Job hunting in Japan
When it comes to causes of stress for foreigners in Japan, job hunting is probably second only to moving in Japan (LINK). If, like many of us, the job that first brought you to Japan is not destined to be your forever-home, never fear! Sometimes people get so intimidated by job hunting here that they stay in less than wonderful circumstances for far, far too long, but this DISCOVER DEEP JAPAN LIFESTYLE GUIDE has some convenient pointers to help make your career transition go as smoothly as possible.
Keep in mind that this article is no substitute for actual career counseling (see below). This also only really applies to mid-career job changes in Japan. If you are entering the workforce straight out of a Japanese university, your experience will likely be much different.
Making a resume
It should come as no surprise that a good Japanese resume is one of the most important parts of getting a job here, and one that will likely be a source of annoyance for those who had already done their share of job hunting in their home country. Japan not only has its own preferred format for resume-writing, but multiple different resumes that are usually requested all at once! Although many recruiters or companies (see below) may have their own preferred format, there are general templates that should be acceptable anywhere (which can also be found below).
There are two kinds of resumes you will need: a rirekusho and a shokumu keirekisho. The former is an itemized list of your education and work history. It must be in the order of earliest (starting from high school, for example) to most recent, with as few gaps in between as possible. Don’t forget to attach a recent picture of yourself as well, like you would do when applying for passport documents or a renewed visa (LINK). As for a shokumu keirekisho, this is more or less just like your standard resume (translated into Japanese, of course.) To prevent confusion, your school history and jobs/internships should be itemized in the same general order as the rirekusho.
Where to look – the online route
Though in the past Japan tended to be pretty insular as far as digital job searching was concerned, it is now very possible to find your next career in Tokyo listed in the job page on linkedin, for example. Depending on the company, you may be asked to write up something in Japanese explaining your motivation to work at that specific place, as well as answering all sorts of other questions relevant to your work experience, Japan experience, or overall philosophy on life.
There are also Japan-specific search engines like Daijob, Career Cross, and Mynavi. If you are looking for a specific field, there are job sites specifically for everything from engineers to teachers. Most companies will ask you to fill out a company-specific application, or “entry sheet,” to start. From there, get ready for even more paperwork specific to each job you apply for!
Where to look – the all-important human connection
If you are interested in talking to someone in person, or just want some general career counseling in order to know the lay of the land, book an appointment at your local “Hello Work.” These are job centers set up by the government to assist both Japanese and foreign job seekers. While the level of English may vary, there is an employment center specifically for foreigners in Shinjuku (see the link below for details).
Though many Japanese make use of their alumni network (so-called OBs or OGs) when looking for work, we foreigners have alumni networks of our own. Never be ashamed to ask for a leg up from former colleagues or friends!
Dressing the part
This will be of little surprise to anyone who has experienced life here, but Japan’s work culture trends heavily toward the conservative, and that includes what you decide to wear to career fairs and job interviews. Besides the more obvious advice to go in clean and neat, one thing I didn’t realize the importance of is having a generic black bag like the type all the other salarymen carry. Even if you don’t need to bring much of anything to an interview, apparently the importance of having this bag cannot be underestimated. And whatever you do, don’t bring a backpack!
The more you search for jobs, the more you will notice that often it is not the company itself listed, but another company that is recruiting on their behalf. Some of the more notable ones include J Career, Link Japan and Global Power. In many situations, companies may only hire through a chosen recruiter, but some companies have multiple. Here’s a true story: I was applying for company A with recruiter A, but my application was ignored. When I applied to the same job again with recruiter B, I got the job! Unfortunately, it seems having a good recruiter can make or break you in this situation.
Study up beforehand!
Remember those things called bookstores? Most of the major retailers have a job-hunting section that is usually perused by nervous soon-to-be college grads, but depending on your level of Japanese, much of this information should be of interest to you also.
Going to career fairs
Many career sites and recruiters such as Daijob and Pasona have career fairs that they hold regularly. Though you might want to attend one simply to see what career fairs in Japan are like, you could also benefit from some preparation.
Some of these events are just “information sessions” in a large group where you’re not expected to talk, but do prepare a question or two. Usually, you will then be asked to send your information via email or the company website.
At job fair booths, you may get a chance to talk one-on-one with someone. Usually, they will read your resume right in front of you, so be prepared to talk about that, as well as prepare a short intro. Otherwise, these talks tend to be somewhat less formal than actual interviews. Just be sure to show your interest and enthusiasm!
In Japan, the interview process is typically very formalized- chances are, if you are interviewing at multiple companies for the same type of position, you can anticipate the interviews going more or less the same each time. Mid-career job changes are steadily gaining popularity, but there is some stigma regarding what companies might consider older employees- usually mid 30s and above.
As a foreigner, we generally fall between the cracks- for both good and for ill. Competing for jobs with Japanese people (or, to put it more accurately, native speakers who graduated from a Japanese university) can often feel like an uphill battle. On the other hand, we can also stand out from the crowd a bit easier.
Don’t anticipate too many group interviews for mid-career job listings. Instead, you will usually go straight to one on one, or panel interviews. Rather than the interview being all Japanese or all English, you might be expected to switch between the two, which can actually be even harder!
Needless to say, be prepared to receive a job offer by email or by phone- situations in which you may need a certain amount of formal Japanese.
Best of luck! Do you have concerns about visiting a doctor in Japan? Click HERE!
About Hello Work (in English)
Resume templates can be found here