Looking for an IT job in Japan? We’ve asked all the tough questions for you. Here’s what Japan’s top IT Hiring Managers had to say about how to cruise through your interview with confidence and make your resume stand out.
1. Japanese language skills will give you a leg up on the competition
Some IT companies advertise on GaijinPot Jobs with “no Japanese required” as part of their position descriptions. But is this really the case? Even if the IT position is for a non-client-facing role, you’ll likely have to communicate with your Japanese coworkers.
When firms receive loads of applications from foreigners, it’s not uncommon for someone with less technical skill but decent Japanese skills to be hired over someone with more advanced technical skills but zero Japanese language ability.
Interview Tip: If your Japanese is less than on par, memorize some work or IT-related phrases to show you are willing to learn to communicate.
2. Tailor your resume for each job description by focusing on keywords
Sometimes the first round of resume screening might be done by someone in HR or a non-technical hiring manager. They may know very little about IT and are just looking for keywords in resumes before passing them up through the ranks of hiring managers. Ticking the boxes in the job description with your position-tailored resume is the best way to communicate that you are a strong candidate.
Every job position is unique and the hiring managers can tell if you just copy-paste a standard IT job resume. To increase the chances of making it past the initial screening, highlight the skills that are especially relevant for the specific position you are applying to.
Customize your resume to better fit the job description, describe similar assignments you may have worked on in the past, and emphasize specific hardware experience that will help you excel if you’re chosen for the job.
3. Don’t complain about your current boss or say you love Japanese culture
Mentioning that you have a horrible boss or the worst coworkers is not something potential employers want to hear. Plenty of candidates have negative things to say about their boss or previous company, but if this comes across as being the main driver behind switching jobs, the hiring manager sees a red flag.
Especially for overseas candidates, mentioning that you are desperate to find a job (any job) in Japan is another red flag. Too many foreign candidates mention wanting to work in Japan because they “love the culture and traditions of the country” which is something hiring managers have heard a million times. This isn’t a very unique motivation and they aren’t impressed.
Interview Tip: Show (don’t tell) your eagerness to work in Japan by demonstrating how you will be able to fit in, or explaining what drew you to the specific company and job position that happens to also be in Japan.
4. Show the company why they should risk hiring an overseas candidate
Hiring a job seeker from overseas is a huge risk for Japanese companies, especially if an employee will need their visa sponsored. Hiring local labor means no visa sponsorship, no relocation costs, and no risk of the candidate leaving after a short period of time due to missing home or not adjusting well to the Japanese lifestyle. For hiring managers, in order to accept these risks, a candidate should have skills above and beyond the skills of local hires.
To help bridge the gap, make sure you submit a superior resume that shows expertise and diversity. During your face-to-face (or phone) interview, try your best not to come across as a “fresh off the boat” foreigner. Demonstrate that you’ll be able to fit in with Japanese colleagues, and use your interview to put them at ease about hiring a foreigner.
Tip: If you’re looking for visa sponsorship, remember the Japanese government requires at least a Bachelor’s degree or 10 years of experience in a certain field in most cases too.
6. Be prepared to have your skills and knowledge in the IT industry tested
Hiring managers determine in a few different ways if a candidate has the necessary IT skills to succeed in a new position. If the role you’re looking for is more on the development side of IT, be prepared to (or offer to) show a portfolio of work. If the role is script-based, you may be required to take a skills test.
You will definitely be asked specific questions about IT should you be granted an interview, and you’ll be expected to answer in a way that shows a deep understanding and the ability to think on your feet. One question for example is, “What is the cloud?” Responses could be broad and simple, but giving an in-depth answer will highlight your level of understanding of the IT world.
7. The pivotal information on your resume: What you can do and what you have achieved
All resumes have the standard job title, companies worked for, and dates worked. The fundamental section of your resume shows a hiring manager your detailed job duties and key achievements. One hiring manager interviewed said this is the first thing they check. To fully convey what you can do, it’s best to use more than one or two sentences per position held.
Contrary to popular belief, your resume doesn’t have to be just one page!
Contrary to popular belief, your resume doesn’t have to be just one page! Hiring managers have asked quality candidates to re-write their resume to show more of their skills and specifications. A five-page resume that highlights your accomplishments and shows how you have successfully demonstrated value is better than a one-pager that leaves out important details.
8. Ability trumps education in IT
From an education perspective, often the minimum requirement is a Bachelor’s degree. However, in the grand scheme of things, education doesn’t matter nearly as much as a candidate’s ability in IT. One hiring manager said in the “education” section of a resume, they only look to see if a candidate has at least a BA.
It’s one of the only industries and that doesn’t really care about education that much. It’s [about] what you can do. It’s all about skills.
Many workers choose to re-train themselves to learn to code after being laid-off from positions made redundant. Therefore IT companies may hire skilled employees regardless of education and industry background. This makes it even more important to be able to showcase your IT skills on your resume and in-person.
Alternatively, you may risk appearing over-qualified for an IT position if you have a Ph.D. or an abundance of education, but no work experience.
General Interview Tips from Hiring Managers
- Don’t act super formal, because it’s unnatural and makes it hard for the hiring manager to imagine working with you.
- Calm your nerves. Candidates can be rejected because they are too nervous during interviews, and come across as unable to communicate well.
- If negative experiences drove you from your last position, spin it into a positive light by saying something like, “Working with my previous team was a great learning experience, and now I am ready to take a step forward in my career.”
- Elaborate on each answer you give rather than giving one-word answers.
- Plan something exciting after a big interview—this will help change your mindset in a positive way, or at least loosen you up for the interview itself.
To sum it up
The most important thing when applying for IT jobs in Japan, especially if you’re applying from overseas, is to appear incredibly qualified for the position. Make sure that your capabilities and skills shine through your resume so everyone from the hiring managers to general HR staff can immediately tell you’re a good fit.
Lots of Japanese companies see hiring foreign workers from abroad as a huge risk, so you need to do everything you can to mitigate those risks. Do this by highlighting how you will be able to integrate into Japanese society and for the love of god, don’t say how much you “just love Japanese culture.”
Good luck with your job search, from GaijinPot!