Surviving the Weeding Process - Part One: The Resume
In this age of performance improvement, candidate-hunting recruitment consultants and company HR people are overworked and under appreciated. To keep up with the demands of their business managers, they are having to become more efficient and a common way they're doing this is to cut down the time spent on overall interviews by weeding out weaker candidates early on.
The weeding process happens by throwing out resumes that don't include key words, phone interviewing, and off-loading screening to third parties, such as recruiters. So how do you survive this process and make sure that you get the best chance of getting interviewed?
Firstly, if the company is advertising its jobs online, look for buzz words in their job descriptions. In the IT sector, they may be words such as network, architect, Java, Cisco, MSCE, Solaris, etc. Once you see these words come up, make sure that they are in your resume in a visible way. If you can't claim to own that experience, then consider getting certified - a modest but important investment - through either local classes, or by taking a block course in a nearby location such as Hong Kong, Singapore, or Australia. Once you've done the block course, be sure to have a test set up at home that is sufficiently robust that you get full exposure to the technologies you've studied.
In other sectors, see if you can't get some freelance work or do a part-time internship, so that you get exposure to the business sector of interest. Once you're familiar with the field and processes, get your interning boss to write a reference indicating that experience. The key point here is to make sure that your resume contains these buzz words and that you can back up your claim to possess the experience.
Next, make sure that you modify your resume each time when applying for a number of different jobs, and be sure to put the most important and relevant information at the top of the resume. Harried recruiters often only read the top 1/3 of a resume, so having the most impactful data here will increase your chances of getting in front of the interviewer.
Next, how to state your fluency, especially if you're not. The best situation is if you've taken a formal test, either the JETRO or the JLPT eximanitation if you're a foreigner, or the TOEFL or TOEIC test if you're Japanese. However, if you haven't, which probably applies to most of us, then ESTIMATE the part of language that you rate highest in. For many people, that is their spoken skills - in which case, say "approximately 2-kyu level in spoken Japanese". If you're Japanese and can't speak much English, try writing "Strong English-language email skills". Just as I mentioned above that there are industry buzz words, there also are buzz words for working in a multinational that is concerned with language integration. What is important to remember is that these buzz words stand out more strongly than a preceding qualifier like "approximately". So make sure you include them and use the qualifier to make them honest.
What ever you do, don't overstate your fluency in absolute terms, especially if you're still very much a beginner - or else you may brand yourself as being dishonest and the first interview could be truly embarrassing.
In terms of general resume formatting, I've covered this topic in previous articles, however, a good reference web site I found recently is: http://www.links2work.on.ca/resumes.htm
Lastly, as a foreigner, do you need a Japanese resume? I don't think you need one when applying to a foreign firm, even if the HR Manager is Japanese - so long as there are some foreigners in senior positions (research this). If there are not, then the company you want to work for may be foreign in appearance only, and internally may be more Japanese than a Japanese company. You would be surprised at how many major foreign brands in Japan have no "foreignness" left in them.
As a Japanese applying to a foreign firm, you MUST prepare two resumes, one in English and one in Japanese. Although there are still HR Managers who want to see hand-written traditional resumes, try providing your Japanese resume electronically first. This will save you having to write out multiple applications, and also, if you have just returned to Japan from a long absence, it will save you from revealing the true state of your Kanji abilities, which may have atrophied a bit.