Interviewing in Japan
Tips for what to do - and not do
Here are some pointers based on many years experience in Japan - as both interviewer and interviewee, many times over - on what to do during an interview for a job in Japan.
Japan job interviews - do's and don'ts
Arriving late or just on time is a big no-no, no matter how qualified you may be. Get there early, compose yourself, and wait near the designated room for the interview. I have been on personnel committees that chose the lesser of several candidates because the best qualified person showed up two minutes early and clearly rushed. Punctuality pays in japanese job interviews.
First impressions in Japan are very important. In addition to arriving on time for a japan job interview, having the correct "uniform" - a salaryman's conservative suit-and-tie, college professor jacket and tie (if only this one time) - is key to getting the position.
3. Be self-confident and engaging but not too
This is tricky. You want to appear qualified and someone the people doing the hiring will want to work with. However, do not brag. State your talents, accomplishments, etc. in a manner that is truthful but not overbearing.
4. Do not discuss salary (unless you are in finance or investment banking)
The remuneration information is usually listed in the Japan job announcement and therefore you will be expected to be aware of this. Even if it was not, don't ask.
5. Reply to questions with specific, concrete answers
The people considering you need to know exactly what you can and cannot do, have and have not done.
6. Address all of the interviewers
Interviews in Japan are often done by committee. Be sure to address each of the members. Some of the members may not speak because of fluency issues, hierarchy, or - most dangerous - the person is so powerful s/he does not feel the need to speak. Be sure to address this person as well.
7. Read up on the company or university before the interview
You should be expected to know the basics of the history of the institution you are applying for employment at, what it makes, does, is famous for, etc. - and why you would be a good fit.
What questions will you be asked? In what language? Make a list of possible questions. Practice answering. Do so in Japanese. If you claim on your resume a certain level of proficiency in Japanese, be expected to prove that Japanese ability in the interview.
At the end of the interview in Japan, you will probably be asked if you have any questions. Not asking a question gives the impression you are not engaged.
10. If asked, "How long do you plan to stay in Japan?" Answer "Until retirement."
This is the one fib we will overlook. The reason is that, in the case of both a full-time seishain post at a company or tenure-track job at a university, you will not get the job if you hem and haw and say "A few years" or "I'm not really sure at this point." (To be fair, though, someone only planning on being in Japan temporarily or so is wasting his time and the company/university's time by applying for full-time job.)
11. When speaking in English, speak clearly
Don't speak down to an interviewer. However, some members of the committee may not be as fluent as others. Speak clearly and concisely.
Last, the hiring process is often political and or personal. The final decision is sometimes based on personal connections and or internal dynamics that have nothing to do with the interviewee.
Things to take away from a job interview in Japan
Use the interview process as learning experience - and don't expect anything.
Do your best, prepare like hell, and persist. There's a job in Japan out there for you.