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What You Need to Know about Japanese Group Interviews

Updated: Jan 7

Author: Putri Nurdivi

Published Date: December 9th, 2019

The Japanese job-hunting system or shukatsu might be complicated for foreigners who seek a job in this country - as it has a very different approach compared to the Western model. What's even more confusing is the reality of various interviews that you need to go through the process.

Japanese interviews usually take form in an individual and group interview sessions.


The number of interviews will vary depending on the company's requirements. Normally, it ranges from 3 to 4 stages of interviews. Besides interviews, you also need to be familiar with the Focus Group Discussion (FGD) that often time included under the recruitment process.


Now, before you take a step further, make sure you have a clear idea of the main differences between group interviews and focus group interviews.


In this article, we talked to Riandra Rifqi Harahap or "Andra" from Indonesia to share a glimpse into his job-hunting experience. Andra just graduated from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University major in Accounting and Finance, and who will soon be working at J Trust in Tokyo from January 2020 and start a new life as a working person in Japan.


One-on-One Interviews



First, let’s review the conventional one-on-one interview in Japan that's commonly conducted during the last stage of recruitment. It is often noted as one of the most vital parts of the application process. The one-on-one interview allows the interviewers to fully understand candidates' competence based on how they express their answers and their body language.


The interviewers spend more time getting to know you since one-on-one interviews are generally longer and more in-depth. Questions are based on your application form and resume; specific,ally your motivation of application, your skills and past experiences that support you as a candidate.


Therefore, proper preparation is needed since interviewers might ask for follow-up questions based on what you say. It's very important to stay focused and answer questions clearly.


For more advice regarding the job interview, you can take a look at our previous article here.



Focus Group Discussion


Focus Group Discussion (FGD) is a pretty common stage within the Japanese job-hunting process with the objective of examining individual performance within a group. Companies usually hold the FGD at the very beginning of the recruitment process as it helps them evaluate up to six applicants at the same time and place.


At this stage, applicants will be given assigned a topic by the company. Applicants are expected to actively engage in the discussion through many forms, such as problem solving or debates. Meanwhile, multiple interviewers will observe candidates' behavior as group members and look at their way of expressing their opinion.


According to the Japan Student Services Organization on the Job Hunting Guide for International Students 2020 version, there are four main procedures in the FGD stage.


1. Self-Introduction

The session will begin with a self-introduction, and it is advised that candidates make it clear and short.


2. Role allocation

It is followed by the allocation of roles for the candidates. There are four common positions: coordinator, secretary, timekeeper, and presenter.


3. Discussion

Next is the main part: the discussion where candidates are expected to follow job hunting manners and choose their words carefully.


4. Presentation

By the end of the FGD, representatives of each group - one to two people - will be presenting the final results of the group discussion. "During the FGD, it would be better to come up with conclusion - possibly one that is in line with the company’s values," Andra shared his advice.


That being said, FGDs are a great chance for applicants to display personality traits and soft skills such as cooperation and logical thinking.



Group Interviews


On the other hand, group interviews work differently. Here, candidates will be placed in a smaller group of up to five people. You will sit next to each other and be interviewed in front of everyone. The questions will be based on your application forms and resumes.


At this stage, individuals have less time to deliver their answers compared to one-on-one interviews. Hence, it's important to keep answers clear and straightforward by being well-prepared, having high concentration and good communication skills to provide effective answers.

Remember to leave a great impression on the interviewers, especially during the self-introduction part as it is the most crucial moment that determines your progress to the next stage. Group interviews also require you to be polite and pay close attention to other candidates' responses; your gestures and eye contact are observed closely here.


Are group interviews or group discussions competitive?



Now does it sound more like a competition? Unfortunately, many job seekers agreed with that statement.


Andra tells us of his experience before, "I personally feel that group interviews had more tension, and at the same time, gave me more pressure to stand out from the crowd. You may feel down or lose confidence when you compare yourself to others, but you must stay positive regardless of the other candidates' background or experiences, particularly their Japanese skills. I realized, when it comes to your turn, you must speak clearly and confidently to bring out the best in yourself. But make sure to show respect while others speak."


Note that group interviews are usually being held at the beginning of the recruitment process, similarly to FGDs. However, there is no fixed schedule and there is no guarantee on which will come first — all decisions regarding this matter is based on each company’s recruitment timeline.