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Job interview with Japanese person

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Dear all,

I have a job interview lined up with a Japanese company (and Japanese manager) for a position in the European branch office, and therefore I would like to ask for tips on job interview manners/etiquette.

Is there something in general that would impress someone, or are there things that I should or should not mention? Is there something like a routine they follow, or does every person ask different questions? I have seen my wife once filling out a standard Japanese work experience sheet, but I was not asked to do that.

I am struggling a bit because of the conflict in cultures. Where I live, you should not be modest in your achievements during an interview, but I guess you have to be more reserved when talking to a Japanese manager?

Basically any information (or personal experience) would be much appreciated.
 
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I know how google works (or ask jeeves, yahoo, bing, altavista, and the like). Asking it here would be an addition to my google search. To avoid this kind of reply (although expected), I ahould have put more emphasis on the "personal experience" part.

Mea culpa.
 
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You don't need to be modest in a job interview. If you can state your achievements, qualifications, achievements factually, that is absolutely fine and expected. You shouldn't ramble on about how great you are. There is a difference between stating your strong points and bragging.
Don't try to be chummy or to break down any barriers that exist. Be polite, respectful, answer all questions fully, show that you are keen to contribute to the company, and you should be fine.
Kind of one-size-fits all answer for you, but really I don't think you should treat this as any different from an interview in the US or other nation.
 
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What is your experience living and working in Japan? Kind of hard to tell you how to act in an interview with a Japanese person if you already have some experience here. If you want to know how to be more Japanese, that's up to you. A few things will help, like knowing how to enter a room and sit properly (according to Japanese etiquette, that is). I find it hard to know what it is you want to know.

Also, what is your experience/background related to the job you are seeking?
 
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What is your experience living and working in Japan? Kind of hard to tell you how to act in an interview with a Japanese person if you already have some experience here. If you want to know how to be more Japanese, that's up to you. A few things will help, like knowing how to enter a room and sit properly (according to Japanese etiquette, that is). I find it hard to know what it is you want to know.

Also, what is your experience/background related to the job you are seeking?
It may sound strange, but for me it is also hard to know what I want to know. I guess indeed how to behave would help me most. I have roughly lived in Japan for two years, am married to a Japanese woman, but never had a job interview. Generally speaking I think I can behave myself in a good way in Japan (not eating on the streets, not blowing my nose in public, no disturbing phone calls in public transport, being calm, humble and polite, etc), but a Japanese job interview is new to me. Being yourself to show who you really are is of course important, but landing this job would be "a dream coming true".
Hearing your personal experiences would be very valuable to me. As in, was it very formal and tense, was it amicable, do they ask you about your strong and weak points, do they ask any questions at all (I once had a job interview at a Taiwanese company, and all that guy did was talk about the company and at the end asked if I wanted the job).

The position is to be a bridge between the European sales team, and the Japanese manufacturing plant. In other words, making sure that everyone can get along despite the differences in culture and methods. My related background is that I have worked in a European sales position before, and that I am familiar with Japanese culture through courses in my degree and exchange/internship (no job interview, arranged by the university) periods in Japan. Japanese language proficiency was not required. I made sure.
 
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Does this bridge position require you to speak/read/write Japanese to a certain level? I have done research on Japanese who work abroad, and it seems that they use English in the foreign office far more than Japanese, except when they contact the home office in Japan.
Will you be expected to use a third language in the foreign office (neither English nor Japanese)?

being calm, humble and polite
Take these characteristics to the job interview. For what it's worth, Japanese candidates are expected nowadays to show proper enthusiasm for the job, plus communicativeness (presenting their thoughts clearly and completely, responding on track to questions instead of deviating, etc.), and "vitality" (whatever that means; I suspect it means showing less than a robotic manner with memorized responses).

As for the interview itself, I really wouldn't stress out. The work I'm in (education) is likely to have a different sort of interview process, but some things will be similar.
  1. Expect a panel of people doing the group interview.
  2. Expect them to ask questions, yes, but not a great deal.
  3. Expect a minimum of time/opportunity for you to ask anything. Use it, but don't ask about wages, and don't ask a lot of questions. I'd focus more on getting a clear definition of your duties.
  4. Find out whether you are expected to make a presentation at the interview.
  5. Expect the interview to be in Japanese. Since the job is outside Japan, there may be some leeway in using another language (probably English), there's a chance you can switch. If so, be very clear, speak slowly, and use short sentences without a lot of slang or buzzwords.
  6. Look up how to dress, how to enter & leave a room, and how/when to sit. They won't expect you to be Japanese, but you might as well act Japanese in these few polite things.
 
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Re-iterating all of the above.
Look, they are hiring you to be the bridge, they are not hiring you to perform the tea ceremony. In a sense, it doesn't matter if they are strict or formal, talkative or silent, cordial or cool. If you want the job, you have to be prepared for all situations, and the best way to do that is to be confident of your skills, be curious about their company, how they are structured, how they make their money, where and how they hope to expand, what kind of things they value.
Hiring and paying salaries is an expense. The company is hoping that the expense of hiring a person for this position will pay off in either more efficient business, and maybe more (and bigger) contracts. Your attitude going into this should be: I would like to help your company achieve its goals. I have the skills that will help you achieve your goals. The things that I don't know about your business, I am keen to learn. I will be a great long-term investment for your company.
Everything else is more or less common sense. Look sharp, be polite, assume formality until or unless they invite you to be casual. Answer questions with complete sentences. Don't chew gum or fidget. If they hand you their meishi, accept it with both hands and put it on the table in front of you (don't fidget with those either).
I am more on the opposite side of the interview these days. I look for someone with solid communication skills (in either language). Technical job skills can be taught, but basic communication skills are unfortunately very rare. Given the choice between a potentially disruptive employee who has the right experience, and someone with no experience but who is a good communicator and has a positive attitude, I will probably choose the person with good attitude and communication skills.
 
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My advice, based on the information you have given.

· As you have been told that Japanese language proficiency is not required, expect the interview to be in English. You should however be able to demonstrate your knowledge of Japan and Japanese culture. Know your basic Japanese geography, economics and trade overview with your target region – Europe.

· Be able to demonstrate your knowledge of ‘selling’ in Europe – geo-political, business, cultural and other relevant factors.
· Without knowing the personality of the person interviewing you or their corporate culture, I can only give general pointers on the basis of you being interviewed by a Japanese national.

I’m probably stating the obvious with some of these, but to cover the basics:

· Dress in a business suit with a conservative tie and clean shoes.
· Assume your interview starts from the moment you step onto their business premises i.e. be aware of how you look and sound. The person you share the lift with may be one of the interviewers.
· Assuming you are shown to the interview room, bow briefly as you enter the room. Listen carefully and respond to anything said in a natural way. Don’t offer to shake hands but obviously do so if the hand pops out. Bow if they do so. A lot of non-Japanese tend to bow with a hurried action, so don’t rush it. Don’t look at their face when you bow …. make the movement smooth and bend at the waste.
· Wait to be offered a seat before sitting down. If you are given a drink, bow slightly and thank them. Don’t take a sip until being encouraged by the other party.
· You will probably be given their business card(s) – take it with both hands, look at it for a moment or two and place it on the desk in front of you, or if that’s out of reach, hold it carefully in your hand. You don’t need to give them any kind of card as they have your relevant details.
· As a general tone I would keep your manner formal but friendly. Smile when appropriate and don’t talk too much (even though it’s in the Sales Dept !!) Don’t ask questions about the company – they will either inform you about that in the interview, or have expected you to have done your homework and know information in the public domain. Ask one or (preferably) two questions regarding the actual position you are applying for. Avoid asking about salary, work hours, holidays or conditions unless they state something that you need to clarify. Focus on your duties, their expectations etc.
· The Japanese are generally more comfortable with silences or spaces in the conversation than westerners, so resist the temptation to try to ‘fill’ these if they occur. It is not a negative thing. Also give yourself a moment or two before answering more complex questions. It will help you organise your response better and also leaves the impression that the question was a good one!
· Don’t be afraid to promote your strengths and highlight your achievements if prompted to do so. Just do it in a respectful way and avoid using superlatives to describe yourself.

There are a lot of good interview guides on the web … read up and use your judgement to pick questions you might be asked and think about how you would answer them.


Good luck!
 
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Your attitude going into this should be: I would like to help your company achieve its goals. I have the skills that will help you achieve your goals. The things that I don't know about your business, I am keen to learn. I will be a great long-term investment for your company.
A very good way of putting it, and thinking like this minimizes your questions to them.
 
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Hi all,
I did well apparently and got invited for a second interview. It will be a while from now until that interview though.

Patience, grasshopper :pompous:
 
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Congratulations. Let us know how it goes. Will you have to make a presentation?
Not as far as I know. I have yet to get the date and details of the second interview. Once the process is over, I will write a report about it, which will hopefully benefit others trying to land a similar position. For know I have to be a bit vague, as I expect my competitors could be reading this as well. There are not that many people interested in Japan here, and the ones that are, usually visit the same sites and stuff:sneaky:
 
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I heard from the agent that my second interview went well, and now a third (and final) interview will be scheduled. Apparently the head office in Tokyo is involved in the decision making process, so it takes quite some time. Well, all nice things are worth waiting for :)

Is it common for a Japanese branch office in Europe to consult with the head office in terms of hiring? I have never worked at a Japanese company this size before, so it is all new to me.
 
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Hi all,

With great regret I have to say that I've pulled out of the recruitment process. Quite some time after the second interview has passed, and when I heard back, the third interview would be an assignment. Knowing how long it already took to get to this point, the assignment and result of it can logically not be expected until the end of April. At the same time my current employer has offered me a promotion to become responsible for the marketing of our graduate programs (I work at a university), and I have decided to accept the offer. With a baby on the way I could really use some certainty, and that is besides that it is also a very nice job, another reason why I could not simply refuse the offer.

It has been a very valuable experience, the people on the other side of the table have been very nice to me, and there is really not a bad thing I can say about the whole process. I would have been very proud to work for this company, but unfortunately things do not always turn out the way you want.

On the other hand: Instead of "job experience at a major Japanese company", I will now bring "(online) marketing experience" with me when me and my wife decide to move to Japan. I figure experience in marketing is still worth something when looking for a job in Japan. If not, please let me know.

Just thought to end this thread properly instead of leaving it open like I see here many times.
 
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