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How to Take a Good Resume Photo

After reading this headline you may be wondering why in the year of our modern society, 2018, a resume photo would be used. There are many valid reasons to question this practice because of discrimination and subconscious biases, among other things. As uncomfortable as it may be, resume photos are still a standard business practice in Japan. We don't required them for our programs, but there will likely come a point when applying to jobs in Japan that you will be asked to provide a photo with your resume.

What’s the deal?

Many people wonder if the resume photo is intended to allow employers to make sure their employees will ‘attract’ more clients, but most companies in Japan who continue the practice claim they request photos for identity verification.

Employment in Japan is a heavily regulated process, and employers want to make sure they take every precaution to prevent fraud during hiring before making any commitments they can’t back away from. Part of this includes making sure the person on the resume is the same person that will be interviewed, and the same person that will be walking through the office doors on their first day.

There is also an element of trying to better understand an applicant’s work ethic. For example, a resume with a highly-decorated selfie is going to be rejected because the applicant is obviously not taking the application professionally and seriously. Inversely, any resume with a clear, highly professional-looking photo is going to be well considered.

Generally speaking, Japanese companies are required to review every application they receive and are prohibited from rejecting an applicant based upon their photo unless the photo doesn’t meet basic standards.

So, what are the basic standards?

These are the most widely accepted standards for photos:

  • 3 cm wide x 4 cm tall
  • Taken within the last 90 days
  • Color headshot, facing the camera, nothing else in the frame
  • Formal business dress
  • Gentle smile, open eyes

You essentially want to look as clean and professional as you would for an interview you’re really excited about. It’s important to not make major changes to your appearance, such as different hair colors or styles, from when you submit your photo up to your actual interview. (After all, it is what they use to verify your identity.)

Here are some more tips to really give the best impression you can:


There’s no going wrong with a black suit (with jacket) and a white shirt, men and women alike. Men should also wear a simple, dark tie (i.e., no light or bright colors or vivid patterns), but women are free to leave the collar button unfastened. Japan is known to really sweat the details!


Make sure your hair is uniform in color and plain (this is not the time for mohawks). Don’t allow bangs or longer hair to cover your forehead, face, or collarbones. Pull your hair back to present a welcoming and open image of yourself. Style your hair cleanly and plainly— (as mentioned, no mohawks).


If you choose to wear makeup, simple and plain is the way to go. You may also choose to wear it simply to cover any blemishes in a photo. Even in the 2000's, Japanese business etiquette is strongly gendered. Women are typically encouraged to wear subtle makeup (e.g., soft coloring on the lips and cheeks) anytime one would wear anything business casual or more formal—this includes resume photos.

Body Language

Sit up straight, look forward and directly into the camera, and relax those shoulders! Hold a soft smile (no teeth, though) and open up those bright eyes.

For the sake of our specific program, we do not ask applicants for photos until it is required by either a specific hiring company or for immigration purposes.

Bonus Tip

If you know Japanese, or feel comfortable fumbling around a foreign-language app, Recruit’s 履歴書カメラ app (iOS) (Android) is a free and easy way to take a resume photo from the comfort of your smartphone!

About Discrimination

Appearance-based discrimination does occur in Japan. While we hope to provide opportunities for cultural exchange and to broaden the perspectives of not just candidates, but also hiring companies, please understand that the expectations in Japan may differ from your home culture.

Photos submitted to the Sakae Japan Internship Program or Japan Careers Program will only be used for verification purposes. Sakae Japan Internship Program and Japan Careers Program make intentional efforts not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in all of its activities and operations. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, candidates, and program participants. If you believe you have been discriminated against by us or a hiring company during participation of our program, please feel free to let us know and we will work with you to provide a positive outcome to the best of our ability.

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