A Japanese Interview is 150% harder than you think. Especially for you guys out there who are like me and are more comfortable speaking than writing the language, I cannot stress enough: by no means can you allow yourself to be caught off guard.

The first interview is going to be a shock; you will not believe how nervous youfll get.


Here are a few tips I can give on interviewing:


1.     Practice the interview the night before in front of a full length mirror.

This goes out to all the people like me that shy away from (for no particularly good reason) those practice sessions offered by their school career centers. I feel for you.

What you want to do is sit yourself down in a chair in front of a full length mirror and start by practicing your Jiko Shōkai:


ü       Always start with ghajimemashite.h Bow. Say your school name, department, year, and name. Next say what country youfre coming from. Follow with thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to take the time to meet, and close with the proverbial honjitsu ha (nanitozo) yoroshiku onegaimōshiagemasu. Bow.

ü       Make sure you can deliver this routine from memorypractice in front of bathroom mirrors, dressing room mirrors, any chance you get. Your self introduction should be your way of calming yourself down at the beginning of the interview. Youfll feel a lot more confident after proving to the interviewer that you can speak polished Japanese.

ü       Practice in different clothes. Practice first with your pajamas on, then change into your suit, do your hair up, and practice again.

ü       Pay attention to your posture, where your hands are, how your legs look. Is your back straight? Are you slouching? If youfre wearing a skirt, is it riding up your legs too much? Do your stockings have any rips or runs? How does your hair look? Is it covering your eyes? Do your bangs cover back over your eyes after you bow? Take the time to look at yourself from head to toe as you practice that self introduction.

ü       Next, pretend you are being interviewed. Talk out loud on a variety of prompts: Whatfs your Shibōdōki? How did you start out studying Japanese? Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Keep on talking on all those standard prompts and soon you will find the gaps and weak points in your repertoire.

ü       Take dinner, or a midnight snack, as an opportunity to step away from the mirror. Take notes on those gaps. Change back into your pajamas. Practice one more time from the top, and go to bed.

ü       Go over your notes the next morning and on the way to your interview. The mirror will work wonders on your preparedness.


2.     Get to the interview site 45 minutes before you can go in, and have coffee at a nearby café.

Part of this is simply to ensure that you arenft rushing—you will always need a buffer to compensate for getting lost, missing trains, and waiting for buses. But moreover, I would recommend arriving early for the following benefits:


ü       Finding the exact building beforehand guarantees that you wonft be late for your appointment.

ü       Sitting down in a relaxed public environment such as a café will help calm your nerves.

ü       Drinking coffee will give you that added boost of energy, and will help you to think clearly.

ü       Café restrooms are a clean and practical way to fix your hair, suit, and to practice your Jiko Shōkai that one last time.


Remember to always follow the companyfs protocol and never arrive too early nor too late. Take your raincoat off before entering the building, smile and bow to the doorman, the guard at the elevators, and the receptionist(s).


3.     Look for opportunities to break the fourth wall.

I think one quality recruiters look for in all of their applicants is Ningensei, or gan element of humanity.h Here are some ways I have found to turn up the charm:


ü       Be prepared to crack a smile if the timing is funny for your self introduction. In some cases, you will find the timing better to say your introduction while standing next to your chair, before sitting down. However it is often the case that the interviewers will be motioning you to sit down before you can get a word out. You should feel comfortable dealing with either happening. If both you and the interviewer accidentally talk at the same time, therefs nothing that a smile and a sumimasen wonft fix.

ü       If youfre wearing glasses, take them off as you start to speak. Say something to the effect of goh, it looks like I forgot to take these off.h This shows your awareness of the importance of not hiding behind them. As an added bonus, youfll find itfs much more comfortable to give an interview when the figures in front of you look fuzzy. Making sudden eye contact while giving an answer (as is the case with speeches) can make you freeze up.

ü       Take the time to correct yourself if you make a Keigo mistake. If you find you are conjugating a verb incorrectly, or accidentally saying something impolite, go ahead and correct yourself on the spot. Most Japanese youth havenft mastered honorific speech yet either, and your dedication to being polite will really impress interviewers.


4.     Smile, smile, smile.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, there should be a certain effervescence to your delivery. That is, there should be a happiness about you. Effervescence is very different from ghigh energy;h you should aim for a genuine smile that exudes a sparkle, not electric shock. When you leave the room, the serious mood of the room should have been lightened by your short presence. Donft let them intimidate you!

The best way to achieve a positive impression is to smile. A recruiter once told me that you could not imagine how many scared, nervous, and dreary people come in to interview. She would have to interview dozens a day, and students would come in, one after the other, more dismal than the next. If youfve ever wondered why interviews feel so drained of energy, itfs because the people before you have left the stage cold. She told me that the student who comes in smiling is like that first chirping bird calling in springtime.

She also told me that the same goes for Entry Sheet/Rirekisho photos. Apparently, not even one in twenty photographs has a smile. Given, in Japan the protocol has been to not smile in photos. But let me tell you something, the human naturally reacts positively to a happy face, and in a stack of 50 frowns, a happy face is more memorable than you would think. Now, of the foreigner ESfs that I have seen I can say that a closed mouth smile is the hardest to come byc we tend to smile with our teeth open I guess, but I think that comes off a little cheesy. If you can pull off a closed-mouth smile, or if you can smile with your eyes, I can safely say youfll stay in the minds of the interviewers.


5.     Sōshoku-kei vs. Nikushoku-kei

The Japanese love to categorize by personality type: by 12fs and 13fs with the zodiac, by 6-star astrology, and by 4fs with blood typing. They also often polarize all of humanity, sometimes by intellectuality (Bun-kei vs. Ri-kei), and sometimes by temperament. Sōshoku-kei stands for herbivore; Nikushoku-kei is of course carnivore. I am not sure why nobody has brought up the point that there are (as humans are) omnivorous creatures on earth, but for now it is very easy to be typecast.

For the American women out there: many Japanese recruiters still hold the impression that the American businesswoman is intimidating. This works in two ways: On the one hand, some companies are adverse to the idea of hiring you from the start, for they assume you to be a sort of autonomous huntress. On the other hand, some companies like that, want that, and hold you up to those generalized standards. cI think I let a few interviewers down with my sōshoku-kei gherbivore-likeh personality. It took me many go-rounds to come to terms with who I am and how to carry myself during an interview. Yes I am a 5f11h American brunette, but no, I canft be the strong savvy personality that you may want me to be.

By all means I say, be yourself. That said I must caution all to put checks on your personality so as not to end up on either extremes of the spectrum.

So if youfre an herbivore, be sure to come off as sweet: warm vs. lukewarm, flexible vs. a pushover, clever vs. soft spoken.

And if youfre carnivore, focus on portraying positively proactive adjectives: passionate vs. icy, spirited vs. intense, ardent vs. thirsty. Sparkle, not shock.