For the longest time - THE longest time - I thought that a 'rirekisho' (履歴書) was the Japanese version of a CV/resume. Simple.
Obviously, just like everything else here in Japan, there's a bit more nuance to it.
A rirekisho and a CV aren't identical. Sure, you need to mention your work and education history on both, but the details and format you're meant to use are fairly different.
You also have a different 2nd document, called a 'shokumukeirekisho' (職務経歴書), to deal with. If you're like me, this is the one you hadn't even heard of before.
There are plenty of English-language resources out there on writing a rirekisho. And many blogs/sites/forums mention that a shokumukeirekisho is not the same thing. But I haven't come across much in the way of detail in explaining the differences between the two.
So here I am, giving that explanation a go. I hope this helps.
Rirekisho - 履歴書
Definitions: personal history, CV, resume.
You can easily spot a rirekisho. It's short, it has a photo in the top right corner, and it has to be filled out in a certain way. Schools first - sometimes as far back as primary! - and then work history. Dates have to be by Japan's calendar, so with years from the Heisei period if you're older and Showa if you're a more recent grad.
Job listing magazines in Japan often have a blank 2-page rirekisho template printed inside for you to use. This bugs me. Okay, I'll do it the proper way, but I spent ages designing and formatting my English-language CV. I wanted to create something similar in Japanese. No dice.
Based on the template for a standard rirekisho, I'd rather call it a career summary sheet. There's no space for achievements, just dates and school/company names.
I say 'summary', but even so, a rirekisho is NOT a cover letter either! That's known as jiko-PR or self PR (自己PR) and is yet another document you might be asked for. Even though there's space on both a rirekisho and shokumukeirekisho to list your skills and explain why you want the job. I can't shrug high enough.
Shokumukeirekisho - 職務経歴書
Definitions: resume showing career and job history, CV
(Yeah, that doesn't exactly sound too different, does it?)
As it's a longer word to write and pronounce, you can easily assume the shokumukeirekisho is a more comprehensive document.
Yes, it sure is. It acts as the explanation for everything you mentioned in the rirekisho.
For example, where in a rirekisho you'd only put when you started and left a job, there's space in a shokumukeirekisho to explain your role, achievements, and so on.
Some online builder forms also have spaces for: total number of company employees, company value, and whether it's listed on the Japanese stock exchange. You might think that's overkill. Most companies have this info on a specific page of their website. Up to you whether you use it or not.
The shokumukeirekisho doesn't need a photo on it, and while it has defined sections there isn't a set format like with the rirekisho. Still can't go crazy in InDesign on it, though. The simpler the better.
I admit I've had plenty of help with mine - not fluent in Japanese yet - but I think I might finally have both my rirekisho and shokumukeirekisho pinned down! If Google's not helping you work it out, come ask me on Twitter and I'll see what I can do.