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5 keys to navigating your first job interview in Japanese

9 Comments
By Liam Carrigan

At the start of each year, we all like to set ourselves goals. For me, I guess that goal could be loosely articulated as “shake off the malaise.” A large part of this involved accepting that my job and other aspects of my life in Osaka were not as satisfying for me as I hoped they would be. The job paid well enough, but the contract wasn’t that great.

Then things changed. At a certain point, something became abundantly clear: To get a better job than my last one, I would need to speak Japanese. Not only this, I would also need to prove my ability by interviewing in Japanese.

Friends, previous partners and work colleagues have often joked that I have “izakaya Japanese.” In other words, I have the ability to make casual conversation down the pub and navigate most day-to-day situations, but I don’t think I’ve quite reached the level where I can communicate effectively in a business situation or a formal gathering.

I was going to have to learn fast or find as many shortcuts to mask my lack of formal Japanese ability as possible.

As it transpired, after about two months of sending applications and filtering out the usual time wasters and labor law violators, I managed to line up final interviews with three jobs I was interested in. Much to my initial disdain, they all wanted to interview me in Japanese.

Of these three positions, two of them ended up offering me the contract — and prior to this spring, I had never attempted a job interview in Japanese before.

I’d like to share some of my experience with this process. So here are five tips for navigating a job interview in Japanese.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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Japanese can be quite in group and vague, so asking for a repeat of a question, or asking back if this is what is being asked about is ok...even in a straight forward language.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Friends, previous partners and work colleagues have often joked that I have “izakaya Japanese.” In other words, I have the ability to make casual conversation down the pub and navigate most day-to-day situations, but I don’t think I’ve quite reached the level where I can communicate effectively in a business situation or a formal gathering.

This was my level when I got my first job in a Japanese company. I could chit-chat and talk about many subjects, and was quite comfortable in Japanese. Day one at the office, and I barely understood a thing that happened all day. It felt like I went back to the day I stepped off the airplane again. It took me near a year to start really understanding everything that was happening, another year before I was able to fully communicate in meetings, and another year to be able to do presentations, pitches, and talk with customers. Business Japanese and casual conversational Japaneses are very, very different.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Easy step 1: don't stare at the legs of the woman at the table (this from totally gay gokai).

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Also, if you are a gaijin man, take care not to sound too feminine/babyish when speaking Japanese. A lot of western males only have Japanese women for language input, and they tend to end up sounding like okama when among Japanese males. Overuse of "ne" is a particular giveaway.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Also, if you are a gaijin man, take care not to sound too feminine/babyish when speaking Japanese. A lot of western males only have Japanese women for language input, and they tend to end up sounding like okama when among Japanese males. Overuse of "ne" is a particular giveaway.

Very true, and quite common. I fell into it myself when I first started learning. Not enough male input.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I wish I had had interviewing panels like this one. Usually old farting ossans.

That being said the interviewer on the right with those legs and that skirt make that (pretend?) interviewee situation many-fold difficult for many blokes, at least in the age of me too.. And that being said, toned muscled male torsos under loose tank tops may intimidate some female interviewees too, at least if worn instead of old cheap suits by the podgy ossan middle managers who make up many real interview panels in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Name, rank and serial number.

Nothing that will reveal your true nature. This is what got me through my interview with a Japanese company.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I recommend being your own person and showing your strengths and that you are different but can do whats required.

You don’t wanna be stuck in together with everyone else because Japanese companies are rife with bullying, non paid overtime, and inane meetings and things there to suffocate you as a human.

I never deal with it, and hopefully never have to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When asked; "How long have you lived in Japan"; just give back that blank stare (that you'll become accustomed to seeing) and make like you never heard a question.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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