Shuukatsu – How Japanese Students get their Jobs

The Japanese hiring cycle

How to job-hunt in Japan as a new graduate – this question can cause a lot of confusion. You probably already heard some things about how to job search in Japan. Do you how and when Japanese students start preparing for it? To untangle the mystery of how Japanese people get their first job let us look at the basics one by one.

First of, why do Japanese companies only hire new graduates for April?
Sure, hiring of new graduates in America and Europe also peaks at graduation time, but you can find positions year-round.
In Japan on the other hand, the hiring schedules are highly unified, with almost all companies starting their hiring process on March 1st and positions starting in April – of the following year.

For Japanese students, this system allows a smooth transition from graduation into their work lives, without any unpaid vacation, or the frantic job hunting that many students in other countries experience. In fact, over 80% of job-hunting students receive at least one job offer by August of their last year of university (8 months before they graduate).

For foreigners, the Japanese hiring cycle means not only less flexibility with your starting date but also a stricter hiring flow that you have to consider, so you can get the job you want at the time you need it.
Below, let’s take a closer look at the typical hiring flow Japanese students are facing.

自己分析 – Self-analysis

When: June-March

  • ■ Self-analysis: career goals, personality, hard and soft skills, values, etc.
  • ■ Business field research
  • ■ Internships (summer, winter)

Japanese students start preparing for their job-search, from the summer vacation of their 3rd year at university, 1,5 years before they graduate.
They spend (or at least are expected to spend) a considerable amount of time on figuring out what their skills and interests are, and which business field might suit them.
While internships are still less common than in the West, they are becoming more popular in recent years as a short-term opportunity to gain some first-hand experience.

Self-analysis and research is something that can easily be done anywhere and in your native language. Nevertheless, this step is frequently skipped by job-hunters to be. Why not use that in your favor.
Gaining an better understanding of yourself, your skills and values, and how to present them, will not only give you an advantage over other job seekers. It will also help you single out positions that really suit you and match your expectations.

職種・企業研究 – Job and Company Research

When: September-June

  • ■ Job research
  • ■ Company research
  • ■ Studying for employment test

After thinking about their skills, personality and values, students gain a general understanding of the business areas they are considering. The next step is to narrow down the options and do research on specific jobs and potential employers.
Time is also invested into finding out about the company’s market and competitors. The better you know the company, the better you can explain why you want to work there and how you can be an asset to their operations.

Somewhere in this time-frame, Japanese students you will also brush up on their middle school math and high school Japanese knowledge. For some sectors such as IT, students also study to gain job-specific skills and knowledge. All this is to prepare for the inevitable testing of “working skills” that will take place during the interview process.

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エントリーシート – Application

When: March-June
The three channels for job-hunting in Japan are:

  • ■ Job Hunting Websites
  • ■ Company Websites
  • ■ Career Fairs

Job hunting season starts on March 1st. All big job portals will go online on that day with the new offers, and companies are not allowed to start their recruiting process before that day. This is the time to put all that research to use and fill out application forms, entry sheets, and CVs.
※ Japan is currently in the process of changing this strict system and you will find more and already increasing numbers of companies are starting to hire before March, so keep your eyes open for early job offers and company seminars.

Japanese particularities at this stage are the use of entry sheets and an abundance of essay question. An entry sheet is like a short version of your CV, a space to express yourself and your skills, focusing more on getting to know you and your experiences and less on showing your educational background.

At the initial application stage, companies might also ask students to explain their reasons for applying to this company etc.
Even in the case of online applications, these formats allow for more than generic statements, so try to gear your documents to the company as best as you can.

READ ONHow to write an entry sheet

説明会 – Company Seminars

When: March-June

The first step in the application process is typically a company seminar, called 説明会せつめいかい, where prospective employees are told about the company and its products and services.
It is also a place for candidates to ask questions, and for the company to make their first selections. To make a good impression, some students will prepare questions to ask at the event in advance. This first step can include some form of group task or even a test at the end of the seminar.

Other than in the West, it is common for students in Japan to get in touch with the company early on in the application process. Students will usually attend many of these company seminars to get a sense of the company and increase their chances.
Japanese companies are really paying attention to the candidate’s personality. Instead of a rigorous selection based on the CV alone, the hiring process is designed to interact with as many candidates as possible.

READ ONFind out more about company seminars

面接 – Interview Process

When: June-September

After the company seminars, it is time to hand in your resume. This marks the beginning of a series of interview and tests, which mainly runs between June and September.

READ ON  How to write a Japanese resume.

Though around 70% of the companies follow this schedule, it is not set in stone. Interviews might be held before June. Also, companies will keep accepting applications later in the year until they find the right candidate.

Tests formats during the interview process can vary widely. The most well-known standardized test is the SPI. Some companies will also have their own tests to check your “working skills”.

READ ONThe 4 most common recruitment tests

内定 – (Unofficial) Job Offer

By October, the interview results will be out, most jobs will be filled, and close to 90% of Japanese graduates will have decided on a company.
Many companies hold a 内定式ないていしきa ceremony to welcome the new recruits to the company and introduce them to the other employees for the first time.

The Japanese Way

This is how the average Japanese is finding his first full-time job. One reason this unified hiring cycle is continued is that many companies train their new recruits on the job. A practice that would become truly painstaking, if inexperienced new employees would drop in around the year.

READ ONIf following this traditional schedule is difficult, here’s what you can do!

Although the way Japanese students prepare for their interviews makes sense, I was at surprised to learn how far in advance they are starting their job search.
What do you think about the Japanese recruitment system for new graduates?
Please, share your opinion of the Japanese hiring cycle in the comments!

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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.