8 Expressions That Are Overused in Japanese Company Interviews

January 25, 2011

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has released a list of eight cliches they say people interviewing for jobs with Japanese companies should avoid saying. These are the kind of things that teachers in Japan, many of whom have never had jobs other than teaching, advise their students to say.

I hope the list also gives a view of some of the things that interviewees think companies are looking for in their workers.

Here’s the list (translations are mine, but I’ll provide the original Japanese for my bilingual readers).

1. Yaruki ha makenai jishin ga aru.
Nobody is more enthusiastic than me. (Literally: I’m confident I won’t lose in enthusiasm.)

2. Onsha no jigyo naiyo ni kyomi ga aru.
I’m interested in what your company does. (Literally: I’m interested in your company’s business.)

3. Onsha de benkyo o sasete hoshii.
I want to learn from you. (Literally:I want you to let me study at your company.)

4. Hito to sessuru shigoto ga shitai.
I want to work with people. (Literally: I want to do work connecting with people.)

5. Yarigai no aru shigoto o shitai.
I want to do work that’s meaningful. (Literally: I want to do a job that is worth doing.)

6. Suteppu appu ga shitai.
I want to improve. (Literally: I want to improve… *Note be careful of step up in Japanese which means improve in something as opposed to the common U.S. meaning of the expression meaning to “take action” or “take on some higher responsibility”.)

7. Akogare no shigoto.
Work that I admire. (Literally: Work that I admire, respect, or look up to…)

8. Shahu ha jibun ni pittari.
The corporate culture suits me perfectly. (Literally: The corporate culture suits me perfectly.)

Obviously these are the lines young people inevitably memorize from books on interviewing techniques, or more likely things they are taught by teachers who memorized them and have been preaching them for decades.

The game changer is that now the economy is tanking, and for the time being, bigger companies are being more selective. I would also like to think that companies are beginning to actually care about what people say in interviews and be more careful about whom they hire.

I’ve heard at least one college student comment on this topic that, while people being interviewed are using these pre-fab expressions, part of the problem are the stale and predictable questions being asked by interviewers.