Looking for a job here in Japan? You better prepare yourself for these four quirks.
After years of grueling study, fresh graduates in Japan get to emerge from their caves into the big working world. Most of us can remember our first baby steps towards a future that doesn’t involve drinking ourselves silly into the wee hours of the morning. Those first steps can be daunting, particularly for foreign students in Japan who have to navigate a myriad of customs as alien to them as the local cuisine.
Japanese research organization Disco, which conducts surveys on job-hunting foreign students in Japan every year, recently polled them on what the biggest oddity of the Japanese job-hunting system was.
What stood out the most, being cited by 38.9 percent of the respondents, was the observation that all job-hunters wear what is known as a “recruit suit”. While you might think it’s an ultimate weapon of a suit guaranteed to land you a job, it is essentially a standard black suit with a white shirt.
▼ You’re good to go.
In Japan, blending in rather than standing out is the social norm. There’s even a Japanese saying that goes “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. Some of the foreign students couldn’t help but wonder why everyone was dressed the same way, and that there should be a bit more personality involved, especially since you’re trying to stand out among your competitors. Even in a socially conservative country like Japan, where conformity is often the norm, there are students who dislike such “recruit suits,” but on the bright side, you won’t end up stressing out on what to wear for interviews.
The second-highest ranked quirk (chosen by 38.5 percent of respondents) was the notoriously rigorous job-hunting season. April is the time when companies welcome new employees in troves with open arms, but the groundwork has already been done long before. University students in their junior years attend job seminars at prospective companies, and those in their senior years go through interviews while school is in session. Such a serious approach to work and perhaps the lack of fun in general probably irked some foreign students.
The third peculiarity (chosen by 33.1 percent of respondents) was the recruitment of students into companies in huge batches just once a year. Systematic training of new employees in April occurs simultaneously in an almost factory-like manner. This is in stark contrast to western companies, where hiring takes place throughout the year. Missing the April intake drastically reduces your chances of attaining a job, and many students who fail to find full-time employment in the primary hiring period end up working part-time jobs or just spinning their wheels for a year to catch the next recruitment wave.
The fourth quirk (chosen by 31.9 percent of respondents) was written examinations. The examinations vary by company and can range from personality to general knowledge tests. They are quite demanding, and there are loads of books and applications to get you prepared for them. A common complaint is that the Japanese written exams don’t necessarily seem to prove your job capability.
▼ Just when you thought you took your last examination of your life in university.
The Japanese government aims to accept 300,000 foreign students by 2020, placing great emphasis on their smooth transition into Japanese companies to boost the current aging workforce. There has been a recent surge of newly graduated job-hunting foreign students in Japan. In 2015, foreigners who have successfully switched from student visas to working visas exceeded a record 15,000. The reality, however, is that only about 50 percent of job-seeking foreign students manage to find jobs here.
From a foreigner’s perspective, there are indeed many weird customs to get used to in Japan. Job-hunting is no exception, but perhaps further measures to make the job-hunting process smoother are in order.