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Job interview in Japan — 5 tips for passing

In our previous article “What Makes Landing a Job in Japan Difficult for a Foreigner?”, we were trying to help you decide on taking the leap of faith and joining the Japanese company that you’ve been eyeing for months.

Now we’re going to guide you as to what you should do, how to impress your potential employer, and what to keep in mind now that you’re heading to your interview.

So steam your business suit or prepare your blouse, fix your tie and button your blazer, lace up your Oxford’s or find the perfect pair of heels, and turn on your charm. It’s interview time!

Don’t Go to the Battlefield Unarmed

There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting into a room with your potential employer woefully unprepared. To avoid this from happening, you need to lay the groundwork and concoct a winning strategy. Remember, preparation is always key.

Before the interview, practice displaying proper behavior and courtesy. Master the Japanese greetings you’re supposed to say once you enter the door and know when and how to bow correctly.

There’s only one thing wrong with overpreparing for an interview; that’s the unnecessary stress. But do you know what can go wrong when you underprepare or don’t prepare at all? Everything.

The typical interview questions

All companies, regardless of which country they belong to, basically want to know their possible employees. Whether these types of information are personal or work related, it is helpful to prepare for common questions that may pop up during the interview.

“Tell me about yourself” or “Describe yourself” and questions similar to these usually start interviews off. Before anything else, interviewers would want to know who the interviewees are. Japanese are known for being keen on personal questions. “Do you have any experiences related to this job?” usually follows. This allows companies to know if foreign applicants know the basics of the position.

Japanese interviews usually include questions that might give the employer a glimpse of a candidate’s character and personality. Questions like “What made you apply for our company?”, “What made you leave your previous employer?”, “Why should we hire you?” and “How do you envision your career 5 years from now?” are expected. This is to know what the applicant expects from the company, their work history, and how they perceive working with the company in the future.

“How do you deal with pressure?”, “Tell me about your biggest accomplishments.” and “What are your major strengths and weaknesses?” are likely asked to know the applicant’s approach when it comes to deadlines, as well as their skills and talents.

Meanwhile “How did you learn about our company?” and “Have you applied for any other employers before this interview or do you have any other interviews after this?” are questions employers ask to know if their company was the candidate’s first choice and if the applicant is on a job hunt.

“How much did you make from your previous work and how much are you expecting from us?” denotes at what value the gaijin or foreigners’ last employer assessed their abilities and at how much the gaijin value their current services.

Make sure to rehearse your answers to these possible questions as if the interview is ongoing. A great way to do this is by standing in front of the mirror to study your posture and body cues, or by making use of flashcards. If some of your family members are online, send them the questions and try to emulate an interview through video chat or call.

No Second Chance at a First Impression

Start strong. In any part of life, whether it be in class, in a new crowd, or in a job interview, you should always keep in mind that this first meeting can possibly dictate whether or not you separate yourself from the rest of the pack.

Introduce yourself in a manner that dazzles the interviewer and makes you worth remembering. However, don’t overdo it. It helps to be friendly to the interviewers but avoid crossing boundaries. It’s useful to be confident but not boastful.

After the opening salutations (Remember? The ones you practiced before you got to your interview?), you’re probably thinking it’s time to sit back and relax while the interview is carrying on, right? Then you are mistaken. While it may seem tempting to lean back and loosen up, most Japanese people consider that to be a big no-no. Always sit upright with your hands on your lap and your legs together.

Sure, the other candidates must have figured this out by now. But you should always try to do subtle things that will distinguish yourself from them. Try to be more professional than your usual self. Be mindful of Japan’s corporate culture and show them that you are aware of this. Keep the charisma, but still, be natural. Avoid forcing yourself to be something that you’re not. Talk in a firm and concise manner. Be calm. And if you are nervous, don’t ever show it.

Fashion Tips

Applicants should always try to wow the interviewers with a fashion statement that’s stylish but not over the top. Here are our tips for both male and female job seekers.

For men:

Employers expect male applicants to keep their hair short and have clean and shaven faces. Men should wear a white shirt to go along with a dark business suit and a red tie. Their pants should be ironed, while shoes should be black or brown. And complete their attire with a simple watch (but not digital).

For women:

Just like their male counterparts, companies also advise women to go to the office with their hair arranged while wearing light makeup and light perfume. They also need to have their nails nicely done. For their attire, white blouses are preferred. Employers don’t want applicants to wear flashy jewelry. Skirts should only cover half the knees; stockings are a must with skirts and should match the skin. Pants are also fine. Shoes should be simple but formal.

Great Answers = Great Results

You’ve done the homework and you’ve presented yourself nicely. Things have been going great so far. Now comes the challenging part, the actual interview itself.

In any interview, your primary mission is to market yourself. Show them why you’re the perfect candidate, why you’re meant for the job, why they don’t even need to hear the other applicants, and because you did such a terrific job and you deserve a billion fist bumps and high fives!

All jokes aside, answer their questions with confidence or always respond in an impressive fashion. If they ask about your strengths, tell them precisely what they need to hear but don’t exaggerate it. Play off your biggest assets that could benefit the company if they were to offer you the position.

If they need to know about your weaknesses, only tell them flaws that aren’t in-line with the position. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, but don’t lie as well. Just approach their questions wholeheartedly, and sure enough, you’ll get wholehearted results.

Swing that Bat! Go for the Home Run!

What’s the point of having a terrific story if the ending is terrible? It’s the same with your interview. You don’t ever want to end this on a flat note. You started out strong, now you need to finish hard.

The last few moments of an interview are vital. You want to rouse them up as much as you can and make them remember you. Try to connect with the interviewers by being witty or humorous. After the interview, thank them for their time and show gratitude for having such a huge opportunity given to you. Don’t forget to bow before leaving the room as that would make a great impression on them and end things on a high note.

Extra Tips

  • Be punctual/Don’t be late

    This is self-explanatory. But you need to be there 10-15 minutes early.

  • Turn off your phone/Put your phone on silent mode

    It’s rude to have your phone going off while in the middle of an interview, so it’s best if you turn it off or have it on mute.

  • Dress neatly

    Your potential employers would appreciate it if you’re on your best attire.

We hope that this article will be helpful for your next interview. Don’t forget to prepare extensively, impress them from the get-go, answer the questions as best as you can, and end on a high note. Good luck with your interview!

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