How to Find a Job in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Job Hunting in Japan

Job hunting can be a frustrating process whether it’s in your home country or abroad, Japan has its own set of unique rules and to find success you need to be aware of these cultural differences. Whether you are coming straight from your home country with zero experience working in a Japanese environment or are a long time expat looking to expand your horizons, this guide can help you find your next job in Japan!

What are your career options in Japan?

Most foreigners that come to Japan start off their careers as English teachers, whether its through the well-known JET Programme or a private English conversation company (Eikaiwa). Expats often spend from 1 to 5 years in that position while picking up and improving their Japanese language skills. However, teaching English isn’t necessarily the only career path in Japan. There are career opportunities across all fields. Japan has a preference of skill over experience, as this makes it easier to train prospective employees.

Most importantly, your Japanese language ability will also have to be up to par to be able to communicate effectively with your co-workers, so JLPT N2 is at least required to enter the Japanese workforce. There are exceptions however, IT and engineering are fields that are often seeking highly skilled individuals regardless of their Japanese proficiency.

Where to look for a job

Online Search

There are many ways to look for a job in Japan, the easiest being via the internet. The only danger to applying to potential jobs online is how generic your cover letter and resume will start to sound after the 5th application. Like in any other job hunting situation it’s best to hone in on a few potential positions and and dedicate time to research the company and write out a cover letter specifically for that company. Here is a selection of job hunting websites :

Website Description
GaijinPot Jobs GaijinPot mainly caters to English speakers with low level Japanese skills. Most of the postings are for English teaching positions
Daijob Daijob is the hub for information technology and finance positions. There are many interesting career opportunities on Daijob ranging from investment banking to accounting. However many positions require the relevant qualifications and a high level of Japanese.
JobsInJapan JobsInJapan also has a high number of English teaching and IT jobs, but the site also provides other options too.
CareerCross CareerCross has jobs in almost every field,many that offer visa sponsorship since the positions call for technical skills. Many positions require a high level of Japanese.
Indeed Indeed is originally an American employment search engine, however many Japanese companies post openings. All postings are in Japanese so applicants will be expected to have a high level of Japanese (at least N2). Indeed is not often used by foreigners in Japan so competition won’t be as fierce.
Japan Times Jobs Japan Times Jobs cater to mainly bilinguals with strong Japanese skills. They offer a large variety of jobs across all fields. There is also the option to talk to a recruiter on their site, in which their sole goal is to find you a role that you are suited for.

Tip!

A common mistake many foreign applicants make is talk about how that job will give them the opportunity to improve their Japanese ability/get to know Japanese culture/realise their dream of living in Japan, etc. Make sure to specify how YOU can be BENEFICIAL to the company and not the other way around!

Networking

While there are numerous professional publications and internet portals that provide Japanese job listings, the most effective means of securing employment are personal connections (kone). For those that already live in Japan, this gives you a huge advantage over your competition. Business relationships in Japan often play a bigger role in the decision making process than they do overseas, and building a strong and varied network can bring real results. Networking is an easy and enjoyable way to meet a wide group of people from different working fields in Japan. At these events you can connect to companies and meet with recruiters, not to mention learn about positions before they are even offered online! Cast a wide net and get to know people, you never know when a contact will come in handy!

Join an international group on Facebook or on MeetUp to find out more about specific industry events. You should also keep an eye out for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, they frequently hold networking events that are open to all nationalities.

When attending these events, it’s important to take some business cards with you. The exchange of business cards (名刺交換) is deeply ingrained in Japanese business etiquette. There are some rules to exchanging business cards the main being:

  • Give and receive cards using both hands.
  • When giving your card, ensure that it is turned towards the receiver.
  • Keep the received cards on display. Do not shove them into your pocket or wallet - this is considered to be rude. Use a card holder instead.
  • Do not write or fold the received cards, treat them with the same respect you would to the individual that gave them to you.

Grab your business cards (you can have some easily made up here VistaPrint) and head to the next networking event happening near you! You can find out about the next networking event happening in your city at the following sites:

Enlist a recruiter

If none of the above options have garnered results, there is also the option to enlist a recruiter to help in your job search. A recruiter’s sole purpose is to not only find suitable jobs that fit your requirements and qualifications but to also prepare you for the interview. If you get the job, they get a commision slice from the company that hires you. A win-win situation for everybody involved. They are fast and efficient, and are driven to get the results you want. They’ll send job information to you directly, introduce you to potential companies which makes it easier to get your foot in the door for an interview and help prepare you for the initial job interview. Plus, their services are 100% free.

You can contact recruiters at the following sites:

Filling out a Japanese Resume

Regardless of the method you take to job search, it will eventually lead to you filling out a Japanese resume (履歴書). You can pick up template copies of a standard resume in stationery and convenience stores. They are also available online here. Traditionally these are filled out by hand with a black pen, however recently more and more companies have been more open to accepting typed out resumes. It’s an important step in the job searching process and should not be taken lightly. From looking simply looking at a handwritten resume, employers can understand a lot about the potential candidate. The fact that a candidate has taken the time to write out their educational background and work history as well as their reasons for applying to the company, conveys their desire to work there.

Even if you can’t write kanji, employers will appreciate the effort you have taken with your resume. What is really important though, there should be nothing crossed or scribbled out. White out should not be used, instead you should simply start again. It can be hard work filling out your resume over and over for potential jobs but it will pay off!

Dress for the part: Japanese Dress Standards

It goes without saying that if you want that job you need to dress the part and Japan is no different. However there are some unspoken rules about what to wear to an interview in Japan. Often these rules are implemented by the hiring board and though the scene is changing with younger and more open-minded companies, it’s still highly recommended to follow the Japanese dress standards. You only get one chance to make a first impression!

Men Women
Hairstyle
• Hair must be clean and in its natural colour (it should not be dyed) • Should be short enough for the ears to show be neatly combed. Moustache/Beard • Men should be clean-shaven. If sporting a beard or a moustache, it should be trimmed neatly. • Hair must be clean and in its natural colour (it should not be dyed.) • Hair should be combed or neatly tied up.
Clothing
• You should wear a typical dark suit appropriate for a job interview, nothing patterned or with pinstripes. • A single suit with two buttons is better than a double suit. • The top button must be fastened. • The shirt must be white. • A typical dark-coloured suit either black, navy or grey is appropriate. • A simple white blouse. • Pant suits are acceptable • Skirts are acceptable too, but it should not be too short. Knee length is perfect. • Sheer tights should be worn and must must not have a run.
Shoes
• Shoes must be simple and the color should be black or brown. • They must be polished well. • They must be a simple pair of pumps. Their color should match the color of the suit. • The heels shouldn't be too high. About 55cm-7cm is fine. • They must be polished well.
Make-Up & Accessories • Do not wear strong perfume or cologne. • If they are facial piercings it’s better not to wear them. • Bring extra copies of your resume! • Make-up should be simple and not flashy. Eyeshadows should be a neutral colour. • It's better not to use perfume. • Simple stud earrings are fine but facial piercings should be removed before the interview. • Necklace must be simple and not flashy. • Bring extra copies of your resume!
Nails
• Nails should be trimmed short and not colored. • The same applies to women. Clear or a neutral coloured nail polish is acceptable.

Of course interviewees will too get bored of seeing the same attire over and over. Many young Japanese have complained that these strict standards restrict personality. Some have even shown up to interviews in casual clothing and ended up landing the position! It’s completely up to you how you want to make a splash in your interview.

Tip!

If you are applying from abroad or have been offered an interview via Skype, FaceTime or other similar apps, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re not doing a real interview. Act, dress, and speak as professionally as you would in a face-to-face interview. It’s surprising how in these types of interviews, people will often sit back relax and take a big swig of water or worse, a can of fizzy drink. No company wants to hire someone that comes off as sloppy or lazy.

The Interview

Getting ready for a job interview can be a nerve-wracking experience, but being prepared is key. Regardless of whether you are Japanese or not, there are certain business etiquette rules that you should try to follow during your interview. There is even a set way to enter the interview room, as shown below:

  • Knock on the interview room door and say 失礼します (Excuse me.)
  • When you hear the interviewer say どうぞ (Please, come in), you may enter.
  • When entering the room, face the interviewer/panel and say 失礼します again, then bow.
  • Stand next to your chair and say ___と申します。どうぞよろしくお願いします (My name is ___, it is a pleasure to meet you.)
  • Bow once more. The interviewer will invite you to take a seat by saying どうぞ、座ってください (Please sit down.)
  • You may sit down once hearing this.

When sitting down try to maintain an upright posture and do not lean back. Legs should be closed and hands placed flat on your legs. Throughout the interview your body will want to relax but this posture is not appropriate in a Japanese interview. It is best to maintain this posture out of respect for the interviewer and the company you are applying to. You will then be asked a number of questions over the course of 30 minutes to an hour. Have confidence and try to deliver detailed answers.

Common Interview Questions

While it’s impossible to predict exactly what you’ll be asked in your interview, many companies will ask at least one of the following common interview questions

Please introduce yourself. 自己紹介をお願いします。

Prepare a short monologue, including your educational background, work history and why you came to Japan. Japanese companies like to hear that their employees are enthusiastic about Japan. Try to give a few key points about what drew you to working here.

Why do you want to work for this company? どうしてうちの会社かいしゃで働はたらきたいと思おもったのですか?。

The interviewer is seeing if you have done your research on the company. Your answer should convey that you have done your research and show how the things you mention about the company align with your own personal values too.

Tell me about your previous position. 前職の仕事内容を教えてください。

When explaining about your previous position make sure to create a connection to the job you are interviewing for. Mention any common technical and soft skills and highlight projects where you took lead or inspired a positive change in the company.

Why did you leave your last position? 今いまの仕事しごとを変かえたい理由りゆうはなんですか。

The interviewer will be watching closely with how you answer this question. Never criticize a previous employer or company, this will only reflect badly on yourself. Phrase your reason positively by focusing on things you want to achieve.

How long do you plan to stay in Japan? いつまで日本に住むつもりですか

The interviewer is trying to see whether you are a potential employee that is worth investing in. In Japan it’s common for people to stay with a company for at least 10 years, if not for throughout their whole lives. You should answer honestly, but be aware that there are few companies that will want to invest time and energy training an employee that will only stick around for a few years.

Why is there a gap in your employment? なぜあなたの雇用にギャップがありますか

Employment gaps are sometimes regarded negatively, especially so in Japan. However, a common reason for having a gap between jobs is taking time off to get qualifications related to their industry. Qualifications will make your resume stand out in a sea of applications!

Tell me about your hobbies and interests. 趣味はなんですか

Your personality is an important factor in getting hired, but consider your environment. You don’t want your interview hearing too much. Talking about team sports is a safe option as it shows that you’re a team player, or about your travel blog, this shows that you are creative. Your hobbies will be distinct and different from your work, but you can emphasize the of your hobby that require the key technical and soft skills employers are looking for.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? 5年後どのような仕事したいですか。

This is a chance to show another side of yourself and build rapport with the interviewer. You want to come across as ambitious but be careful not to seem as though the current company you are applying for is a stepping stone in your career plans. Think carefully about your answer and how this position fits with your future career plans.

Do you have any questions for me? 何か質問がありますか。

This question will be asked at the end of the interview. You should always have several questions prepared in advance. Try to ask questions that can’t be answered simply from looking at the company website (you should know about the company inside out before the interview). Instead you ask insightful questions that underline your interest in the position and the company. At the end of the interview remember to stay polite and professional. There may be more small talk towards the end - this is still part of the interview! If you want to leave a lasting positive impression, shake hands firmly, maintain eye contact and leave the interview room with confidence. Also, don’t forget to follow up with a brief email thanking the interviewer for their time. Finally, it’s simply a waiting game from then on to see if you got the job!

Common Questions About Job-Hunting in Japan

I don’t live in Japan. Is it better to apply from overseas first or got to Japan first?

Moving to Japan without a job lined up can be a very daunting feat, especially if you don’t speak the language. For those that are still learning Japanese, it’s best to apply from overseas and receive visa sponsorship from your employer. This will ensure you have all the right paperwork for the work visa and you’ll arrive to a support network. Though it’s possible to come to Japan on a tourist visa then change it to a work one after finding employment, this requires a lot of paperwork. On top of this, you’ll also have to deal with finding an apartment and setting up a Japanese bank account, which is difficult to do without a job offer. If you have highly proficient Japanese, have technical skills and experience, you’ll have more luck than most finding employment in Japan. However without a network it can be tricky getting your foot in the door.

Though not necessarily planned, what many foreigners do is apply for the JET Programme and teach English for several years. While working as teachers they build up their skills and network and often find employment through connections.

I’m an English teacher in Japan but I don’t have any other skills!

Use your free time to study, pick up and develop a new skill set. Though having a well developed skillset, many companies in Japan prefer to train their employees in the skills they lack in. In their perspective, they are able to create their ideal employee! Since you’re in Japan you can also network network network! Networking will get you in the door much faster than applying for a position online. Japan relies on personal connections and prefer to build their workforce through networking.

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