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Finding Work in Japan: Don’t Make Your Resume About You

I bet you think this resume is all about you. Heads up: It's not.

By 4 min read

While my first and second articles in this series focused on what to include and what not to include in your resume, I’m now going to show you how to take a bigger-picture approach to help your resume stand out, and ultimately get you the interview you want.

I’ve worked with a lot of people at various stages of preparing their resumes and the same problem shows up pretty often. Many of these employment hopefuls work on their resumes with a mindset of what it does for them.

If my resume shows how great I am, I will get hired. If I get hired, I can go to Japan! I can get the money I need to live in Japan! I can go to a cat cafe!

And so forth.

You’re Not Writing For Yourself

While it’s good to have goals, it’s far more important to recognize that you’re not writing your resume for yourself. The people who will eventually read your resume are thinking about their own goals. And while there will be some overlap between your goals and theirs, you can rest assured that they do not care whether or not you ever make it to a cat cafe.

So with each job you apply for, you need to craft your resume to perfectly fit those goals – like a straight block for a Tetris.

Imagine You’re Not an ALT

Let’s first look at a non-ALT situation to see what I’m talking about.

Say you’re applying to a small, three-employee IT company, housed in one of those sweet start-up-type offices that’s in a fake old warehouse (built in 2015). What might this company’s hiring manager’s goals be?

In small companies where the hiring manager likely has many different hats, you can bet that they are looking for someone pleasant to work with (in addition to fitting the other requirements) because the eventual hire is likely to be sitting only a few feet from them. This means that you want to highlight the times you’ve played nicely with others in an office setting. Your two years as an intern at a law firm might be worth mentioning, even though it has nothing to do with IT. And your cover letter should showcase how well you’ve gotten along with previous co-workers.

Now let’s say you’re applying for the JET Programme. What might your hiring manager’s goals be here?

First, unlike our small IT company, manager(s) here are recruiting hundreds of candidates that they will likely never see face-to-face. They have a certain number of schools for which they have to find teachers, and the fewer problems those schools have with those teachers, the better. They absolutely want to avoid having teachers who quit halfway through the school year.

So how can we apply this knowledge?

Obviously, you want to include any experience that shows how you will make a great teacher and cultural ambassador. But you also want to be sure that you advertize your reliability as well. Pointing out your four consecutive years of perfect attendance as a member of (insert council name here) is worth talking about. And that situation where you solved a tough challenge that at first seemed impossible? Put that in as well.

Your Statement of Purpose should be thick with stories about not quitting and dealing with adversity.

So the next time you need to craft a CV, resume, cover letter, or other application document, put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes before putting pen to paper.

  • What are their goals?
  • What kind of person would best fit their goals?
  • What experience do I have that shows my ability to be that type of person?
  • What information needs to be cut since it adds nothing to my cause?

Ask yourself these questions before you start (and make sure you give it several rewrites and revisions). By the time you’re finished you’ll have a targeted resume that the hiring manager will be thrilled to add to the interview pile.

By keeping their needs in mind when you write your documents, you’ll be able to convince them that you’re the exactly the type of person to help them achieve their goals.

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