Let’s discuss job hunting in Japan

This week’s featured article


Ever thought about how many times to knock on the door when you are heading into a job interview? In Japan, it matters.

A shortage of young people means there are two job openings for every applicant, prompting some Japanese companies to consider hiring foreign workers. But an interview can be an etiquette minefield, particularly for a nonnative. Even Japanese students have to be drilled on the code, so it’s all the more important for outsiders to be aware of the rules.

Uniformity is paramount: a plain black ensemble known as a “recruit suit,” a simple white shirt and a formal black bag and shoes. Avoid beards, dyed hair, big earrings, heavy make-up, flashy nails and black, white or loud ties.

Always knock three times, according to recruitment website Rikunabi. Wait until you’re given permission to enter. When you’re inside, turn and close the door without making a loud noise. Then, say “Excuse me,” bow and walk to the left side of the chair. Introduce yourself by name and university and bow again. Wait to be asked before you sit down.

When bowing, don’t just dip your head; bend forward from the hip with a straight back. Keep your arms by your sides and don’t bend your knees. Once in your seat, sit up straight — don’t lean back.

Use polite language. Japanese has different words for simple concepts such as “I” or “do” depending on who you’re talking to. If you have to hand over any documents, use both hands to offer them to the interviewer.

Never show up late. In Japan, arriving five to 10 minutes before an appointment is regarded as being just in time. And make sure you don’t forget to return your chair to its original position under the desk when you leave the interview room.

While interview etiquette may seem complex, it’s nothing compared with the rules facing new graduates once they enter a traditional Japanese company. There are customs for every business situation — from where to stand in an elevator to where to sit in a taxi and how to exchange business cards. Superiors must be treated with great respect.

First published in The Japan Times on April 7.

Warm up

One-minute chat about job-hunting.


Collect words related to manners, e.g., rule, polite.

New words

1) prompt: to inspire or cause, e.g., “His insult prompted an angry response.”

2) uniformity: a state of being the same, e.g., “The military emphasizes uniformity.”

3) paramount: superior to other things, e.g., “The project is of paramount importance.”

Guess the headline

Knocking, ‘r_ _ _ _ _ _ suits’ and b_ _ _ _ _: Etiquette is key for Japan’s job-seekers


1) What is the current recruitment situation for Japanese companies?

2) How many times should you knock before you enter the room for a job interview at a Japanese company?

3) According to the article, how complex is the etiquette in a traditional Japanese company?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How did your job hunting and interviews go when you were a student?

2) What are your thoughts on Japanese etiquette for job hunting?

3) What do you think about having more non-Japanese freshmen applying for work at Japanese companies?






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