What questions should you be prepared for in an interview?
Once you’ve scheduled an interview, you start thinking about preparation you need to do in advance to present yourself as capable of doing the job you applied for. The better prepared you are, the better you will be able to respond to various questions during the interview.
Here is a list of some of the things you should be prepared for when going through a Japanese interview
While you may not initially plan to have many interviews, you should expect to have to take at least two or three. Depending on the role you are applying for, you may also be required to complete a project or give a presentation as a part of the selection process. The first interview can be quite simple and short, whereas the subsequent interviews will require you to go into detail and provide more information and present your own ideas.
During an interview
Where to start?
Usually when you begin your interview, you will be asked to do a short self-introduction. This serves as an ‘ice-breaker’ and is made to confirm your details and to find out more about you. Alternatively, you may be asked to talk about your background, where you can briefly mention your educational and professional background. You will also most likely be asked about your interest in Japan, the Japanese language, and your experience with Japanese culture.
What do you want to do?
One question that can be confusing is what you expect to be doing at the position you are applying for. This is confusing because you have already read the job content that explains what your duties and responsibilities will be but you are still asked to describe in detail what you think you will do. This is done to figure out how well you understand your future duties, how you wish to work and what your strategy will be for this job, as well as whether this job is suitable for you or whether you are suitable for the job. If you are changing jobs, you will be asked what you do at your current job, what kind of people you work with, why you chose your current job and company, etc.
Moreover, it is good to think about what you think you can do well at the new job and why you think you will do well. When talking about the job it is important to mention the job requirements and how you are able to meet them by referring to your skills and experience and how you can use them to contribute to the business. You will also be asked why you want the job you are applying for, why you chose the company, what is it about the company that attracts you, what you can bring to the company. These are not easy questions to answer, so it is best to prepare your answers ahead of time. It is crucial to research the company, starting from basic information to descriptions of company culture and mission statement to any recent news regarding the company. It is important to show your reason and motivation for applying to a company and how you can personally relate to what the company is doing. You may wish to research more about the industry so when you are asked these questions you can mention certain recent news or facts to show that you keep up to date and are able to develop further together with the company while taking new trends and tendencies into account.
If you are applying for a position which requires specific skills and experience, you will be asked to talk about the relevant previous experience in detail. Previous experience is one of the significant criteria that employers turn to when assessing a candidate. Simply saying what you did during your previous roles and listing duties is not enough, you should think in advance which points you would want to highlight and explain them in detail during the interview. For example, you could mention times when you showed initiative or came up with a new way to change something or developed a new strategy. This will help the interviewer figure out whether you can get something done without further direction, work independently and show initiative or whether you need supervision. You can mention times where you developed new skills or improved your existing professional abilities because the interviewer will look not only at the list of places you’ve worked at, but they will also want to know about your achievements, what you have done and what you can do.
Another thing you may be asked is what your greatest achievement in life is. Although this can be a very difficult question to answer, your answer does not have to be about something tremendously big. Similarly, it does not have to relate to your professional life, it may be something personal and completely unrelated to your career. This will require self-analysis so you may want to take some time to analyse what to you your greatest achievement is and why.
In addition to your professional or educational background, you will be asked questions relating to your transferable skills, such as your ability to show initiative and take leadership, or your ability to work effectively in a group (or team) to achieve set goals. These also include problem-solving skills, organisational skills, time management skills, etc. These are often mentioned in your self-PR section, however you may want to emphasise certain transferable skills that are relevant and appropriate to the post you are applying for. If the company is looking for someone who is able to work independently and quickly solve problems, you may want to think in advance when in your professional career you showed such abilities so you are well-prepared when the interviewer asks you about it. However, this is not limited to only previous jobs, so if you cannot remember times where you showed these skills in your line of work you may want to consider your voluntary work, personal projects, or hobbies, as these can also provide transferable skills. Any task you have completed could have helped you acquire a transferable skill so take a minute to think back and reevaluate. Alternatively, you can be asked to talk in detail about a certain skill. For example, if teamwork is valued at the company you are applying for, you may be asked what you think the most important thing about working in a team is. If leadership is valued at the post you are applying for, you may be asked what you think the most important thing is when you take on a leadership role and what you think makes a successful leader.
Depending on the company and position you are applying for, there will be different Japanese language requirements. Usually these are expressed in JLPT levels, with the most common ones being N2 – business level, and N3 – daily conversation level.
Any interview can be a real test for how a person can deal with nervousness and anxiety. Interviews in a native language are undeniably easier to handle because you are able to express yourself freely through different words and expressions, even if you are nervous. Interviews in a foreign language are much more difficult to manage, though this must not discourage you from having an interview where your Japanese knowledge will be tested. Some interviews may be conducted in English, some in Japanese. Some interviewers may conduct interviews in English, but switch to Japanese halfway to test your ability to adapt to language change and focus. It is very unlikely you will be required to talk in-depth about a specific topic in Japanese unless the position you are applying for requires high level of proficiency. Most of the time you may be asked to talk about yourself in Japanese or talk about simple topics to see if you can communicate with potential Japanese colleagues without problem. In cases where a high level of proficiency is required, you may be asked to talk about your experiences, future goals, etc. more in depth. It is understandable that you may forget some words or may not be able to express fully what you want to say due to nervousness or lack of vocabulary, so don’t feel terrible if you think your speaking ability suddenly went down. The interviewer will understand that you are nervous, so do not focus on impressing them with difficult Japanese jargon which you may inevitably forget, but focus on being able to express your main idea. One tip for interview preparation in this situation would be to highlight and memorise certain keywords. Interviews tend to be very similar so you may find that a lot of times you will be talking about the same things, for example, when talking about self-PR or your education or previous experience, so making keywords can help you structure your answer because keywords will act as guidelines. Of course, this does not mean you should memorise your whole self-PR or other answers to potential questions and recite them at the time of the interview – if you forget a sentence, you will not be able to switch to your next point, hence you can forget the rest of what you want to say, which will leave a bad impression on the interviewer because they will see that rather than talking, you are simply reciting something you memorised. Once you have written your example answers, you can highlight the most important words, verbs and adjectives that you think will help you express your main point. This way remembering one word in a structure can help you remember the sentence and sentences that come after.
Some interview questions may indeed be similar, however this does not mean you should not take some time to prepare before an interview. From analysing the job and analysing your own abilities, to matching requirements with your skills, you should be well-prepared for a question that is relevant to the specific job. The preparation will help you answer questions that are made to determine whether you have the necessary experience, skills and qualities essential to the role you are applying for. It will also help you overcome nervousness to an extent because you will not get caught off-guard trying to think of an answer on the spot. Undoubtedly, there will be questions that you don’t expect as you cannot predict and guess everything the interviewer may ask, however you can prepare answers for certain common questions in advance.
Most importantly, when preparing for an interview, you shouldn’t stress too much over whether you can answer a question well, or whether you will be able to remember what you want to say, or what you’re going to do if you are asked something you hadn’t thought about before. Practice, but don’t overthink, be yourself, and remember that confidence is key.