Navigating Japanese Job Interviews:
A Roadmap for Foreigners

By Global Staffing

Are you a foreigner looking to find work in Japan? Navigating the hiring process may seem a bewildering maze, but the right insights and preparation can increase your chances of success.
Here is a roadmap to help!

Read on for some key pointers on how to handle Japanese job interviews like a pro. In fact, read it through more than once and apply the suggestions. Do this and your Japan job hunt will seem much less daunting and you will be several steps closer to the end goal of a solid job offer.

Table of Contents

The importance of manners and etiquette in Japanese job interviews

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When participating in Japanese job interviews, whether online (increasingly, since the pandemic emerged) or in person, it is crucial to adhere to expected etiquette, by complying with expected norms and manners. These include:

  • Arriving on time or slightly early – at least five minutes or preferably ten. Punctuality is a must in Japan. Arriving late for an interview could give the impression that you are unreliable, which might negatively impact your chances of getting hired. Allow extra time for any circumstances you may be unable to control, like transport delays.
  • Dressing professionally and conservatively: Japanese companies generally expect a conservative and formal dress code. For men, this means a dark-colored suit, white dress shirt, and a conservative tie. Women should wear a suit with a knee-length skirt or pants, a blouse, and closed-toe shoes. Keep accessories and makeup minimal.
  • Bowing appropriately when greeting the interviewers: In Japan, bowing is an essential part of showing respect. When meeting your interviewers, bow at a 15-degree angle for a casual bow or a 30-degree angle for a more formal bow.
  • Using polite language and speaking respectfully. During Japanese interviews, it’s essential to use polite language (敬語, keigo) and honorifics when addressing your interviewers. This shows respect and understanding of Japanese culture.

Preparing for a Japanese job interview

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To make a good impression during your interview, you should:

  • Research the company and its values:
    Familiarize yourself with the company’s history, mission, and values. The obvious thing to do is look at their website but you could also use LinkedIn to check the bios and self-descriptions of employees if available. This will help you demonstrate your genuine interest in the organization and how your skills align with its goals.

  • Practice answering common interview questions in Japanese:
    Some common questions include your motivation for applying, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can contribute to the company. Prepare concise answers to these questions and practice them in Japanese to feel more confident during the interview. Ask a friend to help role-play if necessary.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer:
    Asking thoughtful questions about the company or the role demonstrates your interest and engagement. Prepare two to three questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Research Google News or other sources, including the company’s own web page and social media presence for topical updates on the company and show the interviewer(s) you have done your due diligence.
  • Be ready to give a solid self-introduction in Japanese when asked “Please introduce yourself.” In 99% of cases, this is how the interview will start after an ice-breaker like “Did you find your way here OK?” Make sure you are ready.

A typical self-introduction will include your name, country of origin, educational background, work experience, and the reason you’re interested in the position. Practice your self-introduction in Japanese to ensure smooth delivery. But key here is also to convey how the personal and professional attributes you have gained would add value to the company.

Common questions and how to prepare for them

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Japanese job interviews may well include questions like:

  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you handle stress or conflict?
  • How can you contribute to our team?

Prepare concise answers and practice them in Japanese to feel more confident during the interview. Use specific examples from your past experience to support your answers and demonstrate your skills.

The hiring process in Japan: SPI (Synthetic Personality Inventory) and beyond

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Any article on Japanese job interviews should include a reference to “SPI,” or Synthetic Personality Inventory, a standardized test used by some companies as part of the selection process. The SPI assesses cognitive ability, personality traits, and aptitude for various tasks.

Familiarize yourself with the SPI format by studying specific SPI preparation books and researching information online. Practice answering sample questions to increase your chances of success. In addition to SPI, some companies may also require job-specific tests or practical assessments, for which you must also prepare accordingly.

Navigating cultural differences: fixed patterns and limited self-expression

In Japanese job interviews, there may be implicit fixed patterns in clothing, greetings, and interview conduct that limit the “degree of free self-expression.” Adapting to these cultural expectations can be challenging for foreign job seekers, but doing so will improve your chances of success. Some tips for adapting to these cultural differences include:

  • Observing and mimicking the behavior of native Japanese colleagues or friends
  • Seeking advice from Japanese friends or colleagues on appropriate dress and conduct
  • Participating in cultural training or language classes to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese customs and expectations

Additionally, it’s important to understand that Japanese interviewers may not always provide direct feedback or reactions during the interview. This may make it challenging to gauge their impression of your answers. However, by focusing on demonstrating your skills and cultural adaptability, you can still leave a positive impression.

If you’ve read all the above, you may well think finding a job in Japan as a foreigner can be a daunting task. But remember, it is also doable and with the world’s fastest-shrinking population, Japanese companies will need more and more foreign candidates going forward.

That said, understanding the intricacies of Japanese job interviews and the hiring process will help you stand out as a job candidate. Practicing your self-introduction, researching the company, adhering to interview etiquette, and adapting to cultural differences will all help better prepare you for success in your Japan job hunt. Persevere, remain determined, be ready to meet and overcome the challenges and you can and will land your dream job in Japan.

Good luck!

If you’re ready to take the next step and find your perfect job in Japan, register on our recruit page today. Our team is here to support you every step of the way.