Finding Work in Japan: The Whole Point of Your Resumé


If you’ve made it through the first, second and third parts of this series on finding work in Japan — congratulations! You are now ready for the final tip. Today we’re going to talk about the actual goal of your resumé.

You might think that its purpose is to get you hired, but that’s not exactly correct. The actual aim of your cover letter and CV (and getting your beautiful picture taken in one of those little booths) is to get yourself an interview. That’s it.

There isn’t a resumé in the world that will get you a job all by itself. The best ones will only move you to the next step in the process, where it will be completely up to you to rise above the other hopefuls.

So the question becomes: how can knowing this fact help us make an awesome and effective resume or cover letter?

Sell Yourself

Well, since our definitive intention is to get the interview, your focus should be on drumming up interest in you: in your experience, your accomplishments, your personality. Interest in you, the candidate. The objective should be for the hiring manager to read your material and to think, “Wow, I really feel like I know what this person is all about. I’ve got to talk to him/her ASAP.”

To most effectively achieve this, you’ve got to plaster “you” all over your resume.

You’ve got to plaster ‘you’ all over your resume

This means you can’t be following templates that you find on Google or in Microsoft Word. This means being bold and stating exactly why you are a strong candidate, even if it’s not what a stereotypical “good candidate” might boast. This means communicating exactly what it is you want to do and exactly how you plan to go about doing it once you’re hired.

Be Direct

One great place to show off all of your “you” is in the summary. Everyone can use words like “dedicated,” “experienced” or “driven,” but these words don’t stand out because everyone uses them. So try being more direct, more interesting, more memorable.

I love summaries that state exactly what the applicant wants to do as a part of the company. No asking, no begging — just an upfront statement about what that candidate can offer. That’s memorable. That sets you apart (assuming you have something unique you can declare).

Use Formatting

Another place to stand out is with your formatting. If it’s usual in your field for people to utilize multi-page resumés then creating a super tight, one-pager can really set yours apart. Most hiring managers just skim over resumés anyway, and the second, third and fourth (stop!) pages end up getting ignored altogether. Make your one-page resume sing and you’ll earn your interview by being unique.

Be Honest and Be Memorable

One final note I want to make is about the overall “voice” of your resume: If you really want to work somewhere, you can’t be afraid to let them know who you are. Obviously, you want to maintain your professionalism, but make sure to let some of your personality shine through. This means talking like you actually speak, rather than using bland, office-speak. Use action words and be declarative; don’t passively opine about how you “would be honored to serve if only given the chance.” Don’t you dare be afraid to talk about how great you were at your previous positions — if you don’t fight for yourself, who else will?

So be yourself. Be honest. And be memorable.

I could go on, but I think you get the point by now. Your resumé is not just a place to list where you used to work. It’s one of only a couple weapons you have to pique the interest of that hiring manager. So be yourself. Be honest. And be memorable. Let all of your “you” shine throughout the whole resumé and cover letter, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that interview.


Refusing to be a bitter gaijin since 2007.

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