Job Agencies: Find Jobs that Match your Profile
Wondering how to stand out from the crowd? We talked with Yulia about how to be efficient in your job search and why it is important to know what you bring to the table.
In this interview we talk about:
✔ Using job agencies
✔ Choosing between multiple job offers
✔ The SPI test
✔ Japanese resumes
✔ When companies accommodate English speakers
✔ Applying with work experience
✔ Finding your selling point
… and much more!
Name: Yulia (26)
Major: Industrial Engineering, Indonesia and Japan
Industry: Real Estate
Japanese level: N2
Work status: mid-career
Job-hunt: 1 job fair, 10 applications, 5 interviews, 2 job offers
Q: Congratulations on your job offer. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself at first?
I’m from Indonesia. 5 years ago, I graduated from ITB, it’s an Engineering College, where I learned Industrial Engineering. I worked for about 1,5 years as an intern in Indonesia. Then I entered Kyoto University to get my master’s degree.
After graduation, I returned to Indonesia for a while and was looking for a job but decided that I want to go back to Japan and work here.
Q: Since when are you studying Japanese?
I studied Japanese a little bit when I was in school for my undergraduate degree, but I only learned hiragana, katakana, and basic words. Afterward, I didn’t study for a very long time.
When I came to Japan as a graduate student at Kyoto University, I also tried to learn Japanese, I took classes, but because my program was already so busy, I didn’t have much time to learn Japanese, so I put it aside to pursue my master’s degree. If I accumulate, I probably studied Japanese for 2 years.
At that time my Japanese level was probably around N4. Now I think I’m at N2 level.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the company you will be working for.
The business is about property management, so basically, they manage buildings, high-rise building, etc. They manage the structure and take care of the maintenance. The company also has hotels. They are going to expand their business globally. 5 years from now they would like to have a property business in Indonesia, which is why they want to hire Indonesians.
Q: What will you be doing at the company?
I will help them expand their business successfully in Indonesia. Basically, they said that I will have to connect Indonesian companies with their company because when they want to expand their business to Indonesia, they need local partners. I will be in charge of making that connection, do the market research to see which business is suitable for what company.
That will be my job in the future. But for the beginning, I will have to learn about the technology, the maintenance, and property management.
Q: Will you be able to use your engineering background at this job?
Probably, not that much because I’m in management. But since my background is in engineering, I understand how engineers think and this will make it easier for me to understand them and work together.
Q: So, the company was looking for a native Indonesian speaker. What other language requirements did they have?
They expect me to speak in Japanese but because they know that I’m just learning Japanese it is not necessary for now. They need me to speak English more, I think.
This was my intention from the beginning because I know that I cannot speak Japanese very well in a short time. I need more time to study, so I wanted to get a job at a company that would accept my low Japanese ability right now and let me work in English.
The Job Agency
Finding the right job-search style for you
Q: Was it difficult to find a company that didn’t have high Japanese requirements?
In the beginning, it was difficult actually.
I went to a job fair and afterward, we had to go to a company seminar. When I attended that seminar most participants where Japanese. From that alone, I could see that the company would require me to speak Japanese very well, so I stopped my application for that company because I realized that they wouldn’t be a good fit for me.
READ ON What job-search style is right for you?
Then I talked to a job agency.
“They asked me about my dreams, my background, and what expectations I have for work.”
The agency tried to match me with several companies. Most of these companies didn’t require me to speak Japanese at the beginning. Of course, companies want us to speak Japanese, but they don’t expect too much.
Q: How did you find that job agency?
I was recommended that job agency from Linguage Japanese Language School. My school is very supportive in helping their students to find a job in Japan. They eagerly introduced us to job fairs, job agencies, and even directly to companies if they have connections to them.
Have a clear idea of what you want
Q: What was your experience using a job agency?
When I knew that I didn’t pass at the first company at the time I lost my confidence. I didn’t know anymore if I could work in Japan or not… I really wanted to try again, I really wanted to work here, so I thought about another strategy.
I said to the job agency that I don’t want a company that needs me to speak Japanese very well.
“I only want a company that’s willing to accept me as who I am now.”
And I also asked that the company must be connected to Indonesia, because if they don’t have any interest in my country then I think there is no value in me. I cannot speak in Japanese, right, I can only speak in English and Indonesian.
The job agency tried to find companies matching my criteria. It probably took about one month until they introduced me to the second company.
The Interview Process
How I got my job offer
Q: What was the application process with like?
Actually, it’s kind of an interesting story. So, I applied to three companies. The first company I submitted the CV to the job agency, and they let me know when I could interview with the company.
“I went to the first interview and I didn’t pass.”
They required me to speak Japanese very well. At that time the job agency had introduced me a job in manufacturing management, so most people who work at the company are middle-aged or older people, so they obviously spoke Japanese.
So, with the second company I also submitted my CV and then I went to the company seminar. It was conducted in Japanese but if we wanted to ask questions in English, they would answer them in English as well. After the seminar, I said that I would like to continue to apply. And then the company called, and I got interviewed.
READ ON Guide to Japanese job interviews
The first interview was with HR and I passed. It took around 1 week until I had my second interview with the managers and HR. The result came out around 2 weeks later. I passed and got a job offer. They gave me one week to answer whether I want to take the job offer or not.
During that week the job agency introduced another company to me. “We know you already got a job offer, but do you want to try again for another company. I think this is a good company, that’s suitable for you, etc.”
I said I would like to try. I had already decided to take the job offer from the previous company but I decided I would like to try because I had nothing to lose.
Making tough choices
I went to the interview and on the same day, I received the result. I passed.
I said (to the company) that I’m sorry but that next week I have to give my answer to the other company, and that I thought I would like to accept that offer.
And the company said, “Can you consider again, we will conduct the second interview in two days, but before that, you have to take the SPI test.” The SPI test is conducted in Japanese. I think I didn’t do it very well (laughs). I didn’t know the words so I couldn’t answer properly, but they still let me go to the second interview.
The final interview was with the directors of the company. They interviewed me in Japanese but if I couldn’t answer in Japanese, they let me answer in English. After the interview finished, they asked me to wait. It probably took only around 10 minutes until I got the answer that I passed. They gave me the job offer letter and wanted me to consider joining their company.
“Thinking about my future and the company itself I accepted the last company.”
I had gotten quite confused, which company I should take. I never expected that.
Q: Did you find the application process in Japan to be different from how it’s done in your home country?
If I look back at my job hunting in Indonesia, I think the overall process is quite similar, but the timing is different. Japanese students start their job-search around one year before they graduate but in Indonesia, most of the applicants first graduate and then started applying.
“Japanese companies take more time to decide whether applicants can get a job or not.”
In my case, it was quite fast but there are a lot of processes. Before we can submit the CV, we have to go to the Japanese companies to attend their company seminar and listen to what the company does, what the company culture is, etc.
I think this is a good practice because after attending the seminar we already grasp a bit of what the company is like by the time of the interview. I think that’s a good thing.
Q: What was most difficult for you throughout the whole process?
For foreigners the most difficult is, of course, the language. Most of the companies require you to speak Japanese very well. They don’t expect you to speak on a native level but at least daily conversation level.
2. Finding the right companies
The second challenge is, finding out which companies want to hire foreigners. If we only look at job-hunting sites like Rikunavi, etc. we cannot see which company wants to hire foreigners, right. It will be difficult.
3. SPI test
Another difficult thing is the SPI test, probably. My advice to the foreigners is that you don’t need to be very worried about the SPI test because when I talked with HR, they said they only want to know how much effort you put into your job-hunting.
If you already give up at that point it means you are not really interested in the company.
They don’t really see the results. But if there are a lot of competitors, a lot of candidates, of course, they will consider the score. For the evaluation, I think, your background and experience are very important.
READ ON SPI Test – Japan’s most popular aptitude test explained
Q: What do you feel was the most important factor companies were looking for?
To get that job, your Japanese ability must be very good.
Work Experience (for mid-career)
If your Japanese is not that good, I think your (work) experience will help you a lot. Especially, if you have worked for a Japanese company in your country. I think so because when I did my interview, most of the questions were about the experience I gained at my previous work.
“They don’t want to hire foreigners who cannot speak Japanese and have no work experience.”
The company cannot know if this person can work very well in the company or not.
For fresh graduates, the experience might be different.
I am from Indonesia and there are a lot of Indonesians here who are studying at Japanese universities, speaking Japanese, and they are also looking for a job here. So, if I was compared to with them probably, I would lose if I didn’t have any experience that I can appeal to the company, right.
If your Japanese is very good and you’re very confident with yourself I think it’s okay. Still, having some practical experience is better, I think it makes you more confident.
I would like to add that if you haven’t graduated from a Japanese university it probably is more difficult to find a job in Japan.
Companies asked me to compare my university to Japanese universities. Since they don’t know the university in our country, we have to explain about our university. They also ask about the university’s ranking.
I’m not so sure, whether this really impacts the evaluation or not but having experience studying at a Japanese university is an advantage.
More than polite Japanese
Q: You mentioned that your school had introduced you to the job agency. Did they help you in other ways too?
Of course, I learned Japanese itself. Linguage Japanese Language School is probably different from other Japanese schools. My friend is also attending a Japanese school and there they are learning basic Japanese for daily conversations but not for business. At my school, we learn how to use polite Japanese properly, we learn to use polite expressions for job-hunting, and then they also very eagerly introduce job fairs to us.
When we have a problem in Japan, they counsel and encourage us. They told me that it will be okay, that I can do it.
“Let’s think together and find another way.”
So, I think that most of the students here feel like their worries vanish because of the teachers’ support.
The school also helped me correct my CV. Oh, this is also an interesting point about job-hunting in Japan. They are very, very meticulous about making a CV, it is so detailed!
In other countries, we only write down our basic information, educational background, working experience, and what kind of certificates we have. We don’t need to write why we are interested in this company, or what is our strength and weakness, etc. So, it’s very difficult to figure out what to write.
READ ON How to write a Japanese resume
Especially since they have their own formula for how to write resumes to make it sound more appealing and how to use more カッコイイ words (laughs). My teachers would go over the resume with me and tell me what to change to make it better.
Q: What is your advice to other people who come here to find a job?
I think that when job-hunting, especially when we have a problem, we have to be very confident and be smart.
1. Being confident
We need to be confident because we are job-hunting in another country, which means the culture is different, the language is obviously different, and then there are a lot of people here who are probably much better in the language, in their knowledge about Japan, etc.
“So, we have to find out what our value is, we have to find what our strengths are.”
This way we can be confident during the job-hunting. In the beginning, I only thought about my Japanese ability, but we cannot focus on the weaknesses, otherwise, I probably would not be working in Japan now.
2. Acting smart
We also have to be smart. The job-hunting process in Japan is quite long. Generally, it takes around 6 months, but we cannot take that much time because our time here is limited. If we fail, we cannot go back, right. My student visa is only one year. To get a job in one year:
“I need to think about what company would want to hire me.”
I will not try to look for a job the usual way, going to job fairs and talking with many companies, but probably go and talk to a job agency so they can help me find and match with suitable companies. I think this way is faster and better.
For me, having only a limited amount of time going to this school that supports job-hunting and then going to the job agency was the best choice.
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