Job-hunt in Japan: attending a company seminar – 説明会
No faceless emails, Japanese companies get in touch with their candidates in person and as early as possible. Even online applications are bound to lead to prompt invitations to a company seminar.
A company seminar involves more than kicking back and listening to some random guy’s speech. If you go unprepared you will loose a valuable opportunity to get to gather information on the company that will be vital for the selection process.
What is a company seminar?
Easily said, a 説明会（せつめいかい）is a seminar or lecture where an employee will tell you about his company and its’ business.
Company seminars are the first step towards getting a job in Japan. You will get information about the companies you are interested in, and see if your values and expectations are matching.
These events can take place in 2 kinds of situations:
- ■ at the company (upon applying online)
- ■ at a job fair
When are they held?
In line with the Japanese hiring cycle fore new graduates most job fairs will take place around March/April or Juni/July, with a smaller hiring season taking place in October-December. Outside of these time slots, there won’t be many events and job openings available so schedule accordingly and start your 就職活動（しゅうしょくかつどう）or job hunting activities early on, to not miss out on good opportunities.
How to prepare?
What should you prepare before attending a “setsumeikai”? Whether you will attend a job fair or a seminar at the company, it is best to prepare thoroughly.
- ✔ Writing or updating your Japanese resume (don’t forget to put an original ID photo, and check that you are wearing a suit on it!)
- ✔ Searching as much information as you can about the company, starting from their official website
- ✔ Subscribing to the event (job fair or company’s introduction session)
- ✔ Choosing the date of the event if you are offered to choose
- ✔ Checking that you have a black suit and a white shirt (don’t forget to wear a tie if you are a man, tights if you are a woman)
- ✔ Preparing a speech on your motivation for joining the company in case you have an interview
- ✔ Preparing some questions in case you will have a Q&A session
- ✔ Preparing a notebook and a pen to take notes
- ✔ Checking the route to get to the job fair or company’s place (you wouldn’t want to be late!)
- ✔ (In the case of the job fair, it can be helpful to check the list of the participating companies that can be found on the website of the fair, and start to make your choice and organize your visit.)
Well, I think you are ready to go!
Company Seminar at a Job Fair
At a job fair, different companies from different industries will gather in order to introduce their business, philosophy, hiring process in about 20 minutes of time.
This gives the opportunity to get in touch with a lot of companies in a short amount of time. In other words, if you do not have a precise idea of the kind of job, company or event industry you would like to work in, job fairs are a good option for you.
You can’t just show up at job fairs, but usually have to register in advance. Once inside you are free to visit the companies’ booths you are interested in. Be aware that you will be watched by the recruiters, so leave a good impression. A well ironed suit and a smile are two great weapons that will work in your favor!
During the company’s introduction, you may get some basic information such as the company’s figures, businesses, and the following steps regarding the company’s hiring process.
It is important to take notes about relevant information, such as impressions you have about the company, and other details that cannot be found on their website.
During the job fair and its various company’s introductions, you may:
- ■ get a lot of pamphlets
- ■ fill some personal information forms
- ■ have the chance to hand over your resume (prepare a Japanese style resume)
- ■ be able to take a first screening interview with the HR staff of the company
- ■ or be invited to a company seminar at their office
Company Seminar at the Office
A setsumeikai at the company can easily last about 2 hours. In a smaller group of candidates you will learn about the company’s philosophy, values, businesses, and their hiring process in more detail. Again, you will get pamphlets describing the company, will have to fill out forms, and hand in your resume if it hasn’t been done yet.
Before entering the company’s office it is good manners to take off your coat, fold it properly and carry it over your arm. It will give a good image of yourself as it may be rude to enter the office with your coat on.
Then, politely greet the HR staff and don’t forget to smile! You will then be guided to a conference room where you can choose a seat and wait for the beginning of the introduction session. Since the seminar might take some time, prepare accordingly and consider a bathroom break in advance.
As you will receive a lot of information during the company seminar, it is not necessary to take notes of all slides that are shown. Still, writing down your impressions, the main points and other relevant information that you wish to remember will be useful for the interview.
At the end of the session, there may be a Q&A time, where you will have the opportunity to ask questions (prepare in advance!). If you didn’t understand something you can ask for clarification, but avoid questions that were already answered during the seminar.
Before leaving the office, you may have to fill a form with your personal information. If you make a mistake here the company will not be able to contact you for an interview, so take care!
In some cases, you may have to take an interview directly after the session. It is not very common but it can happen if you attend a late company introduction (especially in January or February).
After the Event
After attending the company seminar go over your notes again and think about how the company’s values or philosophy fit your personality or objectives.
If the company is interested in your profile, you will be contacted to set an interview date and time.
Depending on the company, you may be invited to fill an entry sheet on the company’s website, from where you may have to take some culture and personality tests.
Let’s get moving!
To someone who is used to not leave the house when applying, the Japanese way of having everyone interested gather at a company seminar may sound a little confusing. Some people might even say inefficient.
But think about it for a moment. Is it really better to sit at home endlessly sending out applications, without ever getting to talk to the company’s employees and with rarely getting any helpful feedback?
Attending a 説明会 might be the best 2h you can invest.
- ✔ You can talk to employees directly and build personal contacts.
- ✔ You can learn about the company atmosphere and anything else you might want to know.
- ✔ It will give you a much better idea about what to write in your application.
- ✔ Even if you find that this company wasn’t for you, it is still saving you some time you might have otherwise spend on applying, and it will give you a better idea of what you really want.
Japanese company seminars give you opportunities that might not be available in your country, so take advantage of them to find the perfect match!
What are your experiences with company seminars? Share your thoughts!