Avoid these 4 Mistakes to Get a Job in Japan

Avoid these 4 Mistakes to Get a Job in Japan

Eventually, everyone who wants to stay in Japan long term is going to need a job. Sure, the language has its challenges, but really how hard can it be, right?

The Problem

Even among foreigners who graduated from Japanese universities and speak fluent Japanese, around 50% fail to secure a job in Japan. The most common reason seems to be a lack of information and unawareness about the specifics of the Japanese hiring system.

Seeing this, it’s not hard to imagine, that for those of us (me included) who got their degrees outside of Japan or still find the language to be a challenge, there will be even more barriers, starting from simple things like how to even look for a job in Japan.

You will invariably stumble about all sorts of information online but you might have some difficulty finding real and accurate answers to your questions.

Problem 1: The Resume

Sometimes Japan is not at fault at all for unsuccessful application attempts, sometimes the application is just not very good. This can have two reasons. Sometimes, Japanese is the issue, limiting the person’s ability to convey why they are perfect for the job. Now in the first case, it really depends on the company and their language level requirements. If you are looking for offers that match your Japanese skills, you should be able to overcome it.

Other times, the resume is just not very good. This can be because of rookie mistakes since for some it’s their first time to apply for a job. Another, arguably more common cause is that many people get so consumed by writing about why they want to work in Japan, that they forget to mention how they can be useful, and why the company should hire them in the first place. A fault that should be fairly easy to fix.

Problem 2: Lack of Preparation

Just showing up and hoping it will work out almost guarantees failure. There is a lot to prepare before coming to Japan – from familiarizing yourself with the Japanese recruitment system and companies, gaining the right skills, to getting the appropriate visa, etc., to the right timing for your trip.

A lot of people think that they will be able to find something as long as they just spend a few weeks in Japan. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your English skills aren’t a Golden Ticket for a job either. To succeed, prepare in advance, get those language skills, figure out what kind of jobs are available to you, and learn about the Japanese recruitment system.

Problem 3: Not applying enough

In other countries, one might just apply to a few companies, and once invited to an interview, have a good chance of getting the job. This doesn’t end well in Japan.

Japanese students apply to 30-50 companies on average. They might be invited to just as many interviews as both sides are trying to meet as many candidates as possible. So don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and keep applying until you actually got a job offer. It’s a time-intensive process, but it will pay off.

Problem 4: “I didn’t know…”

Writing a Japanese resume, job interviews, etc. are all topics you can learn about through a simple online search. But the real problem are the blind spots – specific Japanese terms or practices that you may never have heard about and where you won’t be able to find a whole lot of information on in English.

This “I didn’t know” is dangerous, because you often won’t notice it until it’s too late and you failed your job interview or visa application.
Suddenly, being asked to take a Japanese recruitment test or noticing only after receiving the job offer that the 派遣社員 in your contract makes it more difficult to get a visa are common examples.

Extra: Distorted Expectations

Related to “I didn’t know”, some people simply have unrealistic expectations about Japan. This point isn’t terribly relevant to getting a job in the first place, unless recruiters pick up on it and it influences their hiring decision. Still, how reality lives up to your expectations will be vital for whether you will be happy with your job. It’s not uncommon for people to get a sort of working-life culture shock and to quit within the first year.

In most cases, that’s because something went wrong during the initial preparations and what they expected life in Japan to be like. So do yourself a favor, don’t think about Japan in terms of your favorite subculture, but try to get a feel what everyday life for the average Japanese is like. After all, that is what is awaiting you here, if you want to stay for more than a visit.

The Solution

Avoid the headaches, wasted time and lost opportunities involved in learning through trial and error. Instead, learn from the mistakes of the people who came before you.

Coming to Japan without a support network and the necessary Japanese skills, it should come as no surprise that job hunting will be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. Making sure not to repeat any of the 5 mistakes mentioned above and you are on the best way to get a job in Japan.

At KiMi we are doing our best to cast light on those blind spots, providing hands-on information on how to get a job in Japan and giving insights into the work-life here. Take a look at the other articles, or just browse the category pages. If you cannot find what you are looking for, leave a comment or send us a message on social media!

Others also read


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