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How could I ask "what kind of job are we going to do" in a Japanese job interview?

I could just simply use something like:

Watashitachi wa, donna shigoto wo shimasu ka

But for me it doesn't seem natural and it looks so elementary.

I'm thinking of how can I make it shorter and natural, like how a Japanese native would ask. So I've come up with another one:

Donna shigoto wo saremasuka

I'm not so sure if that is correct, I thought of using a passive form so that it doesn't come across as too direct to the person that I'm asking about their job in particular.

If I translate this second sentence using Google though, it just says "What kind of work do you do?", but I don't trust that translation since if I also translate "Donna shigoto o shimasuka", as you can see without the passive form, it also just translates to the same "What kind of work do you do?".

Is using the passive form correct or is there better way to say this?

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    られる can also be used as an honorific form, with no passive implication (eg どちらへ行かれますか - Where will you go?). So that's why the translation of the sentence you got from Google is possible.
    – Leebo
    Jul 10, 2023 at 0:54
  • @Leebo so it's incorrect if I use it? It's just equivalent to します in my case?
    – quielfala
    Jul 10, 2023 at 2:15
  • It would be interpreted as politely asking what the other person does, yes.
    – Leebo
    Jul 10, 2023 at 2:28
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    Just for the future, note that questions about translation are off-topic in this site. Your question is not outright a translation request, because you attempted to translate the expression by yourself, but it is near off-topic in my opinion.
    – jarmanso7
    Jul 15, 2023 at 17:15
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    A little off topic, but wouldn't it be better to do some research and know beforehand what job you're gonna do? It seems a little unprofessional to ask such questions imo.
    – dvx2718
    Jul 15, 2023 at 17:30

2 Answers 2

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But for me it doesn't seem natural and it looks so elementary.

This is a business setting, so we can't merely be concerned with idiomatic phrasing; we have to worry about appropriate levels of politeness and formality. I don't know these in any particular detail, so I can't give an authoritative answer, but I can tell right away that a formula like this isn't going to work. You don't want to be asking a direct question, and you don't want to be making the sentence about you (after all, the nature of the work won't change to accommodate you, if you don't like the answer, and it isn't affected by your status).

As a rule of thumb I would not consider using a first-person pronoun like [私]{watashi} in this setting except if the situation required me to distinguish myself from others, or if I needed to accept personal blame or assign personal responsibility.

[私]{watashi}[たち]{tachi} seems to me especially problematic here; assuming you aren't interviewing together with a friend with the prior understanding that you will be accepted or rejected together, there is no "we" to speak of here. You aren't part of a group of coworkers unless and until you're hired, so speaking like that will definitely sound presumptive. (Not to mention, they're already doing the work in question, while you aren't.)

That said, for the second attempt, I want to address idiom/correctness first before formality.

I'm not so sure if that is correct

The instinct is a step in the right direction. The "passive" form in Japanese works a bit differently, and as far as I'm aware doesn't connote indirectness in the way that an English speaker thinks of it. (A large part of why it comes across "indirect" in English is that it allows you to omit the agent of the verb: "the job was done" doesn't require saying who did it, while with "___ did the job", the blank must be filled in. But in Japanese, those omissions are possible regardless, so it doesn't make a difference.) Grammatically, the job should probably be marked with [は]{wa}. I can't put my finger on why, but using question words like [どんな]{donna} or [どう]{dou}[いう]{iu} as part of a subject or object, without having a topic first, sounds quite brusque to me. They seem to work better with a copula, and anyway we don't need an action verb now that we have the strategy of talking about the job - "what kind of job will be done?" is awkward; we just want "what kind of job is it?".

Expressing that directly in Japanese, we might repeat the noun, and use an honorific:

[お]{o}[仕事]{shigoto}[は]{wa}、[どんな]{donna}[仕事]{shigoto}[です]{desu}[か]{ka}?


However, I agree with jarmanso's idea that we still don't want to ask a direct question. Instead, we phrase it as a request for information. This gives us the necessary business-language opportunities to mark status and formality. (Pedantically, the proposed form is a question about whether we may have the information, so it's that much more indirect.) I don't have any better ideas here (aside from the honorific which I'm not at all sure is called for), so I'll just explain how that proposal works.

[に]{ni}[ついて]{tsuite} at the start of a sentence gives a sort of "more explicit" form of [は]{wa}, while being different grammatically. Whereas in English we need to introduce words like "regarding" to capture the idea of a topic in a grammar that doesn't directly support it, [に]{ni}[ついて]{tsuite} actually has that meaning.

[詳]{kuwa} [しく]{shiku} is just a vocabulary item so I won't spend time on it.

Presumably you know by now that Japanese rarely uses direct imperatives, and will be familiar with [教]{oshi}[えて]{ete}[ください]{kudasai} as a formal version, and plain [教]{oshi}[えて]{ete} as informal version, of a request to [教]{oshi}[える]{eru} (usually glossed as "teach", but more broadly "inform about"; it's used in many contexts where English speakers would say "tell" instead).

[いただけません]{itadakemasen}[か]{ka} deserves a bit more explanation. (You might recognize the positive, non-potential, but still polite form, [いただきます]{itadakimasu}, as an expression by itself.) The plain, positive form is [いただく]{itadaku}, and this verb is the humble-speech replacement for [もらう]{morau}. The "ke" is because we use potential form as well - we ask whether it's possible to be told, not whether we are being/will be told.

So really the sense conveyed is more like "might I not have the benefit of... ?" This way shows appropriate humility, as well as the sense that being given this information is a favor done for you.

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  • I like your answer 「お仕事は、どんな仕事ですか」, but If for example I want to omit the first part 「お仕事は」then how would that goes? Just「どんな仕事ですか」seems incomplete
    – quielfala
    Jul 16, 2023 at 20:50
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    Again, I wouldn't risk saying something like that in this setting, but どんな仕事ですか is just as "complete" as "what kind of job is this?". Jul 16, 2023 at 21:09
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Native or more advanced speakers might come up with better ways to address it, but in this situation I would probably ask it differently to the interviewer. Instead of asking "What kind of job are we going to do?" I would go with "Can you tell me more about the job, please?".

I would put it this way:

しごと{shigoto}について{nitsuite}、もっと{motto}くわしく{kuwashiku}おしえて{oshiete}いただけません{itadakemasen}か{ka}。

しごと{shigoto}について{nitsuite} regarding the job

もっと{motto}くわしく{kuwashiku} in more detail

おしえて{oshiete} tell me

いただけません{itadakemasen}か{ka}。could you please? (polite)

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  • Thanks. I agree yours is a more proper and formal way to ask in an interview. But skipping the etiquettes but still in polite form, how do you think my original question translates to Japanese? Because translation app is clearly wrong it gives me 「私たちは、どんな仕事をするつもりですか」which is wrong since つもり is about planning to do
    – quielfala
    Jul 16, 2023 at 21:02

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