Recently, a number of Japanese college students irked their universities when posts about their rule-skirting shenanigans showed up on everyone’s favorite social network for immortalizing bad decisions, Facebook.
But underage drinking is almost universally accepted in Japan, and colleges here lack the animal mascots that are prime kidnapping targets in American institutions of higher learning. Just what kind of shameful, inappropriate behavior had these kids been up to?
They’d been getting job offers from A-list companies.
Mutual trust and consensus-building are considered among the highest ideals in Japanese business, and so the wheels of industry turn slowly. Meetings take a long time. Negotiations take a long time. And so, naturally, does the hiring process. Applicants can expect to visit the facilities of their would-be employer several times for multiple rounds of information sessions, tests, and interviews before they become official employees.
▼ If you’re someone who gets nervous and sweats a lot during these kinds of things, the dry cleaning bill can be astronomical.
For college students approaching graduation, job-hunting takes so long that the senior year is often structured to give the student as much time as possible to spend looking for employment, with study and testing responsibilities that fourth-year undergrads in many other countries would find blissfully light.
The lengthy hiring protocol means that human resource departments also need to get the ball rolling well ahead of when they need their new recruits to actually start working. The norm in Japan is to line up a job before graduation in the spring, and to start working almost immediately after finishing school. Failing to do either of these is largely considered a red flag that the individual is lacking in ambition or marketable skills. Taking this into account, recruiters generally start meeting with interested candidates in the summer of their senior year.
▼ “You spent your summer finding yourself? Hey, that’s super. I spent it finding a job in civil engineering.”
But despite the economic realities of the Japanese staffing system, educators are predictably skeptical about how much studying their seniors will do during their last semester of college if they’ve already inked an employment contract, particularly if it’s with a large, traditional Japanese company that will likely employ them for life. To maintain some semblance of educational integrity, there is a near-universal, if non-legally binding, agreement between schools and businesses. Recruiters can talk with seniors all they want, but the companies abide by one stipulation from the schools: they are not to make any firm offer of employment, known in Japan as naitei, until October 1.
▼ This knowledge about their future cash flow comes just in time to help students make informed decisions regarding their Halloween costume budgets.
Unfortunately, some companies didn’t feel like honoring the agreement, and decided to bend the rules. In a recent Facebook investigation regarding the upcoming class of 2014, postings were found for roughly 1,600 students claiming to have received their naitei before the start of October. “It has become surprisingly clear that some enterprises are not abiding by our agreement,” commented one university official.
The students were spread across approximately 20 groups for holders of naitei from companies listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the classification for the largest publicly-traded corporations. The students’ names were visible, as were they photographs, which are commonly included with resumes in Japan, regardless of whether or not the job requires the applicant be physically-attractive.
▼ Yes, yes, that’s very nice, Tanaka. But how can we be sure you’d make a good welder without also knowing what shape your eyebrows are?
A number of the groups seem to have been set up and administered by human resource coordinators from the companies themselves. Proving once again that no one really understands Facebook’s privacy settings, the administrators of the leaked groups seem to have failed to completely block the students’ information, allowing anyone logged into the site to view their names and photos.
In one group for an industrial supplier in Hyogo Prefecture, even the names of the students’ universities were visible. “I thought they were hidden from people not in the group, but I messed up the settings,” explained the administrator. “But we still haven’t sent them their official naitei paperwork, so we’re not in violation of our agreement with the schools,” he continued.
Several other companies also offered the same excuse, quite possibly adding “copying” to “cheating” and “sloppiness” in the growing list of reasons educators are displeased with them.
▼ “I’ve had it! All of you, come up to the chalkboard and write, ‘I will not offer gainful employment’ 50 times!”