Job hunting in Japan (part I)

Good evening! If you are in Japan now, I’m sure you’re struggling everyday walking to the station, commuting to school and work and more since it’s just TOO hot and humid recently…

This time I would like to share what I know and what I’ve experienced looking for a job after I graduate in Japan. As you might have heard, looking for a job in this country follows a very standardized series of steps for most companies (not always the case, though).

Students are supposed to start job hunting during their late junior year (3年生) and must finish, ideally before they start their senior year (4年生), however, it is also possible to start during the early senior year since many companies nowadays recruit twice or even 3 times a year. The point is, unlike the cases of many countries, students must find a job BEFORE they graduate. Getting a job after graduation seems to be very, very hard.

As for the steps, first, students attend a series of “job fairs” where companies, both small and big ones set up booths and send their human resources representatives to explain their business, their position in the industry, what they’re looking for, what they expect from employees, career developing and more. They go by many names in Japanese, the most common one being 説明会 setsumeikai (company informative session) or ジョブフェアー, but there are many other variations, including 合同企業説明会 goudou kigyou setsumeikai (a job fair with companies from different industries in one place), 会社説明会 kaisha setsumeikai (just adding the word company at the beggining), 面接会 mensetsukai (Interview session, where students bring their resumes, learn about companies and have their first interview on the spot). Japan has an extremely large number of companies, so this kind of events help students narrow down their choices and realize which kind of company they’re looking for.

Everyone must wear a standard "job hunting" suit.

Everyone must wear a standard “job hunting” suit.

Every student must groom up for these company informative sessions, dyed hair is not acceptable, neither is wearing a suit that’s not black or navy blue (they say you can go with those, but it stands out in a bad way) and a jacket and tie are mandatory even if it’s summer. Most students also carry a matching black suitcase and wear a watch in addition to several “entry-sheets”, which are basically simple application forms for companies to know your interest in the industry. Some sessions might ask students to bring many resumes for the participating companies they’re interested in, in case they will take interviews on that day.

As for writing and submitting a resume in Japan, first of all, there’s no cover letter to introduce oneself, but instead, each resume is normally 2 pages long, with the first page containing personal information, a picture, education and work experience and the second one containing qualifications, certifications, a self-introduction and the reasons why the student is applying. In addition, most resumes are surprisingly hand-written, but the recent trend does not really make this mandatory (Depends on how “traditionally Japanese” the company is), but this is hard to tell unless you know someone in the company, in my opinion.

After attending a 説明会, students are many times asked to register to certain job-hunting websites such as rikunabi or mainabi, where they will be informed of upcoming 説明会 in the company headquarters, when to take online tests or personality quizzes, or when they must submit an entry application again to be given the chance of an interview. This could be considered as the first screening, after which the interview sessions come. Most companies contact successful applicants via telephone call to set the dates of their “first” interviews, if they pass, they’ll be contacted for a second interview with a higher position human resources representative. This is usually the last interview, but it’s also possible that they ask for a third, last interview (many big companies do this).


These are the basics of job-hunting in Japan, but, what about looking for a job in Japan as a foreign student? Well, I’ll prepare a longer article on that to be published next week!


Eduardo H.


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