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  • Writer's pictureKady Potter

The rirekisho and the shokumukeirekisho: what the hell's the difference?

Updated: Jun 17

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 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 space for a photo of your best 'please give me a job' face in the top right corner, and it has to be filled out in a certain way. Schools first - sometimes as far back as primary school! - and then your work history. In some formats the dates have to be in line with Japan's era names, so you might have to convert the 2000s to Heisei.

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...

Shokumukeirekisho (職務経歴書)

Definitions: resume showing career and job history, CV

(Yeah, that doesn't sound any different, does it?)

As it's a longer word to write and pronounce, you can easily assume the shokumukeirekisho is a more comprehensive document. Well, 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 document builder forms also have spaces for: the 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 with the design, though. The simpler the better.

I admit I had plenty of help with mine at first - still not fluent in Japanese yet - but after a few years I finally have both my rirekisho and shokumukeirekisho pinned down! If Google's not helping you work it out, come ask me and I'll see what I can do.


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