Updated January 29, 2023
What to wear to a job interview in Japan [2023 Guide]
Figuring out what to wear to a job interview can be hard. Figuring out what to wear to a job interview in Japan is even harder.
Japan isn’t exactly known for its liberal, “modern” work culture. While things are slowly and steadily progressing, many Japanese companies are still not as progressive and relaxed as typical American or European companies.
Many Japanese employers have established rules and beliefs about what working should look like and how employees should dress.
It’s not surprising, of course. After all, at the core of its culture, Japan is a conservative country. Things are no different when it comes to the business world.
As a result, knowing what to wear to a job interview in Japan can be very tricky for most. This is why I wanted to talk about proper business attire and how to dress for a job interview.
In this post, I’ll tell you all about wearing the right attire for job interviews at different types of companies in Japan. I’ll also share tips on how you should dress depending on your level of seniority.
Let’s get started.
In this article: 📝
In this article: 📝
Japan’s Job Interview Attire for New Graduates
Perhaps one of the most baffling experiences as a new graduate is realizing that you’ll need a whole new wardrobe once you start working.
While this is pretty much the same in Japan — get ready for your look to be scrutinized much more.
When I say get ready, I mean it.
If the company you’re interviewing for is on the conservative side, and you’re young and inexperienced, you’ll need to dress the part. Luckily, there are specific suits that are made for young Japanese people to wear to job interviews.
These suits are called “recruitment suits,” and it’s basically the staple of clothes for a job interview in Japan. You should definitely invest in a recruitment suit if you’re fresh out of college and looking for a job in Japan.
These are usually dark-colored, patternless, and non-revealing suits that may look boring, but that’s exactly what’s expected of you: to not draw attention to yourself.
You can find recruitment suits for both men and women online, as well as in stores such as The Suit Company, KONAKA, and Suit Select. Wearing pantsuits should mostly be okay for women, but don’t risk it if it’s a conservative company, and wear a skirt with your suit.
Make sure to match your suit with dark-colored, patternless socks, a white shirt, and a simple tie if you’re a man. Not going overboard with accessories is the way to go. A simple watch should be enough for men.
Women can accessorize with simple stud earrings and necklaces as well, and nude-colored stockings are the only right choice here. Shoes with short heels (up to 5 cm) are fine, but high-heels are a no-go, as well as anything open-toed like sandals.
Lastly, make sure to carry a briefcase-like bag that’s simple and elegant looking. Employees don’t want to see candidates empty-handed, and they require you to bring your application documents — your resume, cover letter, etc. — to the interview anyway.
In short, as you’d expect, you can’t go wrong with “simple but chic” as a new graduate. Just don’t go overboard, and you’ll be fine.
Interview Attire for Experienced Hires at Japanese Corporations
As an experienced hire, you don’t have as much to prove in a job interview. However, the traditional business world here is still much more conservative compared to the west. You’ll still need to follow some of the rules I stated above.
If you’re interviewing at a typical Japanese corporation, wearing a plain suit is not only a good idea for new graduates but for many experienced people as well. It’s generally not a good idea to look distracting in any way in an office setting in Japan.
Wearing a white shirt, while still preferred by some recruiters, is also not mandatory if you’re not a new graduate. You can wear a neutral color that’ll complement your suit.
Simply put, you don’t have to wear the classic “recruitment suit” that newbies would. You have a bit more freedom here, and you’ll be the judge of whether the company is a traditional or a modern one.
If they’re a more modern and open-minded company, you might even get away with being more expressive with your outfit. I mean nothing fancier than simple patterns and neutral colors, of course.
Lastly, matching your shoes and belt is another important detail that’ll make you look more well-put-together. You might find this unimportant, but recruiters notice the tiniest details regarding your appearance.
In general, it’s best to be well-prepared and not give the recruiters any reason to have a bad impression of you based on your looks.
What to Wear to Job Interviews at Startups
Judging by everything I’ve written so far, you might think that all Japanese companies require you to wear a suit, but there’s another side to the business world in Japan.
As I wrote in my recent post about startups in Japan, Japan has a growing startup ecosystem. Following the success of startups such as Mercari and SmartNews, many more have been popping up in recent years.
As opposed to the traditional ones I described above, these companies usually have a much more modern, open-minded, and progressive management style.
Despite the fact that most of them are small companies, startups in Japan are more multinational and, therefore, don’t share the same traditional values as most large-scale Japanese companies.
If you’re taking an interview at a startup, you don’t really have to worry about the strict rules I mentioned above. Just wearing something that fits the “business casual” style should be fine.
You can’t go wrong with a simple collared shirt, and chino pants can be a good choice for men. Dark-colored denim pants should be fine too.
Women can also wear collared shirts or blouses with skirts or pants of their choice.
What to Wear to Job Interviews at Foreign Tech Companies
There’s much more to the business scene in Japan than small local startups and traditional Japanese companies. Big international tech companies all have offices in Japan, too.
Generally speaking, you don’t have to worry as much about your attire if you have an interview at one of these companies, either. They are usually much more relaxed than Japanese companies, and you don’t have to wear a suit to the interviews — at least not for the U.S.-based ones.
And while it’s usually less important for roles such as software engineer, customer-facing roleslike sales may still warrant a suit. So be sure to double-check the specific rules for each company.
Also, the interview process at FAANG companies may not be as relaxed, as these companies tend to have very structured and long interview cycles. You can read my recent blog post on job interview questions in Japan to find out how to answer the most classic questions, along with my best interview tips.
As for foreign tech companies that aren’t United States-based, you’ll most likely still have an easier time than you would at a traditional Japanese one. Smart casual is the way to go here.
Of course, each company is different. Some may require you to dress formally, but it’s safe to say that these companies are a minority in the tech world.
What to Wear to Job Interviews at Investment Banks/Finance Companies
If you’re interviewing at an investment bank or a finance company like J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, or Barclays, it’s a safe bet to say that you’ll need a suit. I would also clump insurance companies with these as well, since those also tend to be stricter than your average workplace.
What you need to know about the business world in Japan is that looks are very important. Even if you worked at a place where the dress code is smart casual, you’d still be asked to wear a suit when a client comes to the office.
Some people in Japan also may have strong opinions on what working in certain industries should look like. For instance, the banking and finance industries are seen as “serious business” in Japan, and everyone that works at a bank has to look like a stereotypical “businessman.”
I’m talking about suits, white shirts, and briefcases.
This goes for all positions, too. This is why even if you’re a software developer, you may be required to wear a suit if you’re working at a job that’s deemed “serious” by the general public.
In short, stick with the classics and wear a suit if you’re unsure — you want to be taken seriously by these companies.
Final Word: What to Wear to a Job Interview in Japan
As I close out today’s post, I’d like to do a brief recap and share some final tips.
First of all, if you’re interviewing at a startup or a foreign tech company, you don’t really need to worry about your attire too much. Stick with smart casual, and you’re golden.
It’s the traditional Japanese companies you should be worried about the most. These require simple suits, white shirts, brown/black belts that match your shoes, and anything that helps you blend in as opposed to sticking out.
You’ll want to avoid casual shoes such as sandals, and wear a suit with a skirt instead of pants if you want to play it safe for women.
Lastly, however unfortunate, even though it’s not about clothing, your hair might also be an issue at certain traditional companies. Japanese recruiters are usually not keen on dyed hair, and this may affect their decision. The same thing goes for “unkempt” hair, as it can be deemed unprofessional.
It’s also wise to avoid using too much perfume or cologne, as Japanese recruiters may take offense if they sense too strong a smell. Using just deodorant on your interview day should be fine.
Before you go, if you’d like to understand the Japanese work culture better, take a look at the trickiest parts of navigating a Japanese workplace.
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