Hello! It’s Emeline.
In the first part of this article, I talked about the job-hunting differences between France and Japan. I presented each country’s characteristics, but I still need to describe concretely how to look for a job in Japan.
Seriously Starting Job Hunting
Once you have prepared everything, you can start job hunting for real.
As it is completely different from France, I did not know where to begin. After some research, I found an event for foreign students who were looking for a job in Japan and decided to participate. I think there are a lot of events like that so if you search “就活イベント“ or “就職活動イベント” on the internet, you should probably find some. Several companies take part in these events, so you will be able to go to information sessions (setsumeikai 説明会) and even ask employees questions. During the event, they explained to us how to hunt for a job in Japan, so I got the answers to most of my questions.
After coming back home from the event, you are expected to check the website of the companies that interested you and apply directly on the website. Usually, you can also register for an information session about the company from their website, but as I was job-hunting in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, a lot of information sessions got cancelled.
There are no job-hunting information sessions overseas, so I did not know what they were or why I should take part in any of them. However, I found it was a great opportunity to get useful information about the company. It is also a great way to grasp the atmosphere of the company and it can help you decide if you want to enter this company or not.
During the job-hunting event, we were told that it was better to apply for a lot of companies. As the competition is, unfortunately, quite high, you can raise your chances of getting a job offer by applying to multiple companies at the same time.
Applying takes a lot of time and you can easily get depressed when you get repeatedly rejected by companies, so job-hunting in Japan requires a lot of mental and physical strength. For me, it was a very hard period.
But even if it gets hard, do not give up! Your dream job is certainly waiting for you!
The First Step in the Application: the Entry Sheet
First, you need to register on the company’s website and enter personal information like your name, your address, and your academic background. Some companies ask for not only documents like your resume, but also your grades or a certificate of expected graduation (sotsugyō mikomi shōmeisho 卒業見込証明書), so check it on their website and try to prepare the documents as soon as you can.
One of the documents you need to submit is called the Entry Sheet (entorī shīto エントリーシート), and this takes the most time and is the most difficult to write. In France, we do not have entry sheets, so I did not know what it was at all but it looks like a longer and more complex version of a cover letter. Basically, you need to write about your motivations or to appeal your good points by doing a presentation of yourself (called jiko PR, 自己ＰＲ).
However, the questions you need to answer in your entry sheet are different for each company, and some of them can be tricky. You can sometimes get asked questions like “Imagine yourself in ten years and describe your role in our company”, “Choose one of our products and write a business plan to boost the sales”, or even “Tell us your catchphrase”. Upon seeing questions like that, you can feel lost and ask yourself “what is that question?!” or “how am I supposed to answer that?!” but if you search on the internet, you might find some hints to help you answer them.
You can take inspiration from what you read on the internet but do not forget to give a personal answer, something that reflects your personality. It is important because if you pass this stage and get to go to the interviews, they will probably ask you about your answers. It is better not to lie or try to make you look better in your entry sheet then.
The Aptitude Test
You finally finished and submitted your entry sheet and now you think that you can take a little break until you get the results? Big mistake. I thought that too but unfortunately, you still have other things to do. Indeed, a lot of companies ask you to take an aptitude test (tekisei kensa 適性検査).
First, why take an aptitude test? It is for companies to determine if you can meet their expectations and if you would be a good fit for them.
Recently, a lot of companies let you take the test at home on your computer, but sometimes you might have to go to a specific location to take a written test. The type of question can differ depending on the kind of the test, so it is better to search about it before.
Usually, the test is divided in two parts. The first one is about basic knowledge, namely in Japanese language, mathematics, and sometimes English. The second part is a personality test, which is supposed to assess your ability to work in a team or if you fit the company image among other things.
This aptitude test is, most of the time, all in Japanese, and it is hard. The mathematics part was especially difficult; I only learned mathematics in my native language so understanding the question itself and the specific vocabulary was a struggle.
Also, there is a (quite strict) time limit and a lot of questions, so it was very hard to answer everything. I do not know how much companies value the results of this test but since we are supposed to do it, it must be better to get a good score on it. Because of that, I think that it can make a lot of people anxious. I felt so stressed when I had to take one of these tests that, every time, I would eventually start crying in the middle and had to keep on answering the questions through tears.
To prepare for this test, I think that the only thing to do is buy books or test samples and practice answering the questions. If you feel that it is impossible no matter how hard you study, try to find companies that do not ask you to take it. There might not be a lot of them, but it is probably possible to find some.
Once you are done with the entry sheet and the aptitude test, you are going to receive a notice letting you know if you can go to the interviews or not. If you are invited, first, congratulations! The road is still long but you did well!
Now, you need to prepare for the interviews. In France you usually only need to take one interview, but in Japan it is normal to take several ones. You should at least have two, but some companies make you take five or six. For each interview the questions can be different, so you need to do research on the internet or in books and think well about your answers.
You need to know that, even if most interviews are one-on-one, there are also group interviews or group discussions. I have never taken any group interviews or discussions but like one-on-one interviews, you need to follow a few rules and mind your manners. You will need to know how to correctly enter the room, greet the interviewer, sit, leave the room, and more. As a French person, there were a lot of rules about things I have never thought about before, so that was quite surprising.
My college professors explained it to me before I started job hunting in Japan, but you can easily find explanatory videos on the internet. If you search “interview manners in Japan” or “面接マナー”, a few videos should come up. Watching them should generally be enough to understand how it works in Japan.
On Your Way to Entering Your New Company
If you pass all your interviews successfully, you will receive a nainaitei (内々定), an “unofficial” job offer, but that just means that you will enter the company “in the near future”.
In Japan, you generally enter your new company in April so, most of the time, you will attend a “ceremony for future employees” (naiteishiki 内定式) in October of the year before. This ceremony is made to welcome the future employees in the company and, once this ceremony is over, your nainaitei turns into a naitei (内定). It does not change a lot, but the last one is a bit more official.
Depending on the company, you might have to submit short reports or study before you start working so do not forget to check your e-mails!
I thought that looking for a job as a new graduate, and especially as a foreigner, was very hard, especially last year with the impact of the Coronavirus crisis. Fortunately, I had the support of my family and my friends and, thanks to that, I managed to overcome this difficult period. I will start working in April, and, even if I am a little anxious about whether I will be able to do the job correctly, I’m excited for all the new experiences I’m going to have.
I hope this article was at least a little helpful for you if you are thinking about working in Japan!