What English Proficiency is Required for a Foreign Company? Thorough explanation of industry level and practical matters


  • Career Advice

Do you wonder if your English skills will be accepted at a foreign company?
You want to put your English skills to good use, but you are not sure how well you will be able to perform in the workplace. However, it would be a waste to give up on your dream job at a foreign company because of this! The English proficiency required varies depending on the industry and type of job.


In this article, we will provide a thorough explanation of the English language skills required at a foreign company. We will also explain the key points to use in practice, so that you can solidify your image after joining a company and get the job at a foreign-capital company of your dreams!

English proficiency required for foreign companies varies by industry, occupation, and workplace.

In fact, the English proficiency required by foreign-affiliated companies varies from tasks that require fluent use of English like a native speaker to tasks that are not a problem if you are not allergic to English. The following graph shows the frequency of English usage by people actually working for foreign companies.

Reference: Mynavi Job Change|Career Change Know-How "How often do you use English and foreign languages? How often do you use English or other foreign languages?

It seems that nearly 40% of those who want to make use of their English rarely use it in their workplaces. Let's take a closer look at what kind of workplaces in foreign-affiliated companies require English proficiency and at what level.

Workplace where English proficiency is not required

Even in foreign-affiliated companies, there are workplaces where English is not used. This is the case when most of the employees are Japanese and the customers are also Japanese. For example, sales staff in Japan or apparel sales staff. Since they are surrounded by Japanese, communication is naturally conducted in Japanese, and English skills are rarely required.

In most cases, clerical workers in such workplaces also use Japanese if the person to whom they submit reports is Japanese.

However, there are cases where notices from the head office and documents to be submitted are in English, so if you are allergic to English, you may find it tough. Even if English is not required at first, it will become necessary as you advance in your position and are required to submit reports to the home country or attend meetings.

English Proficiency Requirements by Industry


Financial Industry

Native-like English Proficiency Required

IT industry

English proficiency may be required depending on the scale and length of time in Japan.

Pharmaceutical and medical industry

High reading comprehension required

Manufacturer Sales

English proficiency is not required


English proficiency, including technical terminology, is required

The English language skills required will vary depending on the industry.

Financial Industry

The financial industry requires a very high level of English proficiency, as even a slight mishearing or difference in nuance can be a fatal mistake in some cases. In addition to face-to-face communication, you need to be able to answer phones, read documents and reports, and write documents. Because the financial industry requires native-like English, many of its employees are returnees or have studied abroad.

IT Industry

Foreign companies in the IT industry require different levels of English proficiency depending on the size of the company and the length of time they have been in Japan. Smaller companies may require communication with foreign countries in some cases. Companies with a short history in Japan may not have manuals ready in Japanese, so reading comprehension and expertise in English are required. On the other hand, large IT companies already have Japanese-language manuals and other Japanese know-how, so a high level of English proficiency may not be required.

Pharmaceutical and Medical Industry

In the pharmaceutical and medical industries, documents such as reports on the effectiveness of medical devices and side-effect reports are written in English, so reading and understanding technical terms is a must.

Manufacturer (automotive, electrical, electronics)

In the manufacturing (automotive, electrical, electronics) industry, English proficiency is required for sales and engineering positions. Salespeople do not need a high level of English proficiency when they join the company, as their main customers are domestic customers. Engineers need practical experience and the ability to understand English, including technical terms, and to read, write, and speak English fluently.

English Proficiency Requirements by Occupation



English language skills required to negotiate


Requires English language skills to explain complex


Requires the ability to read and write e-mails, and speak English for daily checks

English proficiency requirements for foreign-affiliated companies vary depending on the type of job.


Marketing not only deals with sales and other numerical figures, but also with advertising and other matters, so it is necessary to speak with sensitivity. There will also be situations where you will need to negotiate with the head office, so a high level of English proficiency is necessary.


In human resources, there will be situations where you will have to explain complex situations in English, such as, "An employee has a mental breakdown," or "I heard through a tip-off that there is an employee with bad behavior, but how should we investigate? Therefore, considerable English proficiency is required. Many companies also require that you have sufficient English language skills to explain labor and union issues unique to Japan in English.

Accounting and Finance

Accounting and finance positions require, at a minimum, the ability to read and write emails in English and to speak English on a daily basis. However, foreign-affiliated companies require English-language accounting, so a USCPA (U.S. Certified Public Accountant) certification is desired. In this case, the examinations are all in English, so it is recommended that you have English proficiency at the level of Level 2 to Level 1 of the English Proficiency Test.

Key Practices Requiring English Proficiency in Foreign Companies

Now that we have introduced the English language skills required for various industries and positions, what are the tasks that actually make use of English language skills? The following is an explanation of the key points of English work. It is a good idea to practice in advance to familiarize yourself with the job, to get a clear image of what you will be doing, and to study to make up for any skills you may lack.


















One thing many people who join a foreign company have difficulty with is answering the phone. Since you cannot see the other party's facial expressions and body language over the phone, you need to be able to listen accurately. If you do not understand something, you need to be able to ask questions with different expressions in order to reconfirm your understanding.



The most common type of work in which English is used is e-mail communication. If replies are slow or if reading and writing skills are poor, communication will take time and work will not progress as smoothly as expected.

The key to e-mail is to be concise. Long sentences with long modifying clauses are undesirable.

Use bullet points for clarity, or write only the main points and ask the reader to read the attachment for details. You can also follow up with a phone call after sending the email.


In order to prepare documents, it is necessary to read English documents in advance and to have the skills to explain your ideas accurately in English. Since there are certain standardized expressions and formats for documents, it is important to read and study existing documents in advance.


Unlike telephone meetings, face-to-face meetings are easier to communicate because participants' body language and facial expressions can be observed. On the other hand, the attitude of the participants may reveal their confidence or lack thereof, as well as their aggressiveness.

The following are points to keep in mind when participating in a meeting.


  • Be confident in order not to be perceived as lacking in confidence.
  • Participate actively by always saying something, and do not be a bystander.
  • Ask questions until you understand what you did not hear or understand.
  • Use positive rather than negative expressions as much as possible.
  • Use polite expressions and language.

Each participating company and country has a different cultural background. In addition to listening and speaking skills, communication skills are also necessary.



Presentations are very important opportunities because they allow you to show your value and abilities. The key to giving a presentation is to pronounce slowly and clearly.

It is also said that if you use the PREP presentation format, you will be more likely to be accepted by foreigners.


PREP is the following method.

  • Point: Main point (conclusion/argument)
  • Reason: Reasons (reasons for reaching the conclusion/argument)
  • Example: Concrete example (data, situation, matter to make the reason convincing)
  • Point: Main point (conclusion/argument)

In actual usage,

  • Point: There is a delay in an ongoing project.
  • Reason: Because there is a problem with the newly installed system.
  • Example: The system is not acquiring the values it should, and we are investigating the cause. Also, the system is taking up a lot of manpower, which is causing a shortage of resources for work process B.
  • Point:We will do our best to restore the system as soon as possible, but please understand that there is a delay. We would appreciate any further suggestions you may have.

Proceeding in this order makes it easier for the listener to understand.

Improvement of English skills is necessary even after joining a foreign company

That person speaks fluent English, but it's student English."
When you enter a foreign company, you sometimes hear conversations like this. They are returnees who can speak English as fluently as native English speakers, but they are not proficient in business English. If you want to be successful in a foreign company, you need to learn accurate business English.

There are other reasons why you should improve your English skills even after joining a foreign company.

Improving your English is essential for career advancement.

Even in departments that do not use much English, you will need a high level of English to advance in your career.

<English language skills required for the role>




General Manager

Marketing & HR




Sales, Engineering and Internal IT




Factory and logistics


500 points for leadership positions and above.

500 points for leadership positions and above.

Departments other than the above




Managers and above have the opportunity to submit reports to the head office in English and attend global meetings in English. At these meetings, you are required to express your opinions so that you do not "just participate". If you can speak English, you may be selected for overseas business trips or as a member of global projects. Having English language skills will give you the opportunity to improve your skills and career advancement.

If you want to advance your career at a foreign company, a high level of English proficiency is essential.

A surprisingly large number of people are not satisfied with their English skills even when working for a foreign company, and nearly half of them continue to learn English while working.

Target: 152 "bilingual specialists" who work in English
Reference: Robert Walters Japan K.K. "Bilingual Specialist Survey

The main study methods are as follows

  • Watching TV or radio in English
  • Communicating with foreign friends and colleagues in English
  • Using apps on your smartphone or tablet
  • Attending an English conversation school
  • Taking online lessons

Many people are making good use of their time by watching foreign films and foreign dramas in English on their days off and listening to English-language TV and radio during their commute to work, in order to get as much exposure to English as possible.

They also actively engage in English conversation with their foreign colleagues at work. Exposure to live English is a method of learning that is unique to foreign-affiliated companies.

High street English conversation schools and online lesson participants are learning discussion and business English, and working hard to acquire skills that are not available through conversations with friends.

Keep in mind that your English learning does not end when you join a foreign company, but rather you need to work hard to improve and maintain your English skills.

If you are not confident in your English skills, prepare yourself for a new job at a foreign company.

I want to work in English! If you think so, but are still a little daunted by the prospect of changing jobs for the first time, you need to prepare yourself thoroughly for your new job. If you take the following steps, you can find a job that suits your English skills.

Survey on the frequency of English usage at the foreign companies you are interested in working for

It is difficult to work at a place that requires more English than you are capable of. To avoid such mismatches with companies, it is advisable to research in advance how often English is used in your job.

In some cases, you can find out through company websites or word of mouth, but the best way to be sure is to ask a recruitment agent to check. They will ask the company directly how often they use English in their work, so you can be sure to get the most recent usage status.

Resumes in English

When applying to a foreign company, you will be asked to submit a resume in English. An English resume is like a combination of a Japanese "résumé" and a "curriculum vitae". There is no set format like a Japanese resume, so depending on how you write it, it can give a completely different impression to the reader.

The following are the three main formats.

  • Reverse chronological order" in which you write your work history in chronological order
  • The "career format," in which each job is written separately
  • Mixed style" which is a combination of both.

Unlike Japanese companies, foreign-affiliated companies are meritocratic and focus on "abilities that lead to a job" and "past achievements. There is no need to write personal information such as date of birth, gender, hobbies, special skills, etc. that you would write on a Japanese resume. Include content that is directly related to the job.

Key Points for Writing a Resume in English

  • Do not include any information that is not directly related to the job.
  • Use bullet points to make your points clear.
  • Use numerical values when describing accomplishments.
  • Do not use "I" in the subject line.
  • Use action verbiage.

Whether or not you should include your TOEIC score on your English resume for a foreign company depends on your score and how often you use English in the workplace. It is said that a TOEIC score of 700 is the minimum for business English, so if your workplace uses English regularly, you should write a TOEIC score of 700 or higher.

If you are not used to using English very often, you should start with a score of around 600. As with a Japanese resume, typos and omissions can give a negative impression to the hiring manager. We recommend that you have your resume checked by a professional, such as a native English speaker or a foreign-capital recruitment agent.

English Interview Preparation

 English interviews are an essential part of the preparation for changing jobs at a foreign company. If the interviewer is a foreigner, the interview will be conducted in English from the beginning in most cases. If the interviewer is Japanese, it depends on the position you are applying for. If the position requires frequent use of English, the interview will be conducted in English, and if the position does not require much use of English, the interview will be conducted in Japanese. There are often cases where an interview that started in Japanese switches to English in the middle of the interview. Even for positions where you are not allergic to English, you may be asked "How do you spend your free time? (What are your hobbies?).

There are usually certain questions that will be asked during an interview in English. By practicing in advance, you can avoid the situation in which you find yourself unable to answer the interview questions because your mind goes blank. It is not easy to practice by yourself. Some English conversation schools and recruitment agencies offer interview preparation services.

For more information on interviewing in English, please refer to the article “20 Common Interview Questions in English with Japanese Translation!

English Proficiency for Foreign Companies is a Must! Use a recruitment agent!

I want to work for a foreign company in English! Even if you think you want to work at a foreign company, the English proficiency required varies depending on the industry and the type of work. To avoid any "this wasn't supposed to happen" after you join a company, it is important to find out in advance what level of English proficiency is required.

We recommend using a foreign-capital recruitment agent to help you change jobs. They have effective know-how in checking the frequency of English usage, English resumes, English interviews, etc., and will support you well.

Don't waste time worrying alone! Use a recruitment agent to find the right job for you in no time!

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