I’m Emeline, your French guide at kamon, Kashiwa Information Center!
Today, I would like to talk about the differences between job hunting in Japan and overseas.
Last year, I started job hunting in Japan, but there was a ton of things I did not know or understand. In this article, I would like to use my experience to explain how to look for a job in Japan. Depending on your situation, the way you are going to hunt for a job may be different from what I am going to explain, but I hope this article will be useful for foreigners who would like to work in Japan.
First, I am going to explain my situation and how I started job hunting.
After graduating from high school, I got into college. I have liked studying languages since I was a kid and got interested in Japan when I was in middle school, so I chose a major in Japanese. I studied it for six years and finally came as an exchange student in September 2019. At that time, I was just starting the second year of my master’s degree (in France, the school year usually starts in September). After my exchange, I was supposed to come back to France, graduate and start looking for a job over there.
In France, it is rather difficult to find a job just after graduation. I have friends who stayed unemployed for years after they graduated and knowing that made me worry about my future. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that, as I studied Japanese language for a long time, working in Japan for a few years to gain experience could be a good solution. That is how I started job hunting here.
What Is Shūshoku Katsudō (就職活動) in Japan?
Job hunting is called shūshoku katsudō (就職活動, sometimes shortened into shūkatsu 就活) in Japanese. Shūshoku katsudō is not just looking for a temporary job (arubaito アルバイト or part-time, pāto taimu パートタイム) but for full-time regular employment (seiki koyō 正規雇用). A part-time job is enough when you are on a Working Holiday Visa but if you want to get a Work Visa, getting a full-time job (being a seishain正社員) is recommended. It is apparently not impossible to get a work visa while having a temporary contract (for example, contractual, keiyaku shain 契約社員 or interim, haken shain 派遣社員), but it might be more difficult.
Job Hunting in France
As I was born and raised in France, job hunting in Japan was a totally unknown world for me. When I started looking for a job, I had only been in Japan for about half a year, so there were a lot of things that I was not aware of and I did not really know what I was supposed to do. The way of looking for jobs here is just so different!
I only worked part-time in France. In Japan that would have been considered an arubaito アルバイト, but we do not really have that in France. We only have three categories of contracts: full-time regular employment, contractual and interim, so a part-time job will fall into one of these categories. For example, I was working part-time at a famous fast-food chain, but I was a regular employee there. I think that the way you are looking for a part-time job in France is, then, not that different from looking for a full-time job.
In France, you start job hunting after you graduate. It is normal to do internships while you are still in school, but actively looking for a job before graduation is very rare. Companies usually ask you to start working right after getting a job offer.
For that reason, there is no “job hunting period” in France. You can start whenever you want but, because you do not know if or when companies are recruiting, you will need luck.
I do not think there is really a specific way of looking for a job in France. Some people search for job openings they can apply to, some send spontaneous applications to the companies they are interested in, others use recruitment websites, and some others go to employment centers.
The way of applying is often the same, though. You need to send your resume and a cover letter to the company and if your profile was appealing enough, you get to do an interview. I have never really heard of companies who were doing more than one interview.
The interview questions can be a little different from the one asked in Japan, but the interview itself is not that different. The biggest difference should be the clothes. In France, it is rare to see people wearing a business suit, especially women. For an interview, the “business casual” style is recommended. It is still rather close to a business suit, but you can show a little of your personality through your outfit.
When I started job hunting in Japan, I only knew about the French way of doing it, but the more I did research, the more I understood how different it was.
Shinsotsu Saiyō 新卒採用? Chūto Saiyō 中途採用? What Is the Difference?
In France, your academic background is important, but the companies tend to look more for experience. That is why it can be difficult to find a job for people who just graduated.
In Japan, it is the opposite: it is easier to start working right after graduation.
Recruitment for regular employment in Japan is divided in two categories: shinsotsu saiyō (新卒採用) and chūto saiyō (中途採用). Chūto saiyō is for people who have already entered the work force and are trying to change jobs because the recruiters give more importance to experience and capacities.
Shinsotsu saiyō, on the other hand, is reserved for people who just graduated. Rather than experience, it is the academic background and the potential that matter.
I said “people who just graduated” but it is not entirely correct. It is actually better to start job hunting before you graduate. If you wait for after your graduation, you might have fewer chances of getting a job offer. That is why, in Japan, college students in their third or fourth year are all already looking for a job.
April is the job starting season. It is then better to start looking for a job at least one year and a half before the time you plan on entering the company. For example, if you are supposed to graduate around April 2022, it is generally recommended starting around the summer break of 2020 (doing internships, analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, doing research on the companies you are interested in, going to job hunting events, etc.).
I started job hunting when I was in the middle of my second year of master’s degree, so right before graduating, and then, was really close to being too late.
In this article, I will explain the way shinsotsu saiyō works, so I think this can be helpful if you are an exchange student.
Preparing for Job Hunting
For the job hunting to go as well as possible, you need to prepare some things beforehand.
The first thing is taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT, nihongo nōryoku shiken 日本語能力試験). An advanced level of Japanese is usually required for new graduates, which corresponds to, at least, level two of the JLPT (even though level one is preferred).
Let me quickly explain what the JLPT is for the ones who do not know about it. It is a Japanese test divided in five levels, level five being beginner level and the level one being the most difficult.
It is only held twice a year: once in July and once in December (*In some countries or areas, the test is held only once a year **Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the test can be cancelled in some places), so you should prepare in advance to be able to take it on time.
The other thing you should prepare is your resume (rirekisho 履歴書). A Japanese resume is quite different from the ones you can find in other countries, but you can easily find how to write it on the internet. In France, you can write your resume rather freely, but it should not exceed one page. If it is longer, the recruiters might get bored and not read it entirely.
In Japan, it is different. Most of the time, a Japanese resume is two pages long. Also, you need to write about your motivations in your resume. In France, or overseas in general, you need to write about it in your cover letter, in a more detailed way. In Japanese resumes, you need to be concise, as there is not much space to write, but we all know how difficult it can be when you are not writing in your native language.
What surprised me the most about Japanese resumes was that you often need to submit a handwritten version of it. Overseas, it is normal to submit a printed version. Recently in Japan, more and more companies started to accept printed resumes too, but if you need to submit a handwritten version, note that you cannot use correction tape so be careful to not make mistakes!
You also need to put a picture on your Japanese resume, but you must follow a couple of rules. For example, you need to wear a business suit in your picture. I already talked about this, but in France there are not a lot of people who are wearing suits, so I was really surprised to learn that in Japan suits are mandatory. When I went to take my picture for my resume, it was the first time I wore a suit and I felt very uncomfortable.
In Japan, wearing a suit is still deeply rooted in the business culture so buying one is also part of your job-hunting preparation. Unfortunately it costs a lot of money so as a student, it can be difficult…
Today, I wrote about job hunting in France and in Japan, as well as both countries’ characteristics. It turned out to be a bit long so that will be all for now, but in the next article I will explain more precisely how to look for a job in Japan.
If you are interested, come back to read the next part!