Top 10 Skills to get hired in Japan

Top 10 Skills to get hired in Japan

Find out which skills you need to get a job in Japan! You know your code and are ready to dive into new projects, but a different country with different rules and values than back home can make you unsure about what skills are valued by Japanese recruiters.

While in America, saying you are self-motivated and work independently is the dream of any employer, a Japanese company might feel reluctant to hire such a candidate because they might not be a team player that works well with others and can adapt to the company hierarchy.

Luckily, a study by DISCO, surveying over 600 Japanese companies gives insights into what these firms are looking for in foreign applicants. Among a list of 27 items, each company chose their top 3 skills and characteristics that are important to them when hiring science graduates.

Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 skills that will get you the IT job of your dreams!

Top 10 Skills Japanese companies look for

1. Communication skills 50.3%

Communication skills are the most sought after skills for candidates. Even in IT, over 50% of all companies see high communication skills as essential. In a country that values group harmony and teamwork, one can see how a lack of communication skills may break the mood.

2. Japanese skills 48.5%

Japanese skills are a close second to communication skills and frankly, they go hand in hand. Only if you can showcase your communication skills in Japanese, will your future bosses be impressed.

The working language is typically Japanese and over 85% of Japanese companies require a high level of business Japanese, with requirements that can go well beyond JLPT N2.

3. Special/ technical knowledge 35.6%

For every third company, special skills and technical knowledge are a critical factor when hiring science graduates. Wait, only one third? Is the most common reaction to this. After all, you expect to be hired for your skills, right?

One reason for this phenomenon is that many Japanese companies train their new recruits on the job. They often feel that the education at university, without any real-world experience (and without knowledge of proper terminology and business manner) is simply not enough to start working.

On a side note, for humanities majors, this factor ranks at the very bottom of the list at 4.7%, and as long as you graduated, nobody may ever ask to see your university certificates or grades.

Really try to see this the other way around. For more than one in three companies make your skills a high priority and hopes to hire capable people they can entrust with their projects.

Cat engineer next to laptop.

4. Cooperativeness 23.9%

It is more than a stereotype that the Japanese are a very community-oriented bunch. Companies look for people who can adjust to others and are good team-players, and not so much for lone wolfs, no matter their success.

When working you will usually work in teams, make decisions in teams, and generally keep everyone in the loop about what it is you are doing at the moment.

5. Basic skills 22.1%

This factor really comes to live in all those recruiting tests candidates go through in Japan. Kanji skills, reading skills, math skills, logic skills – all these things many of us forget after they graduate high school, suddenly become essential to getting that job in Japan.

To be fair, for non-Japanese, kanji has never really been a strong point anyway. Since Japanese companies don’t put so much value on the degrees of their new recruits, they care all the more about candidates’ ability to grasp and process information to estimate their work performance. Though this testing method may be a little questionable for foreigners.

6. Understanding of foreign cultures 14.1%

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Coming to work at a Japanese company, you need to adapt to the local rules. The companies are willing to make arrangements, but in the end, certain rules and cultural positions are not negotiable. To maintain harmony at the workplace, they hope to hire someone who is willing to learn about and adapt to Japanese culture.

7. Enthusiasm 13.5%

This is a real Japanese classic. Nothing impresses bosses in Japan as much as the enthusiasm of their employees, especially when followed up with concrete results. Doing one’s best (頑張る, がんばる)really symbolizes the Japanese work ethic. The idea is that when you are motivated and work hard enough, you will have success. This perseverance is often seen as being more beneficial to the firm, than an initial advantage in terms of skills.

8. Vitality 12.9%

This is not about how healthy or happy-go-lucky you are, but ties right in with the previous points. Vitality to the Japanese recruiter means that the person is ambitious, with clear goals, a constructive outlook and high motivation and determination to get things done.

9. Common knowledge 11.0%

While basic skills focused on your math and Japanese skills, as well as your personality, this one hopes that you didn’t live under a rock. Business manner, some mathematical concepts, politics, geography, industry, and finance, etc. are on the menu.

For Japanese candidates, there are tests for common knowledge, which might go a bit over your head if you have to take one. The most likely case is, that HR will just make assumptions based on the answers you provide during your interview. As a foreigner, you won’t be expected to know about Japanese politics, but basic geography might be nice.

10. English skills 8.6%

Sorry guys, English skills just are not valued that much in Japan yet. Mainly because if you work for a Japanese company, most of your bosses and coworkers simply won’t be able to understand English.

Still, you are the foreigner, so if there ever is something English flying through the office, everyone will put their hopes on you.

Using the morning meeting (朝礼, ちょうれい) or other occasions to share IT news from abroad is a good way to get a good reputation and provide valuable input. Who knows, you might just be able to shape your work environment as you go.

Gain additional advantages with these skills

Not the top 10 but still highly appreciated, these soft skills could be what tips the scales in your favor.

11. Cheerfulness 7.4%

In the name of the common good many companies value a positive outlook and attitude, smiling faces, cheerful greetings. If done well, the positive atmosphere will translate into everyone’s work motivation and output.

12. Sociability 6.7%

Another group value. Why work in Japan if you don’t enjoy the drinking parties
with colleagues, right?

13. Abundance of Ideas 6.7%

As an engineer, you will develop new things from scratch. It might not be the first thing you do after graduation, but in the long run, it’s a skill companies want you to foster, so never shy away from sharing your thoughts and ideas.

14. Additional language skills 6.1%

Depending on the specific company, other language skills except Japanese and English can be required, but overall the need is relatively low.

15. Reliability 6.1%

This one is pure guesswork on the site of HR. Get on their good side by showing yourself as reliable and trustworthy. How you can do this? Be polite and show attention to detail in your documents and work, as well as in your manner.

The gist

The most important factor to find a job in Japan are your Japanese communication skills. If they are top notch and you are fresh out of university, all doors are open to you and thanks to on the job training, in many companies it is even possible to choose a route different from your university major. Quite a few foreigners working as successful network engineers and programmers in Japan have a background in humanities, who would have guessed.

With good Japanese skills, you will have many opportunities to get a job and the chance to be put on challenging projects, allowing you to take more responsibility from the start. By knowing Japanese, you will also do yourself a favor. The language skills enable you to find out more about the company, the working environment and conditions, thus reducing the chance of a mismatch.

While Japanese is really important, with IT skills you are in the unique position, that Japanese companies want to hire you. So bad, that more and more companies don’t care (so much) about your Japanese anymore.

Sure, communication might be a little tough at the beginning, but once you understand a task you will be able to do it by yourself, saving the company a lot of teaching trouble. The necessary Japanese you can learn best, directly on the job. Foreign companies are another option if your Japanese is still developing.

Hone your soft skills, practice your Japanese, and give working in Japan a go!

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After traveling around for a while, I found my home in Tokyo. Now working in Shinjuku and discovering something new about Japan every day.