Tag Archives: Resume Writing

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 2: More Resume/Intro Tips)

I see a lot of people coming to Japan trying to bask in all the anime, wacky game shows, and bondage. As HR/Recruiting director for a company in Japan I get lot of resumes coming my way. Most of them fail horribly.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about getting a job here I will a) make the process less difficult (although slightly less hilarious) for me, b) increase the odds of you getting a job here, and c) help your overall skills in writing resumes/interviewing for a job.

(Part 1 can be found here)

So let’s continue with Part 2:

Stupid Email Name = Fail

I know I said we're equal opportunities, but anthropomorpic is a bit beyond what we're looking for..

I know I said we're equal opportunities, but anthropomorphic is a bit beyond what we're looking for..

We’re all adults here in this land of getting jobs, so the other day, when “Bob the Duck” sent me an email, I was confused.

Mr. Duck, sir, am I to assume you’re an anthropomorphic man-duck creature? If so, congratulations, you’ll fit in extremely well in Japan and probably be our most popular employee among our clients. We may even be able to finally land some of those poultry clients. Kawaii!!!

In all seriousness, pick a name/email for your professional life and use it. For my friends, I have a Scandalous@ address. I’m not going to use Scandalous@ to apply anywhere at any point unless I decide to get into politics.

I dunno, something about it just seems to send the wrong message.

This gets even more important in the realm of the modern email clients that tend to name you via your profile info. In the past, I might not notice you were pornqueen69@ until I’d already settled on your resume and liked it, but now I get emails literally from “Bob the Duck.”

Think about it. Would you accept a job from a guy emailing you as “Scandalous McDouchebag?” It probably wouldn’t sound very appealing.

Spelling Name Wrong = Fail

When you spell an Irishman's name wrong, he gets all pissy and angry and starts going on about potatos

When you spell an Irishman's name wrong, he gets all pissy and angry and starts going on about potatoes

I usually spell out my name in the email. I’m sure most job recruiters do this. We want you to be able to contact us via a name. We prefer when you use our actual name.

Let me tell you a story…

My last name is Scanlan. Apparently we were the less successful of the O’Scanal-named people who fled shitty potatoes to come live in America. As such, there aren’t many people with the -an end to their name. There are mostly Scanlons over in America. They’ve been successful enough there that everyone assumes my name is spelled with an -on. This means that throughout my entire life, everything I’ve ever received, from trophies to diplomas to driver’s licences has been spelled wrong.

What a wonderful world Japan has been, where my name is totally alien and new and they’re anal about getting it right, but anyway…

Even though my personal hatred for this is probably beyond the norm, I can only imagine others getting miffed when you blow their name. It’s a personal slight, but you’re not interviewing with robots. You’re dealing with people that also have emotions. You don’t want to piss them off. They sometimes make irrational decisions based on biases. Shitting on their name may not throw them into intense rage, but it’s not a good start and good starts are half the battle.

Also, try and figure out if they’re a man or a woman. It’s not a mistake you have to make. I get a lot of resumes from places where I have no idea if the name is a woman or a man. If they didn’t send a picture, I google image their name and see what turns up. If you see about 75% of the pictures  as one sex, I’d roll the dice on it.

Send a Billion Emails/Giant Attachments = Fail

Sweet Yard Sale, but I can't even find your resume in all this...

Sweet Yard Sale, but I can't even find your resume in all this...

I’m not sure about all companies, but my company prides itself on its technological prowess. We update our teacher files via our iphones, keep in contact via video conferencing, sms each other for drinking opportunities, etc, etc. As such, if you send me a yard sale of multiple emails each containing one file, I’m going to assume you have no idea how to use a computer.

The simple fact is that we now live in the 21st century. A lot of companies are doing things on computers. While this can be taught to (most) anyone, if you’re sending along a package of materials that looks scattered and unprofessional, it can worry a potential employer, especially in Japan, a country that basically exists in the 22nd century (unless you’re banking, then drop back to the 19th century).

If you send a yard sale of files that add up to over a megabyte, most people are not going to DL it all. At my office, we post the resumes to a database and they are often passed among the  recruiting staff. I get things that are 30megs sometimes. This makes in damn near impossible to easily mail around.

Keep it under a meg, it’s not hard. Most companies just need a simple picture, and a resume/CV. The rest can come when they actually like you.

I’ll talk about diploma scans at the end of this section.

We want to see your computer ability, but keep it simple stupid!

Obscure Formats = Fail

Nice format...Let me just haul out my Rosetta Stone

Nice format...Let me just haul out my Rosetta Stone

It’s a sad fact that the entire business world uses Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat. If you’re sending things in .doc or .pdf, kudos to you. Don’t send it in anything else.

In my office, we actually produce a lot of stuff in Pages. At the office, we have Macs, so the program is handy and nice. Still, whenever we share that material with clients, we convert it into .pdf. Why do we do this?

Because no one uses Pages.

I do a lot of work from home on a PC, so Pages even becomes junk for me unless I convert it.

Don’t send things in anything but the most standard forms that everyone can read. I don’t want to see Pages, I don’t want to see .wps, and if you’re sending in .txt I’m going to assume you live in 1993 and have a really cool time machine for warping space and time.

Also, for the record, when using word, make sure you don’t have that wonky word where they tried to re-standardize the format. It saves everything in .docx. No one can read it, it’s career suicide.

No Degree = Fail (In Japan)

If this was not your lifestyle from age 18-22(Ok, 24), Japan doesn't want you!

If this was not your lifestyle from age 18-22(Ok, 24), Japan doesn't want you! (Courtesy of Wes Frazer)

This last one is very Japan-centric, and it’s not something the companies impose. Japanese immigration likes to see smart teachers are coming into their country to teach their people. As such, they usually require a degree to get a Visa. It’s not something we need, it’s something they do.

Please don’t get all angry with me for asking for one. I’m not going to steal it, or burn it, or copy it and sell in Vladivostok. I don’t want it at all, but the powers that be don’t want to give you a Visa unless you have one. Sorry!

That being said, there are highly skilled English teachers in Japan without degrees. It’s possible to come in here on a tourist Visa and work your way into a job, so all hope is not lost. But in general, you will not be pre-approved for a Visa in this line of work from your outside country without that handy little degree…and you’re gonna have to part with it for a bit. They want the actual thing in their hands.

So for me, don’t bother sending pictures of your degree. The Jammigration do that part of the job for me. I trust them to route out you impostors!

(That’s it for the week. Tune in next time where I talk a bit about interview and beyond. I have at least 2 more columns in me)

(Part 1)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part 6)

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 1: Resumes, etc)

As HR Director with my company, I do a lot of recruiting. This means pouring over loads of resumes in search of the perfect candidates for a job teaching with my company in Japan.

You’d think that people would have figured out this “applying for a job” thing by now. Perhaps things are different in Japan then you’re used to, but I’ll tell you right now, there are a lot of people out there with good resumes and no job.

You really need to make a good first impression.

Let me lay out a few basic tips for you:

1) To Whom it May Concern = Fail

"...or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"

"...or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"

You might as well address me as “John Doe.” It concerns the person who put up the advert and their company!

I leave my name in the job postings. I say “If you’d like to apply for a job, please contact Craig at…”

If you can’t take the time to finish reading a job position advertisement to include the name of the person who posted it, companies are going to assume you don’t pay any attention to details.

This goes equally for not CCing it to any other names mentioned in the job posting. People will assume you can’t read. While in my experience, I know tons of English teachers who can’t spell at all (myself included), reading is still somewhat important to the job.

2) Bulk Emailing = Fail

If this is how you do it, you're doing it wrong...

If this is how you do it, you're doing it wrong...

If you send your resume to 60 companies with a vague cover letter, you’re a lazy douche and I hate you.

These people are also the types that tend not to even bother with a cover letter, just a “Hey, I’m Bob, here’s my Resume!!!!!”  Thanks Bob, go fuck yourself.

As you can see, this probably gets under my skin more than anything.

3) Generic Cover Letter = Fail

Superkids FunDay '07 looked like a blast...but we don't teach kids...

Superkids FunDay '07 looked like a blast...but we don't teach kids...

If you don’t take the time to personalize your cover letter to the company you’re applying to, you’re probably not gonna get the job. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I see that make no mention of my company to the point where sometimes people are going on and on about how well they teach children. We’re not a children’s English company.

Take a moment or two to hit the company website, pull out a few bits of info on the company and insert them into your cover letter.

It doesn’t have to be completely re-written each time, just have a few areas of your cover letter where you can change the sentences quickly to be better directed at the company you’re submitting a resume to. When I last searched for a job, I had my basic template cover letter with a few (______) areas to change as needed.

For Example:

“Looking at your company website I see that __________________” (Fill with things that pertain to the company, AKA: Flatter them)

“I believe that I have the skills necessary to __________________” (convey abstract concepts of grammar to albinos, clean toilets, manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination)

It’s not rocket science. Personalizing your cover letter for each company you apply to is “resume writing 101.” It takes time and it’s annoying, but you’re trying to get out of your parents basement, right?

4) No Picture/Bad Picture = Fail

"Congrats, Spaz, you got the job!" ...will never be said by anyone...ever...

"Congrats, Spaz, you got the job!" ...will never be said by anyone...ever...

This is for two reasons:

The first  is that they probably told you to include it in the job posting. See #1 on this list.

The second reason is that they want to see you looking professional. There are a lot of people out there that teach in countries a bit more casual than Japan. Japanese students would run screaming from a room if they saw what passes for a teacher in some of these countries. They have an image in their mind of what a teacher looks like (uniform and all). They need to make sure you’re not going to come to work in a clown-suit. This is even more important in a job where you could conceivably come across the entire world without the company ever seeing you until you walk in the door ready to start.

Don’t get all huffy and puffy about it. This is Asia, this is how things are done. It’s 100% commonplace to submit a picture with your job application. In some sectors, it’s still quite OK to discriminate based on how you look. This is why flight attendants in Asia are still hot and happy looking while flight attendants in America are bitter and I can’t get around them in the aisle because they’re twice as wide as me.

While the company I’m employed by is an equal opportunities employer that hires people from all parts of the globe (not just the anglo/Caucasian scene), there are still many companies in Japan that want their white, English- speaking teacher. This is changing quickly, but if you’re not a Caucasian or if your English is fluent but you’re not considered native, do realize that it will be harder to find a job. There are many companies that will take a lazy, spoon-fed native English-speaking college kid over a hardworking, non-native speaker who has mastered the English language and has years of experience teaching.  They’re catering to what they believe their students want in a teacher. I’m proud that my company doesn’t conduct themselves in this way, but some companies still do.

I’ve met loads of Japanese people that want me to set them up with a friend to teach them English with the sole premise and outright statement being: “As long as he is a native speaker and white.”  I often find I can’t help them, because I know a lot of awesome non-native English speaking, non-white teachers that are awesome at their job. I also can’t help them cause they’re racist douchebags.

Their image of an English teacher is backwards. This happens sometimes in Asia, where people are often less used to the diverse ethnic scene you might be aquainted with in your awesome home country, but luckily it’s changing.

Don’t get angry at the picture thing though, just get yourself a good one where you’re not holding a beer at a Thai full moon party cracked out on acid. Looking teacher-esque would be a plus as well, although looking clean and sharp is usually good enough. I prefer smiles, but some traditionally Japanese companies don’t. I like to imagine happy employees…

5) I love anime = Fail

Companies Don't Need to Know You're This Guy on Weekends

Companies Don't Need to Know You're This Guy on Weekends

When a company asks you why you’d like to live and work in Japan, they don’t want to hear about how big a Japan-o-phile you are. In fact, you probably want to downplay that a bit. When I interview people and suddenly they say they want to surf in Shikoku, I assume they’re here for a surfing VISA and not work. They may just like it as a hobby (I came to surf too, but I didn’t mention it much in interviews), but it just sounds like you’re already placing your hobby over work. If you’re into some Japanese hobby, it’s ok to talk about in the interview, but don’t make it the focus.

Recruiting people want to hear you apply it towards teaching at their company, not what you’re going to do on your weekends. It’s ok to say you’d like to bike in the mountains, but they’d rather hear about teaching Japanese students, or business students, or learning Japanese while working here to advance in your career. Try and keep it career minded. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy anime, soaplands, flower arranging, and tea ceremony, and J-pop on your own time.

(And I could go on forever…I’ll try to make this semi-weekly until I run out of stuff to bitch/inform you about)

(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part 6)