Job-search Timing in Japan for foreigners

Job-search Timing in Japan for foreigners

You want to get a job in Japan, but cannot start looking one year in advance, like Japanese graduates? Many foreigners faced with the same problem manage to get a job offer in the summer or even as late as New Year’s. So let me introduce alternative timelines for your job search!

Some general advice before jumping into the details:

  • ✔ Prepare before coming to Japan
  • ✔ Time your trip to match job events and interviews (avoid January-February)
  • ✔ Aim to finish your job hunt at least 3 months before your starting date

Method 1: Hiring season

Those that are in Japan for a longer time, can join the regular hiring season kicking off in March every year. TO be successful you should be available for tests and interviews until July/August when most companies wrap up their main hiring activities for new recruits.

READ ONThe traditional Japanese hiring season

Method 2: off-season

Even if you cannot start your job search in March, it is still entirely possible to find a job.
If at all possible, come to Japan for your job search. Coming to Japan shows commitment and companies will be able to get a clear impression of you (and you of them)! For Japanese companies, personality is an especially important factor when hiring new staff (companies may not ask for your grades or transcripts at all), so meeting in person will definitely pay off.

Once you get to talk with the companies HR representative, you will have a chance to talk to the company directly about your scheduling needs.
As a bonus, just by being in Japan and without extra effort, your Japanese skills will improve, making those interviews that much easier to pass!

Step 1
Before coming to Japan

Start your preparations about 6 months before coming to Japan, and cover the same steps as Japanese students do.

■ Self-analysis (career goals, personality, hard and soft skills, values)
A good understanding of your strengths and values will help you find a job and company where you can really fit in. (Avoid joining the ranks of people whose illusions and expectations got a reality check only after they started to work.) Invest the time to really research in advance.
■ Business field research
After knowing your strengths and skills, try to narrow down in which industry you would like to work and learn about it.
■ Job research
Based on your strengths, next, think about your goals and what kind of job suits you. Learn more about the jobs you are considering by reading job descriptions, reports of people working in the particular position and their careers.
■ Company research
Not only business manners, industry standards too might be different from your home country. Japanese employers will appreciate it if you take the time to learn about the Japanese economy and their company.
■ Studying for employment tests
You might find it difficult to get specific study materials before coming to Japan. Luckily, tests typically fall into one of the three categories below and you can prepare for them on your own.
1) General tests, checking your “working skills” – Japanese knowledge and middle school math
2) Essays inquiring about your motivation and qualities
3) Tests checking specific skills (varies by company, can be anything from IT skills necessary for the job to testing your typing speed)
■ Prepare your CV in advance
You should have an English and a Japanese version on paper and online.
■ Prepare common interview questions
Think about what you noticed during self-analysis, business field, and company research.
■ Register and apply
Make use of job-hunting websites, career fairs, company websites, etc. and try to establish contact with the company early on.

Prepare what you can before coming to Japan, especially when you are on a tight schedule. That way you don’t lose time in Japan with researching the basics.

Step 2
The right visa for job-hunting

When job-hunting, think about coupling your job search with a student visa (6-months Japanese school for example), working holiday, internship or similar visa.

The perks of having an official visa status:

  • ■ As companies might be wary about hiring tourists, a stable legal status will help your case (official address, Japanese ID etc).
  • ■ You can get a Japanese phone. Japanese recruiters love calling directly.
  • ■ You can earn some money to keep you afloat.
  • ■ You can get an idea of what everyday life in Japan is really like.
  • ■ Those extra Japanese classes might make the difference between passing that next JLPT level or wooing the HR guy at your next interview.

If the above options are not possible for you, you can also come to Japan on a tourist visa. The only downside is that as a tourist you won’t have the same access to services here, which might complicate your job search.

Step 3

Remember that the typical Japanese hiring schedule, where applications start from March and most jobs are filled by October, is followed by 70% of the companies, but is not binding (except for the starting date).
While it is possible to get job offers on the spot at events, plan 2-3 months for dedicated job-hunting, to make sure your visa does not expire days before an interview opportunity (yes, that happened to me…). Also try to do some research from home, so you can time your stay according to events taking place.

Attending events in the summer usually means more participating companies and open positions. As companies fill their job opening, attending winter events might leave you with fewer choices, but it is still entirely possible to get a job.
Me and many of my friends came to Japan after graduation, arriving in October-November, and could get job offers by early February, starting work in April.

Keep in mind to wrap up your last applications before Christmas, to squeeze in some final 説明会せつめいかい (company seminar) spots in January and hopefully walk away with a 内定ないてい (job offer) by February. After New Years it will be difficult impossible to find a job, especially for new graduates. Companies that want to hire foreigners are starting to adapt to our schedule, but its an ongoing process.

Also, double check the job openings. Some companies already start to hand out information for the next hiring season. This is good if you can come to Japan a year before you graduate to get an idea of the jobs and maybe build some contacts, to later rely on.

Step 4
How to job hunt

Apply to companies you are interested in directly via their websites, search for companies and jobs online, or sign up for career fairs. Sign up and go to seminars, events, and interviews!

At this stage there are two mistakes to avoid at all cost.
First, don’t start the first interview with your dream company.
Testing yourself with companies you are less interested in will allow you to practice and improve before your big chance with your dream company.
Second, don’t think, that because you have 2-3 interview scheduled you will get a job offer.
Japanese companies might invite every applicant for a first interview, as long as there were no blatant mistakes in the application.

Opinions on Japanese Career Fairs among foreigners are strong. Many either experience them as incredibly rewarding or quite the hassle. With 説明会せつめいかい by the hour and walk-in interviews, they are designed to get as many people as possible involved. This can be a great chance for you to present yourself, and get a feel for the companies you are interested in!

It also means, that there will be waiting times until your time slot is up. Being willing to spend some time there is a prerequisite, so make a friend, or use the time to brush up your CV and what you want to say with the new input you received while interacting with the company employees!

Method 3: from abroad

You can’t simply leave everything and hop on a plane to Japan to look for a job? Thanks to modern technology, applying from your home country is possible, though your opportunities will be rather limited.
When searching from abroad, getting an internship or a job requiring professional experience will be easier to find than entry-level jobs. Also remember that in Japan internships don’t count as work experience.

Apply online from home and inquire about Skype interviews. Keep the Japanese hiring cycle in mind when applying, and schedule accordingly. Also, look for Japan-related career fairs in your area. If lucky, you might be able to snatch a job right there on the spot.

Get started!

For an idea on which sites to start looking for jobs check out the websites introduced this article. More detailed articles on the job sites will follow, so stay tuned!

How are you planning to do your job search in Japan?

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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.