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Resume and cover letter - 1


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Writing a resume and a cover letter is a tough exercise, even in one's first language. Doing it in Japanese is even harder, as it also requires to get familiar with many set phrases used only in that context.

Although the Japanese also send two documents when applying for a job, those are not the exact equivalents of the resume and cover letter: they are called 履歴書 (rirekisho) and 職務経歴書 (shokumukeirekisho), and I will introduce them in differents posts, for practical reasons. I'll begin with the rirekisho.

Even though it describes the "personal history" of the applicant, the rirekisho has a couple specificities that make it different from the resume as we know it:

  • Traditionally, it must be handwritten and even though online applications tend to increase, it is still desirable to do so when applying through standard mail. It is common practice to use a cartridge pen, which indeed gives a very clean touch (although lefties may not be very happy with that!...). On the other hand, the slightest mistake means one has to start all over again, which is especially frustrating when it happens a few lines from the end!...It happened to me quite a few times...
  • It must be written on a standard form, available at any stationery shop or 100-yen shop. There are several formats, with variable sizes for each section to handle different types of profiles, like people who want to emphasize their extra-professional activities for instance. As for the size itself, it is either B5 or A4.
  • It does not contain the description of previous work experiences but only the dates.

Here is the rirekisho I used in july 2007 when I was looking for a job. Let's start with a general view:

At the top left, the usual name, birthdate, gender, address and contact information:

At the right of my name, in the parenthesis, the 仏 kanji shows that I'm French as in Japan, each country is designated by a specific kanji.

Let me also give a brief explanation about the way the date is written: even though I was born in 1975, I wrote 昭和50年, which means "year 50 of Showa era". In fact and contrary to the Common Era, the Japanese system "resets" the year with every new emperor, 2009 being the 21st year of Heisei (平成) era for instance. This is better explained on that wikipedia page.

Of course, both calendar schemes coexist in actual practice, although the Japanese system is predominant when it comes to official documents.

About the picture: one should wear a suit, the shirt and necktie should have a sober color (a white shirt being the norm), and it is better to have it taken by a professional photographer than at the nearby photo booth.

At the top, one is supposed to write the current date, which hasn't been done in this example.

The next section contains the chronology of one's educational and professional background. Note that it begins with elementary school! Schools are listed twice to clearly show the entry and graduation dates:

The same goes for the employment part, therefore I will not detail it.

Next come the extra-professional activities:

On the first line, I stated that I have a French driving license. A couples lines below, I mentioned the JLPT level 3 I obtained before coming to Japan, for form's sake as it isn't worth anything to an employer. On the final line, I wrote that I was studying for level 1.

And finally:

These two sections respectively contain:

  • a motivation line (considering how tiny the square is, only generalities can be written there!), hobbies etc. In my case, I made sure I mentioned that I already had a visa thanks to my Japanese mother, a roundabout way to tell my potential employer that they won't need to handle that.
  • the position applied for (職種, I wrote "system engineer" but it is a rather vague term), as well as the expected salary (給料,...), workplace (勤務地, Nagoya only!) and start date (可能日, november 1st).

And finally, one is supposed to mention their commuting time (5 minutes in my case), marital status and number of dependents:

To be continued...

Category: Job

12 comment(s)

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By Elisabeth on 05/05/2009 at 15:55:35

Depuis que j'ai Internet je vais souvent sur ton blog et j'avoue que c'est à chaque fois avec beaucoup de plaisir, mais là "chapeau bas" j'admire !

By Eno on 05/05/2009 at 19:23:26

Ca n'a pourtant pas l'air bien compliqué à voir comme ça, ces petites cases à remplir ! Bon, en japonais ça fait tout de suite plus ardu. Mais si TU dis que c'est prise de tête, je te crois !

By Laurence on 05/17/2009 at 16:10:03

Tu es vraiment chou sur la photo !... Je veux dire, euh, très classe !! Un regard qui donne envie de t'embaucher (de toutes façons, j'ai pas compris grand-chose à ton CV, ha ha !)...

By Claire on 11/11/2009 at 07:08:33

Merci pour ces 2 posts "CV et lettre de motivation", ça m'a bien aidée pour remplir le mien !
Je lirai aussi le reste de ton blog :)
Bonne continuation~

By rapid4me on 02/09/2010 at 17:13:21

Thanks for the artcile ;)

By famisho on 04/05/2010 at 15:29:44

Bonjour, super cet article.
Comment dois je faire dans mon cas vu que j'ai fait le lycée en 5 ans (j'ai dû adoré ça à l'époque XD)?
En france je rencontre pas de problème car j'ai fait HEC et les CV ne remontent pas avant le bac, mais pour un CV japonais ça va poser problème? Je ne commence qu'à la terminale? Je crois qu'au japon, le redoublement n'existe pas vraiment donc...

merci d'avance

By Tarto on 04/08/2010 at 11:54:22

Bonne question...Est-ce vraiment un problème ? D'une part, je pense que ça paraîtra bizarre de ne rien mentionner avant la terminale, d'autre part un diplôme HEC surcompense largement un "petit chelem" au lycée.
Et au pire, tu peux toujours leur expliquer qu'en France, le lycée se fait en cinq ans :-D

By sammy on 12/07/2010 at 15:42:23

tu pense que le fait d'être au Mensa puisse parler a un recruteur japonais ?
si tant est que ce soit dans leur interêt ! :)

By Tarto on 12/11/2010 at 01:01:14

C'est vrai que l'association Mensa est très peu connue ici, ceci dit ça ne peut pas faire de mal de le mentionner. Les recruteurs ne posent pas forcément la question mais ça m'est déjà arrivé d'expliquer ce que c'était.

By JCorsi on 07/29/2011 at 09:37:45

Ouah merci pour ces indications!!!

Tiens, tu es aussi de l'ENSGI? Tu es toujours au Japon?

By Tarto on 07/31/2011 at 22:51:33

Quelle agréable surprise de "recevoir" un GI sur mon blog ! Je suis de la promo 99, ce qui ne me rajeunit pas :-)
Et toi ???

By samui on 08/11/2011 at 01:38:34

Je souhaitais vraiment te remercier pour tes conseils et ta description vraiment parfaite du rirekisho et shokumukeirekisho. de plus ton blog est un vraiment cool. Je serais bientôt au Japon et tu m'as poussé à faire le mien. :)
merci encore,

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