Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Written by: Nadira Annisa
Published: September 24th, 2019
2020 graduates, are you aware that job hunting season in Japan will start very soon? It is reported that this year companies in Japan will hire new graduates a lot earlier than the typical job-hunting schedule. Opening dates for applications vary from one company to another, so it's important for you to check out the updated information frequently. Even so, you can expect a lengthy application process, based more so on soft-skills than hard skills.
Here are some things you can do before the job hunting season starts based on advice from Senpai who have experienced job hunting in Japan. I interviewed three experienced job-hunters in Japan: Kenny Tjandra from Indonesia, as well as Sumire Matsumoto and Airi Kawano from Japan. Kenny has recently graduated from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and will start work in Tokyo soon. Sumire and Airi have also finished their job hunting process and will be graduating from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University early next year.
1. Identify your personal strengths / soft-skills
Why do “soft-skills” matter in job hunting in Japan?
What are “soft-skills”? Soft skills include traits like adaptability, attitude, communication, creative thinking, work ethic, cooperation, and flexibility, just to name a few.
This concept might confuse you a little because recruiters in the rest of the world expect candidates to have a degree, prior experience, or certificate which lines up with the position. Japan is not like the rest of the world. Put simply, new graduates in Japan apply for companies, not positions.
Testimony from experienced job-hunters in Japan
According to students who have experienced job hunting, it is crucial to understand what we are good at, and what we want to do in the future. In other words it could also be explained as self-analysis. Before being able to showcase our good points and also bad points to interviewers, we first need to identify what are actually the points that we have. Examples of these points are, being aware of our personal qualities, strengths and weaknesses, our goals, abilities, and work ethic. One of the experienced job-seekers, Airi, explained that, “During job interviews, they will ask the candidates how important do you consider job hunting. It lets the interviewer know the reason we want to apply to their company”
2. Write and polish your CV & Resume / Practice Interview
During your job hunting period, you will submit your CV and interview countless times. CVs or Curriculum Vitaes are important because they’re the first impression we give companies, long before ever meeting in person. Experienced job-hunters, Sumire, says, “As you know shukatsu period is very limited in Japan, so we need to apply to either a lot of companies or apply only some companies. Either way, if you apply to many companies, you’ll end up copying and pasting your CV, so your opinion has to be consistent and strong.”
Writing your CV or resume in Japanese is also very different than normal CVs. Most Japanese companies, prefer your 履歴書 or rirekisho to be handwritten. So make sure to practice a lot, and find more information on how to write. Interviews are also tricky and require a lot of practice. Some companies also have group discussions rather than 1-on-1 interviews. If you need to practice Japanese-style interviews, career offices in Japanese universities will help you practice. However, if you want to have access to more professional help, there are also many seminars available from different recruiting companies. Note that, “These seminars are usually conducted in Japanese, so it might be challenging for foreign students,” Sumire tells us.
Applying for an internship will certainly give you a better idea on what it is like to work in Japan. Many companies in Japan offer internship programs. However, there’s a large variety in the types of programs being offered. Some internships are as short as one day or one week, some can be from 6 months to a year. Choosing to take on an internship can also help you during your self-discovery process. To learn more about the different types of internships available in Japan, check out our article Short-Term vs Long-Term Internships in Japan.
4. Tests and Language Proficiency
Let's talk documents. Some companies will ask candidates to submit certain qualifications and requirements from interested applicants. There are hundreds and thousands of applicants, so it is important that you have, at least, managed to have all the required qualifications. Some of the required qualifications will include language proficiency. If they require you to speak English, companies will ask for TOEIC (or IELTS/TOEFL). Many Japanese companies will also ask for your score from the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Some companies ask a minimum of level N3, but most companies require candidates to have at least N2 level of Japanese proficiency. Other tests that some companies may ask you to take is SPI exam. This is where international students suffer since SPI is usually provided in Japanese. The SPI test or Synthetic Personality Inventory, is a multiple-choice aptitude test, and of the most popular recruitment test in Japan. One of the primary purposes of the SPI is to assess the candidate’s character to see if his or her skill sets match the company. Kenny told us it’s good to ask for advice from Japanese friends before taking this test. There are usually textbooks to prepare for the SPI test, as well as the other language exams mentioned above.
5. Seek Advice from Senpais
(pictured above, left to right: Sumire Matsumoto, Kenny Tjandra, and Airi Kawano)
“Don't forget to meet OB and OG before doing your shukatsu,” says Kenny and Airi. What is OB/OG? These are Japanese terms meaning Old Boy and Old Girl. In other words, alumni or students who have graduated from the same university and successfully got a job. These people have experienced the same thing that you are about to experience. They can give valuable tips and tricks for dealing with the intricacies of the job-hunting process. Sometimes information from the internet is limited, so the best place to get information is from someone who experienced it first-hand. It should be noticed that everyone has their own unique experience, so it may be beneficial to ask several different people on the dos and don'ts of the job-hunting process. Senpais coming from the same university would also be able to give advice on what the university is able to offer you help-wise, such as career guidance and seminars, most of which are limited to use by students of that university. As a student from the same university, they could also give information on companies that are interested in students of your particular university or department. Some companies also look for students of certain nationalities, and usually, senpais will have some insight on that.
6. Attitude and Perseverance
Last but not least, your attitude and mindset. While this might apply to anything we do, this, in particular, is a deciding factor when looking for a job in Japan. To have a strong mentality and confidence and resolution in your decision to work in Japan. Many experienced job seekers claim that your attitude can make or break your luck when it comes to job hunting. According to Kenny, “it’s very important that we prepare ourselves, and also make sure we know what kind of job we want to look for. Create a target on what kind of company we want to work for, so that the process is better planned and easier for us.” Sumire also mentioned, “If you apply to only some companies, you need to have a strong passion for those few companies. That’s the key to being able to impress the interviewers and get a job.”
The Japanese job-scramble can be chaotic and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. If you start early, give yourself ample time and room to prepare, practice, and dedicate yourself to the process, then everything will be much smoother. The more prepared you are, the less stress and panic you’ll have to endure later. So iron out your black battle suit, pack up your CVs and hit the streets. The battle is in your hands now, good luck!