In this article we will look at Japanese honorific language, called keigo (敬語), and suggest how you might use it in the course of an interview.
Broadly speaking, keigo is divided into three main categories:
Below are some examples of the different forms of common verbs in each of these categories. There are often two or more options when using sonkeigo or kenjōgo.
Let’s look at some examples of how these words might be used in the course of an interview.
Sonkeigo is used to describe the actions of your superiors, which in this case is anyone from the company that you are applying to. For example, a respectful form of the verbする (do) is される. In an interview you might use it like this:
onsha ga kono yakushoku ni kitai sareru ten o oshiete kudasai.
“Could you tell me what expectations your company has for this position?”
Suppose you want to pass a copy of your resume to an interviewer. You would use the form お受け取りになる for “receive” like this:
dōzo ouketori kudasai
“Here you are. “(Literally: “Here, please receive this”)
Or if asked how you became interested in this company you might say:
onsha no Suzuki-sama ga osshatta naka de inshō no nokotta kotoba ga arimashita.
“I was impressed by something that Mr.Suzuki from your company said.”
Kenjōgo is used to describe your own actions. For example, the humble form of する (do) is いたします. You can use this as you enter and exit the interview room:
shitsurei itashimasu. “Excuse me.”
If you want to ask a question, you can use 伺う instead of 聞く.
haizoku-saki ni tsuite ukagatte mo yoroshii deshō ka. “May I ask about the location I would be assigned to?”
And if you have received something, then you can use 頂くinstead of もらう.
honjitsu wa kichōna o jikan o itadaki, arigatō gozaimasu.
“Thank you for giving me your valuable time today.”
It is important that you do not mix up your respectful language with your humble language. If you are not entirely comfortable with these forms, then it is better to stick with teineigo. Teineigo is polite enough for most situations and can be safely used for both your own and other people’s actions. No one expects a beginner or intermediate student of Japanese to have completely mastered keigo. In fact, most Japanese people do not become completely proficient with such language until they have experience using it in a business environment.