E-Mailing Japanese Companies while Job Hunting
For many Japanese learners, the job hunt marks the time when they have to start writing “professional e-mails”. Not used to it? Use these templates in case you’re not sure about how to phrase your communication with HR.
How each email looks differs depending on the contents, but there are some basic rules you should be aware of. Some of them are quite universal, while others are Japan-specific.
Reply as fast as possible
In general, it’s considered good manners to reply to an email within the same day. If you reply later (or just before the next day starts, e.g. in the depth of the night), you should add an apology and, if applicable, a reasonable explanation. Replying even faster – e.g. within a few hours of receiving the email – can easily earn you a few bonus points.
Occasionally, there will be times where you’re not sure if you should reply again. For example: The company messages you and asks you about your availability in a given time frame. You reply on which day and at which time you’re free. They mail you back and confirm the appointment. The matter’s settled. Should you write back once more?
The answer is “yes.” When in doubt, reply one last time, with a thank you message or a short back-confirmation (indicating that you’ve read the reply). In the above example, you could respond with something like “thank you for taking the time to arrange an appointment. I’m looking forward to the interview.”
Choose meaningful and short titles
During the job-hunting season, PR people deal with a lot of applicants and emails. To make it easier for them, you should not only make sure that the title of your mail is short and succinct, but also that you put your name there. If it doesn’t make the title too long, you can also add the name of your university.
When replying to e-mails, you should keep the “Re:” that (in most cases) automatically appears before the original title. Changing the title makes it harder to trace back the communication history. When you’re having long exchanges and the “Re”s keep piling up, it’s OK to remove a few of them to keep the title intelligible.
Follow Standard Patterns and Rules
People tend to think of Japanese business e-mails as traditional-style letters in a digital format. To be fair, Japanese business communication does heavily rely on established conventions and stock phrases.
However, that doesn’t mean that your e-mails have to be long. As long as you hit all the necessary points, a few lines can be enough (especially when there’s not much to say or the current chain of exchanges has been going on for a while).
When sending documents containing highly personal information (such as CVs) over the internet, it is common practice in Japan to use password-protected zip files. The password for the file is sent afterwards, in a separate e-mail. Despite how useless this may seem to you, is considered common (business) sense here. The main reason is that sending emails this way is part of the requirements for a widespread privacy protection certificate (called the Privacy Mark).
Below, you can find some templates to use when communicating with companies during you’re job hunt. We’re going to keep adding new examples in the future, but for now, it’s these five basic ones. The (italics in brackets) indicate parts of the e-mail that are there in the Japanese version but probably wouldn’t be used during an exchange in English.
You can use this template not only for CVs, but also for Entry Sheets, visa documents, etc (just make sure to change the text). Sending a password-locked file is not a must. Some companies require it. Otherwise, it’s up to you. In case the “Privacy Mark” is displayed on the website of the company you’re applying to, it might be a good idea to do it.
Sending a password separately
This is the mail that you send after the mail with your documents. It’s usually sent immediately afterwards.
Confirming an appointment
After attending a job fair, seminar etc, the company will usually send you a “thank you” mail for attending and provide you with some additional information about the next event or appointment. If the appointment doesn’t clash with your schedule, you just have to send a simple “thank you” mail back.
Rearranging an appointment
Sometimes, none of the pre-arranged time slots that the HR department sent you match with your personal schedule. In this case, apologize first and then propose some other time slots where you’re available. If possible, try to provide at least three different options to make the whole process shorter and less of a hassle for both the company and yourself.
Dropping out of the Recruitment Process
For the final one, let’s assume you’ve been applying for multiple jobs at once and have received an offer from your favorite company earlier than expected. You definitely want to take the job, but now you have to also tell the other companies you’re in contact with that you’re not interested in attending any seminars or tests or doing interviews anymore. This can be somewhat awkward, but it’s necessary (and if you’ve collected your share of rejections, it can feel quite good to be on the ‘other end’ for once).
E-Mailing like the Japanese
Do you see the patterns? Once you get a hold of them, you just have to add some variety to your vocabulary of stock phrases (different ways of expressing the same thing etc), do some tweaks here and there to fit your specific case and you won’t stand out among Japanese applicants at all.
Japanese expect there to be a relatively wide gap between face-to-face and written communication, so you don’t have to be able to talk in “e-mail style” (which is usually one politeness level above what people actually use during everyday work). However, don’t over-rely on copy and paste, as just using pre-made phrases from the internet suggests you’re too lazy to write your own sentences.