Stand Out from the Crowd
Are you hoping to land a job with a Japanese company? If so, you may already know that Japanese employers have high standards when it comes to resumes. To stand out from the competition, it’s important to optimize your resume for the Japanese job market. In this article, we’ve compiled 5 expert tips to help you elevate your resume and increase your chances of landing your dream job with a Japanese company. From formatting and language to customization and focus, these tips will help you create a powerful resume that showcases your skills and achievements and impresses Japanese employers.
As someone who has worked as a CTO for a Japanese company for four years, I have personally screened hundreds of resumes and know what it takes to stand out to potential employers. In addition, I have also collaborated with recruiters in this Hello World Japan community to help candidates improve their resumes and showcase their skills and experience in the best possible light. Through these experiences, I am confident that I can help you to craft a compelling and effective document that highlights your strengths and sets you apart from the competition.
Table of Contents
1. Use a simple format
Speaking of the resume format, “Standing out from the crowd” here means you understand the target audience of your resume better than others. When it comes to applying for IT jobs in Japan, presenting a clean and easy-to-read resume is essential. Japanese companies value professionalism, formality, and attention to detail, and your resume is the first impression you will make on potential employers.
A condensed header
Organize your resume in a clear and logical way, with your name and contact information at the top of the page, followed by a summary of your skills and experience. Japanese employers are used to seeing a certain format for resumes, so it’s best to stick with this format to make your resume easy to read and leave a good first impression.
A clean body
Make sure that your resume body is easy to read. When applying for an IT job, use a clear and legible font, and stick with black text on a white background. Avoid using too many colors, graphics, or other distracting elements that may make your resume difficult to read. Instead, focus on making sections and using bullet points to break up information and make it easy to read by employers.
Keep it short and concise
While it may be tempting to include every detail of your career, Japanese companies tend to prefer condensed, streamlined resumes that are easy to read and digest. Japanese companies tend to prefer resumes that are one to two pages in length, so it’s important to keep your resume concise and focused. Avoid including irrelevant or outdated information, and focus on highlighting your most recent and relevant experience. And my honest suggestion is, you should always use a one-page resume and only use two pages when you have 15+ years of academic or professional work experience with significant contributions in different areas.
2. Focus on your relevant achievements, not skills buzzwords
Focus on specific examples of how you have demonstrated your skills and achieved results in your previous roles. Employers cannot imagine how good you are at a certain programming language or skill if you just list all of them that you have touched. It is your job to make the result tangible and relevant to the employers.
Instead of simply listing your programming skills, provide examples of how you have used those skills to develop successful software projects. Highlight any awards or recognition you have received for your work, and provide specific metrics or results that demonstrate the impact you have had in your previous roles.
- Programming skills: PHP, Java, C++, Python
- Worked on software projects for various clients
- Good team player and quick learner
- Developed and launched a new e-commerce platform using PHP, resulting in a 25% increase in online sales within six months.
- Led a team of five developers in the successful migration of a legacy Java-based system to an AWS-based solution, resulting in a 50% decrease in system downtime and improved user satisfaction by 30%.
- Received the “Outstanding Achievement in Software Development” award from XYZ company for the successful completion of a cross-department software project that streamlined internal processes and reduced costs by 30%.
What if your team doesn’t have any related metrics for your product? Then ask, convince, or step up to lead your current team to add relevant measurements to your current product. The measurement should always be a part of your product. We’ll write another article to explain how important it is.
Remember, skill keywords only help you get into the database of the employer’s applicant tracking system. It is the achievement you made that makes your resume stand out.
3. Highlight your language skills
How important are language skills to Japanese companies when searching for an IT job? Let me tell you the reality. In many Japanese companies, your Japanese proficiency carries more weight than your programming language proficiency in terms of hiring. This is a hard fact in job searching in Japan.
To effectively showcase language skills on a resume, you can include a dedicated section that lists your proficiency level in various languages, including Japanese and English. You can also highlight any relevant language certifications or courses they have completed to demonstrate your commitment to developing your language skills.
Example of writing your language skills
- Language Skills
- Japanese: Conversational. JLPT: N2
- English: Professional working proficiency. TOEIC: Score of 950 (out of 990)
If you don’t have any certification yet, show that you care the team communication and mutual understanding by participating in language learning courses and activities.
4. Highlight the employment type
I would advise IT talents to make it clear which job on the resume is which employment type, particularly if you have multiple non-full-time work experiences. This is because Japanese companies prefer candidates who have a stable work history and may view frequent job changes as a negative trait. However, having side jobs or working as a contractor is not uncommon in Japan and is generally accepted.
To effectively showcase the employment type of each job on the resume, IT talents can include the type of employment in the job title or in a separate column.
Example of writing different of work experience employment type
- Software Engineer, XYZ Corporation, Tokyo, Japan (2018 – Present) → No indication means this is full-time.
- IT Support Specialist (Part-time), ABC Company, Osaka, Japan (2020 – Present)
- Freelance Web Developer (Contractor), DEF Agency, Sapporo, Japan (2019 – 2022)
- IT Consultant, GHI Corporation (Dispatched Worker), Yokohama, Japan (2017 – 2018)
How about an internship or IT training experience?
If the internship is directly relevant to the job the candidate is applying for, then it is recommended to include it in the work experience section of the resume. This can help demonstrate the candidate’s relevant skills and experience in a professional setting. If the internship was completed at a reputable company or organization, this can also add credibility to the candidate’s experience.
However, if the internship is not directly relevant to the desired job or was completed for a short duration, it is more appropriate to include it in the education section of the resume. This can help show the candidate’s commitment to learning and professional development, and can also help fill any gaps in the work experience.
Example of writing your internship experiences
Work Experience Section:
Software Developer Intern, XYZ Corporation, Tokyo, Japan (Summer 2022)
- Developed and tested software features for a mobile application using Java and Android Studio
- Collaborated with a team of developers and designers to ensure the timely delivery of an Android application
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, ABC University, Tokyo, Japan (Summer 2022)
- Completed a summer internship as a software developer at XYZ Corporation, where I gained experience in Java and Android Studio
By considering the relevance and duration of the internship, candidates can make an informed decision about where to include it on their resume. Additionally, candidates should make sure to highlight the skills and experience gained during the internship, whether in the work or education section, to demonstrate their value as a candidate to potential employers.
For receiving IT training-related experience, please put them in the education section, not the work experience section.
Calculating years of the work experience
If you want to specify how many years of work experience you have, it is important to be aware that Japanese companies place a high value on relevant primary work experience when considering job applicants. Therefore, when specifying the number of years of work experience in a resume, only include experience that is directly relevant to the job being applied for and involves working experiences that are primary jobs, usually around 40 hours of work per week.
5. Show your passion and cultural fit
Your passion and value that aligns with the company can be more important than your skills. Many Japanese companies spend more time and more rounds of interviews to find a person who fits their company culture than skills. If you are searching for a job in Japan, you must leverage this concept.
I suggest candidates demonstrate their passion for the work and the alignment with the company’s values and culture in both their resume and cover letter. This can help showcase the candidate’s motivation, enthusiasm, and suitability for the position.
How to do it?
In the resume, candidates can highlight their relevant skills and experience that align with the company’s vision and values. Also, mention any relevant personal projects or community or event activities that demonstrate their passion for the work or their commitment to ongoing learning and making an impact outside of their work.
Example of the work experience in the resume
- Community Volunteer, Hello World Japan (2023-present)
- Helped with event logistics, including setting up equipment and coordinating with participants
- Mentored participants on software engineering and problem-solving skills
- Organized a workshop on web development and contributed to the development of a new feature for a charity donation platform
In the cover letter, candidates can further express their interest in the company and their alignment with its values and culture. Please research the company and its mission statement, and then tailor your cover letter to reflect how your skills and experience can contribute to the company’s goals.
Example of the cover letter
- “I am excited to apply for the Software Developer position at ABC Corporation. As an avid learner and passionate developer, I was drawn to your company’s commitment to innovation and its goal of using technology and sustainable energy to make a positive impact on society. I was particularly impressed by your work on the recent AI-powered healthcare project, which aligns with my own interest in using technology to improve people’s lives. My 3 years of experience as a data engineer, and green energy community organizer combined with my strong teamwork abilities, make me a strong fit for the position. I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the team at ABC Corporation and continue to learn and grow as a developer.”
Self-promotion: Want to help an IT talent community in Japan to enrich your experience and show your passion? Join the Hello World Japan community!
6. Less is more
You might think it’s better to write all of your life into the resume. Don’t do it. It’s tempting to show all you know but you have to understand the resume space is limited, and the employer’s attention is also limited. The following are some common mistakes I see a lot of IT talents put in their resumes.
Mention their achievements a long time ago in the resume.
The ugly truth is, no one cares. Unless the achievement you made a long time ago was international or benefited the whole human beings, mentioning stale achievements make employers think you didn’t grow or didn’t make new achievements recently. The IT industry is very competitive and constantly changing. Everyone needs to be constantly growing and not obsessed with past achievements.
Use a lot of skill buzzwords
It gives the employers the impression that maybe you tried many stacks, or many tutorials, or built many toy projects, but never really get into a difficult tech problem. It gets worse when you write something that is very easy to learn. If you can learn some tools or skills in a day or in a few days, don’t even bother to put it on your resume, unless you are a beginner and you really don’t have any relevant content you can put it on your resume. Writing easy-to-learn tools or skills reduces the overall credit of your resume.
7. Utilize ChatGPT
If you are not using ChatGPT, you are falling behind. This doesn’t mean you should use ChatGPT to help you write your resume. I don’t recommend IT talents to use chatGPT to write their resumes for the following reasons.
- Unless the AI you use is already adjusted to the way you write, the tone of the sentence is not you and it can be sensed.
- AI-generated content can be detected.
- Your resume is just one or two pages. If you can’t do it by yourself, there is a problem.
Instead, use ChatGPT in the following way.
Use ChatGPT to review your resume
- Put in the job description. If possible, also input the company’s mission and values.
- Put in your resume content.
- Ask ChatGPT’s opinion on whether your resume fits the job.
- Ask ChatGPT for ideas to improve your resume.
But again, don’t just copy ChatGPT’s suggestions. Use your wisdom and digest the ideas and make them your own.
Let community experts review your resume
Finally, are you preparing to apply for a job and want to ensure that your resume is as strong as possible? Consider joining our Hello World Japan community of like-minded professionals, where you can receive feedback and guidance from experts who have extensive experience reviewing resumes for Japanese companies. We understand that crafting a strong resume can be challenging, and we want to help you to showcase your skills and experience in the best possible light. By joining our community, you can connect with other IT talents, access valuable resources and tips, and have your resume reviewed by experts who know exactly what employers are looking for.
If you want a resume review from us, join the Hello World Japan community on Slack and then join the #resume-review channel!
We summarized 7 important tips to help IT talents to find a job in Japan, including using a simple format, focusing on skills and achievements, highlighting language skills, emphasizing employment type, and showcasing your passion and cultural fit. Each section includes examples of how to write and format relevant information in order to create an effective resume. Additionally, we offer the opportunity for the community to review your resume.