If you have ever applied for a job, I don’t have to explain the hardships of the procedure: boring job advertisements, awkward interviews or the rejection that makes you feel offended. I can understand if someone hates looking for a job because of these. Constant failures result in a pessimistic mindset, you start to see yourself as good-for-nothing and lose your confidence. But besides the lot of negativity, we must admit that job-hunting is a really good opportunity to get to know yourself better and the things you’re good at, what you want to do in the future.
If you think it’s hard to find a good in your home country you have never tried in Japan. Japanese companies usually advertise job posts in the same period, so that they can choose from thousands of senior college students. The applicants have to be just like others but also stand out in the same time in order to catch the interest of the interviewers. It’s not surprising that many people can’t stand this stress since expectations can cause despair and take the hope of young people who used to be full of dreams.
I can call myself lucky because in spite of this challenging process I managed to find a job in Japan, furthermore from Europe! In this article I will tell a little bit about how I searched job advertisements, how I applied for jobs, what I had to write to my CV and what kind of interviews I participated in. I try to provide some kind of guidance for those who want to find a job in Japan, just like me.
Before we get to the actual job-hunting, you might be wondering how and where to start looking for a job in Japan in the first place. It might be a disadvantage if you are looking from a country far away, a country that Japanese might not even have heard of, but these days pretty much nothing is impossible thanks to the internet. And I’d like to add that employers usually know some online interview procedures already. It’s good news for us because it seems like our opportunities are increasing by the years.
We can start looking in different directions. It’s important to note that you better try as many ways as possible because the key of success are persistence and hard work. There are some websites that help you exactly with that, they offer job opportunities in the country for foreigners. Unfortunately, most of them targets foreigners studying or living in Japan, but through them we can research what kind of job opportunities foreigners have.
You can give job fairs a try. Although, not every country has a Japanese job fair, thanks to the current situation many events are organized online, so you can attend them from where ever you live. These job fairs usually have a very simple website, it’s easy to browse the different job advertisements and application is not that difficult either. It’s pretty common in offline job fairs that the company gives you a chance to have an interview there in person, but it depends on the company how they decide about applicants. Usually famous and reliable companies attend such events so you don’t need to worry about that. From my experiences I can say it’s very hard to succeed in the first rounds if you are not prepared, even if there’s just some web test and paperwork that the company decide by, but if you try and learn from your mistakes there’ll be a company that calls you for an interview for sure!
Besides that, I researched big corporations online, first without any expectations but the more I found out my interests the easier it was to research from specific places. I sent an email to the companies I liked and if I had a chance I sent them my CV. In the beginning, it was tiring to do all the research but soon I realized how important it is since you would often be asked on an interview about other companies in the field, or what you think, what the strength of the company is that you’re having the interview with. Why is it special, what makes it different from other companies?
What is application form?
If you want to apply for a job in Japan in most cases you have to submit an application form (エントリーシート or ES) beside the CV. As I mentioned earlier, it is often considered the first round when judging the applicants. Since the number of applicants is the highest in this round it’s crucial to write a good ES in order to get to the next rounds.
Application forms usually have questions which might require a 400-500 character answer or even 800-1000 characters sometimes. Companies try to assess your personality and whether you are a good match for what they expect. This is the first impression for them about you and what’s more important, this helps them see how you can introduce yourself. It’s true to all the rounds but your answers in the ES might affect the whole application process.
ES-es can be very different but there are three questions that appear in them most of the time: why you applied, your strength and what you put effort into during your studies. In the first question you are expected to research the company very thoroughly and give an answer that is convincing enough. Unfortunately, if you only say you want to work for a company where you can benefit from your language skills it’s not enough. When thinking about your strength it’s good to look for something that you can contribute to the company’s success with. Your effort during your studies might be even a little thing. The process is what important: you faced some difficulty or failure in the past but you managed to overcome it and learned something new. It can be a team project, a competition, a part-time work experience, or really anything that happened to you. The point is the applicant has to prove they are persistent and able to solve different problems.
Interview with a Japanese corporation
Interviews always require preparation, you should know not only the company and its mentality but you have to analyse yourself as well. The company tries to find out based on your ES answers what your character is like, whether you are a good match for the job and how serious you are about your application. You can find many useful guides and tips about interviews, but I want to sum up what I experienced in the interviews and what you should be careful about as a foreigner.
Questions foreigners get
You don’t have to think of anything frightening, since it’s pretty obvious that during the interview you would talk about topics that a Japanese candidate wouldn’t be asked. I often got the question why I started studying Japanese, why I want to work in Japan or how much I know about Japanese working style. Probably I’m not the only one who gets this question from friends, but as easy to answer they seem, as difficult it is to talk about them in details in a stressful situation. You should think them through really thoroughly in order to give clear answers even if you are excited.
Besides these I often got asked if my family is supportive of my Japanese career and how long I’m planning to stay in Japan. First I didn’t understand why it matters what my parents think about my decision, but the answer is simple: since I’m a foreigner the company will get me a visa. This means they have a huge responsibility, bigger than if they hired a Japanese, who doesn’t have to go through this procedure.
Japanese or foreigner, every candidate has to talk about their strength in some way, what they are good at compared to others. As foreigners we are tend to think our biggest strength is that we speak more languages, think globally and know other cultures. However, in our case it is pretty much obvious. If I said I’m better than the other candidates because I speak three languages I couldn’t really stand out and compete with the other foreigners. If a company invites you to an interview they most likely give a chance to other foreigners as well. Your strength can be anything you feel like you stand out with: good organizational skills, rhetorical skills or explanatory ability.
Always have an “episode”!
You can claim many nice things but if you can’t prove them they are just empty words. To prove your words right it’s good to find some episodes from your daily life. It’s not easy during an interview either, so I recommend thinking about some personal stories for your answers when preparing for the interview questions. For example, if you think you have leadership skills you can prove it with a story when you had a project at college. Let’s say all the members met for the first time so you couldn’t really get the project moving, however, you acted: asked out everyone for lunch, got the members together and then you could ease up a little and work together smoothly, which resulted in a successful presentation. It’s just a simple example, but the point is that you don’t have to overthink. The company usually cares about what potentials you have according to your episode. I recommend making a small note where you write down all the memories when you did something great, how you acted those times and what good qualities you discovered in yourself.
Smile is key!
We tend to forget to smile when we are excited and our faces look restless. Physical appearance is very important at an interview, and facial expressions are especially crucial for Japanese people. Just think about it, if you should choose between a cheerful, fresh and an uncertain, anxious person, probably you would choose the first one too. Excitement goes hand in hand with such situations, but be ready to relax somehow before the interview, and trust me, your result will turn out well!
Thinking from a business perspective
I often made the mistake not to talk clearly enough or say something that has really nothing to do with the job. A company wants to hire you because they want you to work there and be part of their success, so it’s crucial to highlight your personality, strength, past deeds and your goals. They appreciate if someone can talk shortly but satisfyingly. In the business world problem analysing skill, failure, overcome and result play a significant role, so when you answer a question it’s good to include this process. If you tend to explain a topic in details you should start with the conclusion so it’s easy to follow up with the rest of the story.
I believe the most important thing is persistence, you should not give up, think about failure as a new chance to learn and correct a mistake. It’s pretty much 100% sure that you would get rejected a couple times. Everyone has to face this, but you should never underestimate your capability. Know yourself, believe in your success; and the base for that is that you know your values. Good luck for your job hunting!