A lot of people studying Japanese have the goal “I want to eventually get a job where I can use my Japanese.” This is an excellent goal. This was one of my goals. Put your passion of Japanese into your job, and guess what: you’ll enjoy your job and live a more fulfilling life. I’ve added a new category of “Jobs.” Since so many people have this goal, it’s worth making a section based on it. I recently just finished another round of schooling and am now back on the working scene, so I figure it’s time to share the knowledge that I’m slowly coming across. Expect more to come.
The point of this post is tell you that the JLPT is often not necessary to get that dream job. I have never taken the JLPT so obviously it is not on my resume/CV. Now I know you want to say “but I’ve seen a JLPT requirement for some jobs!” Of course the requirement does exist at some places. But so far, I haven’t seen it for any jobs in the U.S. I’ve looked into.
I’ve encountered three ways Japanese skills are tested for a job that requires Japanese. Sometimes there is a combination of 2, or all 3 combined.
1. Skills-related test given by the company and administered by a 3rd party (such as Alta Language Testing)
This is a short multiple choice test, 15-16 questions, 45 minutes timed. A company will assign this test to you which you can take from your home computer. Sometimes a company may require you to take it at their office. You read short passages (3~4) and answer multiple choice questions based on them. Depending on what kind of job you are applying for the topic of the test will differ.
For example, I’m entering the legal field, so I had a test hitting legal issues such as Intellectual Property and Tax. I also took another test which was a “general business” test, which had questions on formal e-mails, phone calls, and other business-related stuff.
These tests are difficult but they are practical. Not sure what the passing rate is, but one of the companies I applied to said I scored an 80% (12/15) which was a passing score. I would take a guess that 10~11 out of 15 is passing.
2. Translation Exercise
The company will assign you an article based on the topic or field you will be working in. Either they will want a direct translation or a summary translation. I’ve only been requested to do this at home, but I’m sure it exists on the spot as well. This was less stressful since it wasn’t timed, but it can be hard to get the right words you want.
3. Direct Japanese Interview
You get called in for an interview which will be held solely in Japanese. This doesn’t require much explanation. I’ve only had one of these a number of years back when I was living in Japan, so I can’t really provide much insight on this just yet. They ask a lot of personal questions which are very different from U.S. interviews. I was caught off guard when I was asked “Do you cook?” or “Do you have a girlfriend?” The next time I have a Japanese interview, I’ll post more about it.
To me, all these are much more preferable than the JLPT. Take the JLPT for other reasons, but know that passing it by won’t stop you on your Japanese Quest.