The 44 Most Common Japanese Interview Questions & Answers
The worst thing to happen during an interview is getting a question and not knowing how to answer. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to prepare answers to common questions and learn typical question patterns and vocabulary. This list will help. Use the links below or the table of contents to jump to questions about…
You can also download a PDF version of the questions in this article by clicking the link below.
The classics (hard to avoid)
1. Introduce yourself
Prepare a short monologue (under 60 seconds), including your educational background, most recent activity, and a bit of personal information like extracurriculars.
2. Explain your strengths / weaknesses.
To be on the safe side, prepare around 3 each. For strengths, pick things that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For weaknesses, choose unrelated things or things that could be interpreted as positive from a different point of view.
3. Why did you apply?
→ 応募動機を教えてください。/ 志望動機は何ですか。
Listen for the two keywords and don’t get thrown off by an unfamiliar phrasing. 理由is asking for the reason of application while きっかけis asking for the occasion. When answering also include how your skills or experiences qualify you for the job.
4. How do your experiences match the position?
Explain how you can draw on previous experiences for your new job. This question doesn’t explicitly ask for previous work experience. If you can connect it to things you’ll be doing at work, you can also talk about things you did at school, university, or in your free time. Make sure to use specific examples.
5. What are your skills?
Prepare a short rundown of your hard and soft skills. Mention certificates (if you have any), the number of months/years you’ve spent honing the skills, and examples of situations or projects where you put them to use.
6. How good is your Japanese?
→ あなたの日本語のレベルを教えてください。/ 日本語はどのぐらい話せますか。
They already can guess your level from the interview, so list some facts and numbers. Mention your JLPT level, relevant experiences, for how long you’ve been studying, and with what intensity you studied.
7. Any last questions? Is there anything that you want to say?
→ 最後に質問ありますか？/ 最後に一言ありますか？
Both questions are checking your eagerness to join the company. If you really want in, you almost certainly have questions or things you want to share. Not saying anything is going to show a lack of interest. Even if you don’t have any truly urgent things that need clearing up, use this opportunity to show that you’re thinking ahead and want to know more.
Questions about the company
8. How did you find our company?
Talk about what got you to notice the company. Was it a product you bought? Or did you find them when you were searching for jobs in your preferred industry? This is also a good opportunity to show what you know about their products, customers, competitors, etc.
9. Why do you want to work for our company?
Include your research findings to point out how you fit the company, and how they can benefit from hiring you.
10. Why did you apply to this position?
Explain your reason why you are interested in the concrete position you’re applying to. Base your answer on the requirements on the company’s web page or the job ad and explain in detail what kind of what role you’re expecting to fill.
11. If you get the job what do you want to do / achieve?
This question checks if you have a correct understanding of what the company does and the role you play in the grand scheme of things. Really think about this one and prepare a specific answer that ties into the company goals. If you don’t know what you want to contribute, why should they hire you?
12. Is our company your first choice?
When you hear this question, the interview is as good as over. The point of the question is to check whether you will actually take the job when offered to you. If the company you’re applying to isn’t your overall favorite, think of a specific area where it is. Each company offers different opportunities, so they can each be your first choice in their own niches.
Questions about your work experience
13. What kind of work did you do so far?
Self-explanatory. Talk about your previous work experiences. When explaining what you did and the environments you worked in, make sure to create connections to the job you are interviewing for. If there are none at all, it’s better to leave those work experiences out. That being said, you can usually find some overlap, even if it’s basic things like being attentive, punctual, polite, etc.
14. Tell us about your current job.
While the previous question asked for any working experience, here they only want to hear about your most recent experience. Both questions are a great opportunity to highlight your skills, so stay on topic, and illustrate how you can add value to the company.
15. What have you achieved at your jobs so far?
Here you need to bring data and facts. Explain your achievement by outlining the specific goal, process, and results. You probably didn’t do it all by yourself, so give some credit to others. It will highlight your teamwork skills.
16. Tell us about your […] activities.
This is a common way to ask for experiences or skills in a specific field or area of expertise. Give detailed information, but still keep your answer concise and be careful to not start rambling.
17. Why do you want to quit your current job?
This is a tricky one. No matter what your true reason is, never criticize a previous employer or another company – it makes you look like a person who likes to blame others. Instead, phrase your answer positively by talking about things you want to achieve or new challenges.
18. How can you benefit the company?
Explain with a specific example how you will use your strenghts to further the company’s goals. Base your answer on your company research and what you want to achieve at the position you’re applying to.
Questions about yourself
19. What are your career goals?
→ 今後のキャリアをどう考えていますか。/ 将来どんな仕事をしたいですか？
It is okay to talk about big, far-off goals here. Just make sure that your career goals align with the position and match the company. Also, the steps you mention should at least be somewhat realistic.
20. What is your dream for the future?
Similar to the question above, but a bit more abstract.
Having a dream that you want to achieve shows that you’re self-driven and motivated. Interviewers want to find out if your values and life goals match the company, so consider this in your reply.
21. Where do you see yourself in X years?
Questions for 3, 5, or even 10-year plans are common. So prepare accordingly. With Japanese companies, they hope that once hired, you will stay with them for the long-run.
22. Describe your personality.
The point here is a spontaneous and straightforward answer. You don’t want to convey the feeling that you’re reading from a script or hiding something. You should still think about the general answer you want to give in advance so you can point out how the traits you mention fit the position you’re applying to.
23. What do people around you think about you as a person?
This question is about how you tend to be perceived by others. It can be a bit tricky to answer on your own. Try asking friends, family, or teachers for their honest input when preparing for your interview. It will help you build a stronger case for other questions too.
24. What do you look for in a company?
This question is asking about how you want to work (tasks, environment, etc.) and which values are important to you. Maybe you want to create something or work with people, or maybe you value the atmosphere, career prospects, or room for self-development. Phrase this one positively. Convincingly bringing in the company’s values give you extra points.
Questions about problem-solving
25. What do you do when you are about to miss a deadline.
This is a question about how you perform under stress. At Japanese companies, communication (especially between subordinates and superiors) and teamwork are widely considered to be more important than any individual’s skills. Your answer should probably start with you talking to someone.
26. How would you solve a problem at work?
This question is pretty vague, so it’s pretty easy to start rambling. How you solve a problem depends on the specifics of the situation. Unless you’re given more points to go by, give a general answer that’s in line with basic rules such as keeping everyone informed and preparing measures to make sure that the escalation doesn’t escalate further.
27. How do you convince your boss of a new idea?
At Japanese companies, you’re typically asked to confirm most new things you do with your superior first, so being able to convince them of a new idea is a key skill. Keep in mind things like efficiency, proof of some kind, an action plan, a concrete goal, etc.
28. What type of person don’t you get along with well?
Don’t get tricked into giving a specific answer. Keep it general. In the end, it all depends on who exactly your dealing with, right? Focus on conveying that you get along with people well and explain how you would use your communication skills to handle a difficult situation.
29. How do you deal with a difficult person?
Similar to the question above, but more focused on your communication strategies. Imagine you have a challenging customer. How would you approach them to create a mutually beneficial situation?
30. How do you solve a disagreement with a coworker?
For this question, it’s not the person, but the content that’s the problem. Dig up your mediation skills and explain how you’d respectfully find a solution without straining the relationship between you and your coworker.
Questions about (living in) Japan
31. When did you come to Japan?
This question is asking only about the time and not about the why.
Questions about your reason (理由) or the occasion (きっかけ) for either coming to Japan or becoming interested in the country are common as well. In all cases, keep your answer short.
32. Why do you want to work in Japan?
Another question to check your motivation and seriousness. From the company’s perspective, answers that make is seem like you’re just applying to get a long-term visa or show a mismatch with company values are red flags.
33. Do you think you are able to work in a Japanese environment?
This one is checking for you compatibility and adaptability to the Japanese working environment. Companies want to avoid people that quit after a few weeks due to culture shock.
Show an understanding of culture and common etiquette, and mention previous experiences if possible.
Similar to the previous question, this one too checks if you’re worth the hassle, so to say. Japanese companies hire full-time employees for the long-term and invest a lot of energy into training new employees, especially fresh university graduates. Saying that you only want to stay a few years, might not be enough to make the company want to invest in you.
Questions about your student life
35. Briefly summarize what you have done until now.
Prepare a short monologue about your educational background and maybe your reason for coming to Japan. Most people like it if you like their country, so it’s okay to show your enthusiasm a little bit.
36. What did you work hard on in university?
In Japanese, this question is known as ガクチカ. It’s one of the true mainstays of Japanese job interviews for fresh university graduates. Whether it’s sports, classes, your thesis, or a personal project, give a concrete example and show that you are hardworking and committed to reaching your goals.
37. What (life lessons) did you learn as a student?
This one is not asking about the contents of your classes, but about things you picked up on yourself. Maybe you realized the importance of life-long learning or found out how to stay committed to your goals. The company wants to know whether you can learn from your experiences and keep developing.
38. What is the difference between a student and a regular employee?
In Japan, going from student to employee status is often treated as a full reset. The common conception is that students (even they’re technically adults) don’t yet know how it is to be “out there” yet. If you don’t know how to answer this question, think about it this way: As a student, you are the consumer, paying money to receive a service. For work, you’ll need a different outlook on self-driven motivation and commitment.
Questions about your private life
39. What is your hobby/specialty?
Show a bit of your personality, but also make sure to consider your environment and the position to applying to. If you’re aiming for a sales job, saying that you’re a hardcore shut-in otaku might not be your best pick. Neither is it advisable to show a high risk-tolerance with hobbies like say, bungee-jumping or pachinko.
40. How do you spend your free time?
When asking this question, employers are looking for signs that you’re investing time into your own development, even when you’re not at work. Of course, you don’t have to say that you spend literally all your free time on learning new things for work. A nicely crafted answer establishes a positive connection of some kind between work and the rest of your life.
41. Was there something memorable in a book you read recently?
Your answer to this question will be treated as an insight into your personality and interests. It’s OK to be honest, but think about what your answer implies and how it could be interpreted.
42. Share your thoughts on recent news you found interesting.
Keeping up with trends and the world around you shows that you’re curious and always eager to learn. Try getting into the habit of skimming through global, Japanese, and industry news before your interview. When answering the question, avoid delicate topics and focus on things that are relevant to your job.
43. What person do you respect?
People we respect often function as our role models. Think about the characteristics commonly associated with your favorite people and what they mean to you or the ideas about your future.
44. If you were an X, what would you be?
What would you be if you were an animal? A superhero? A piece of stationery? This question might seem pointless, but it’s testing your ability for spontaneous, original thought. For your answer, think about your strengths and find an equivalent in the category you’re asked about. For example, saying you’re an antelope shows that you’re always aware of your surroundings and quick on your feet.
You can never know exactly which questions you get. Still, this extensive list allows you to prepare effectively and get ready for most potential questions.
During the interview, show connections to company goals and values when possible, and remember to keep your answers precise and to the point. You can always save the details for follow-up questions.
Need help preparing for your job hunt?
While it’s possible to find a job in Japan on your own, successfully going through your first job hunt all on your own can be difficult. Without any native speaker to check back with, you have no choice but to keep applying and figure things out by yourself through trial and error. If you want to prepare as much as possible, consider asking professionals for help.
Linguage Japanese Language school in Shinjuku specializes in training students for searching for a job in Japan. Aside from the classes, which are designed to equip you with Japanese abilities that you can easily apply in real-world business settings, teachers and counselors will guide you through your job hunt and correct your Japanese CVs and other documents. If you’re interested, check out our in-depth article about the school or click the button below to directly visit the homepage.