8 Strange Things about Recruitment in Japan
Many foreigners are baffled by the Japanese recruitment system. This was the result found by a DISCO study on job-seeking international students in Japan. Let’s take a look at the 8 strangest aspects of the Japanese recruitment system.
1. The Timing
Most companies hire students during their 4th and last year at university, starting in spring. By fall, over 80% of students graduating the following spring have job offers. The oddly specific recruitment schedule makes it to the top of the list of strange recruitment practices in Japan. We can only assume that this is partly because this strict timeline makes job search for foreigners more difficult. (Luckily, things are about to change but what Japanese style all-year recruitment will look like remains to be seen).
2. “Recruit Suits”
A close follow-up is the dress code for job interviews. You don’t even need to go to a job fair. In spring and summer, you can see them on the streets. Everyone is wearing the uniform black-and-white recruit suit, often with same type of trench coat. On occasion, you will find a foreigner staging a silent protest, be it with a fashionably-colored blazer or an unconventional shirt, while still keeping it business official.
3. Written Exams
Japanese companies love written exams. It is not like we have never heard of them abroad, but in Japan, they are an integral part of the process, just as much as a resume or job interview. International students who don’t find out early enough about SPI and Co. are in for a sudden wake-up call when they get the notice that a test, which is challenging even for many Japanese students, will decide whether they get an interview spot or not.
4. Entry Sheets
When you meet a company for the first time in Japan you submit an entry-sheet. Only when the company is interested and invites you for an interview you submit your resume. This process is standard in Japan, but many don’t really get the difference between both documents, and why they need to submit an entry sheet in the first place. Even Japanese people are hard-pressed for an answer when asked to explain the practice. One could say that the entry sheet is closer to a cover letter and is all about conveying your motivation to work for the company, while the Japanese rirekisho (履歴書) is your standard CV.
5. OB・OG visit
OB・OG 訪問 (ほうもん) is the Japanese expression for asking for the advice of previous graduates or people working in the company or industry you are aiming. OBs are old boys, and OG… you get the picture. A practice quite common anywhere, just less institutionalized than in Japan. I never head the pleasure of trying this myself, but that 1 in 4 international students in Japan thinks this to be strange, seems to speak for itself.
6. Company Seminars
Typical job-hunt: go online, send a bunch of applications, maybe go to a career fair, wait, repeat, and wait some more until you get an interview invite. Only after the document screening, interaction with the company is granted to a select few.
Japanese companies are doing the opposite. They hold company seminars for anyone who is interested and then students decide whether the company is a good match for them which they want to pursue further. It’s almost as if Japanese companies try hard to woe their future talents. Strange, right.
7. Job Interviews
1 in 10 foreigners finds job interviews in Japan deeply odd. There are various factors here: group interviews, the sheer amount of interviewers, the occasional surprisingly personal question, the high level of ritual and formality starting from before you even enter the building, … the list goes on. Getting it right requires some research and practice. But with a little experience, anyone can become a pro.
8. School Recommendation System
A small percentage of students can benefit from 学校推薦制度 (がっこうすいせんせいど). Schools are giving letters of recommendation to good students. These allow the lucky recipients to skip directly to one of the final interview rounds without going through document screening and other primary selection processes. Tt may sound like a dream come true. But only few students get them and even those that do undertake standard job-hunting activities at the same time. Never put all your eggs in one basket.
Learning to adapt
Anyone who is looking for a job in Japan is in for a surprise at some point. Researching in advance might not make anything seem more natural to you but it helps with understanding and figuring out how to react appropriately.
Look at the other articles here and ask your friends or OB/OG to face your job-search in Japan head-on.