in detail, including the rationale behind job changes.

Common Interview Questions

Expect to answer why you applied for the position, as this question seeks to uncover your motivation and interest in the company. Consequently, it’s your chance to display your knowledge about the company and to articulate what you bring to the table.

Other common questions may include:

  • Challenging Work Scenarios: As such, equip yourself to recount particular moments when you converted a difficult scenario into a triumph.
  • Long-term Commitment: Since many companies seek longevity in their hires, expect questions about your future plans and commitment to living in Japan.
  • Cultural Adaptation: Questions may probe into how you’ve adapted to Japanese culture, reflecting the company’s interest in your integration into their work environment.

Sensitive Topics in Job Interviews

In a Japanese job interview, there are subjects that necessitate a delicate touch or should, ideally, be avoided altogether:

  • Salary and Benefits: Viewing discussing compensation early in the process as presumptuous is common. Therefore, you should wait for the interviewer to bring up the subject.
  • Direct Criticism: Avoid overtly criticizing former employers or colleagues. Japanese culture values harmony and such remarks may be frowned upon.
  • Personal Life: Delving into personal details is unnecessary unless it directly impacts your job. Keep the focus on your professional attributes.

Job Interview Etiquette: Questions You Should Avoid Asking

It’s not just about answering questions; indeed, the questions you pose can also leave a lasting impression. Therefore, steer clear of queries that might appear self-serving or demonstrate a lack of research about the company. For instance:

  • Avoid: “Can you tell me what your company does?”
  • Instead, Ask: “I’m intrigued by your company’s approach to [specific project or value]. Could you elaborate on how this strategy was developed?”

Foreign Perspectives in a Japanese Context

As an international candidate, you inherently contribute a unique perspective. Consequently, interviewers may ask you about your experiences in Japan and, furthermore, about your future plans, particularly your long-term stay intentions.

Preparing for Varied Questions

In Japan, a successful interview fundamentally rests on confidence and preparation. Firstly, you can significantly set yourself apart by thoroughly understanding the formalities and keenly anticipating the questions. Additionally, demonstrating a genuine interest in the company and its culture plays a crucial role. It’s important to remember that showcasing your skills during an interview is about highlighting your abilities and showing respect and adaptability to the Japanese business environment.

Confidence and preparation are undeniably the cornerstones of a successful job interview in Japan. Understanding the formalities, followed by accurately anticipating the questions and demonstrating a genuine interest in the company and its culture, will distinctly set you apart.

"Otsumami" - a bite size snack:

Remember, an interview is as much about showcasing your skills as it is about demonstrating respect and adaptability to the Japanese business environment.

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