After reading this headline you may be asking, “What the Fukushima is a resume photo?!,” or, “Why would I want anyone to see my face on my resume!?” And there are many reasons to question this practice, because of systematic discrimination, subconscious biases, etc. However, if you want to make it in the business world of Japan, resume photos are standard practice and are actually not used quite how you might think.
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 (or inversely, scare away the competition), but this simply isn’t the case.
The first and foremost reason for including the photo is 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 the hiring process 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, however, an element of trying to understand an applicant’s motivations a little better. For example, a resume with a highly-decorated purikura picture (see Example A) is going to be rejected, because the applicant is obviously not taking the application professionally and seriously. Inversely, any resume with a clear, professional-looking photo is going to be considered along with the rest.
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! See Example B for another illustration of a bad photo.)
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 conservative tie (i.e., no highlighter yellow), but women are free to leave the top button of their blouses undone. Japan is known to really sweat the details.
Make sure your hair is uniform and plain (no bad roots showing through, no mohawks). Don’t allow bangs or longer hair to cover your forehead, face, or collarbones. Pull it back if need be. Style your hair cleanly if it looks messy otherwise, but don’t overdo it — as I said, no mohawks.
Men: you don’t really need to wear makeup, but it won’t hurt to cover any outstanding blemishes for photo day. Women: simple and plain is the way to go, with faint coloring on the lips and cheeks. Japanese business etiquette dictates that women wear makeup, but don’t overdo it either.
Sit up straight, look forward, directly into the camera, and relax those shoulders! Hold a gentle smile (but no need to show off those pearly white teeth of yours, a la Example C) and open up those bright eyes.
For the sake of our specific program, we do not ask applicants for resume photos. (Though, in some cases, particular affiliate companies may ask us to have applicants provide a similar style of photo, again only for identification purposes.) But in any case, it’s good to know what to expect when hunting for jobs and internships in Japan!
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!
Photos submitted to the Sakae Japan Internship Program will only be used for verification purposes. Sakae Japan Internship Program does not and shall not 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 any of its activities or operations. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, candidates, and program participants.