Getting a job that you really want in a foreign multinational company requires a lot of thought and planning. In a tight labor market in particular, you want to make sure that the quality of your resume gets you into the first round of interviews. And I can tell you that for some of the really attractive jobs, companies are getting up to a thousand candidates. So, how do you make yourself stand out and be noticed -yet not overstep the bounds?

Since most multinationals in Japan are US-based, the best format and style to use is a US-standard resume. This means 1 to 1 1/2 pages, in Times Roman font, with a composition consisting roughly of: your career objective, your work history (not more than 3-4 companies), and your educational background. Considering that the personnel manager you’ll be applying to is most likely Japanese, it also helps to include a photo, and some information regarding birth date and marital status as well.

What you actually write is a function of understanding what the company is looking for. I’ll cover this in more detail next week, but suffice it to say you need to get out and network, until you find some company employees who can give you the inside story. After getting a better idea of a company’s preferences, you can then sit down and choose the appropriate experience and personal attributes that best match the company’s requirements, and put them in your resume. This is very simple advice, but it really works.

For example, some companies are very concerned about your technical skills, whether you’re an accountant, a sales and marketing whiz, or an IT engineer. Unconsciously then, the Personnel folks are looking for certain key words and phrases such as メanalysis and financial reports to the board, “bilingual,” or “SAP and Oracle administration experience,” and these really stand out in a resume, even if buried within the main text. By including such words, along with an indication of the experience you’ve had in each field, you can almost guarantee that you will make it through to the first round of interviews.

Other companies, especially larger ones, tend to be more concerned about human interaction or human potential. For these companies, you need to focus more on your management training and management experience, especially in a bilingual, bicultural context, and also your educational background (if it’s worth highlighting, of course) and/or any previous sales records, company awards, etc. Such companies tend to have a strong internal training program and they want raw material that they can turn into their idea of an ideal company employee.

If you’re Japanese, you should always include a Japanese-language handwritten resume. You may think that handwriting a resume is old-fashioned, and it is. But since most personnel managers in foreign companies tend to be over 50, they are very concerned about your Kanji writing style, your family, and where you live. Conversely, if you are a foreigner, do not send your resume in Japanese unless you are really fluent and have had it checked by a literate Japanese friend. I find that it is better not to overset expectations, or your first interview may backfire.

As you can see, it may well be that you have to make up a variety of resumes to cover the basic styles of each company that you apply to. Just make sure that you manage all these documents. I’ve had a number of applicants who sent me their resume, but put the wrong company name at the top – and needless to say, I trashed them straight away.