Tips and Tricks : How To Prepare For Job Hunting In Japan

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.

3. Internships

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)