A traditional Japanese resume, a rirekisho, is a standard form that allows an applicant to handwrite in their personal details. Increasingly, this is accompanied by a shokumu keirekisho, which details job history more thoroughly and functions more like a western-style resume. For many positions targeting foreign applicants, especially in the language teaching sector, western-style resumes are commonly used and most of you reading this probably adopt that approach. As such, we’ll focus on those.
Generally speaking, chronological and functional are the two most common types of resumes. As the name suggests, chronological resumes detail work history in chronological order, although most recent experiences should be noted first and it is sometimes referred to as a reverse-chronological resume. This format emphasizes work history and career path and therefore suits those with strong experience.
If you’re applying for a job that you are well qualified for and favourably experienced, then a chronological resume will highlight that fact. From an employer’s standpoint, chronological resumes also have strong appeal because they most easily allow the reader to quickly asses the raw facts of an applicant’s background. Rather than focus on career progression, functional resumes instead highlight skills and abilities.
Typically, three or four skill sets are outlined and supported with achievements or experiences from employment and educational history. For example, if “leadership and management” was one of your noted skill sets, you would want to support that with three or four points noting your skills, experience or qualification in this area.
As they focus on transferable skills, functional resumes often suit those with less impressive work history, those who have taken career breaks or those seeking a career change. For example, if you’re looking for a job in language teaching, a functional resume highlighting your teaching-related, transferable skills (e.g. communication and presentation skills, organization and planning skills, etc.) may serve you better than a chronological resume detailing your ten year’s of IT experience.
Ultimately, which type you choose is perhaps secondary to ensuring your resume is well-written and persuades the reader to interview you, which is the main purpose of any resume. The following basic points should help in this respect.
Spacing and bullet points
Be descriptive without making your resume too text heavy. Resume guides often talk about preserving “white space” to create a more balanced, esthetically pleasing layout without overwhelming the reader. As a general guideline, if a reader cannot scan and get the main points of your resume within thirty seconds, it’s probably too long or too wordy. When expanding on your experience, use bullet points, as opposed to paragraphs, and use active verbs to draw the reader in.
Who will read my resume?
In Japan especially, this will be an important consideration. If this person is a native speaker or a strong speaker of English who may also be familiar with western-style resumes, then you have few limitations on how you design your resume. However, if you feel the person has limited English ability or may have seen few non-Japanese resumes, a trimmed down chronological resume may be your best bet.
Expand on educational background
Most of us have invested a lot in our education and many of those in the language teaching industry have also attained additional certifications or teaching qualifications. That being the case, why limit the education portion of your resume to little more than school names and graduation dates? Include a couple of points about what specific skills you developed while studying or how it relates to the teaching work being applied for. Sounds obvious, but few do it and it also helps those with limited experience add depth to their resume. Beyond that, as EFL certificates or related qualifications are often not required in Japan, many recruiters and school managers will only be loosely familiar with what they entail and how this makes you a more attractive applicant. Unless the content of your study directly relates to the job being applied for, focus on the skills developed (e.g. verbal and written presentation, ability to meet deadlines, etc.) rather than the content of the study (e.g. review of 18th century British literature, structure of cytoplasmic cells, etc). Many recruiters will tell you that a surprising portion of the resumes they receive are poorly presented, so taking some extra time with yours will instantly place you ahead of many applicants. Do some research and put in the effort – it will definitely pay off! Edward Baker has been working in human resources, recruitment and career coaching for the past eight years in both Japan and Canada.