Guide to Job Hunting in Japan for Fresh Graduates and International Students 

WeXpats
2022/06/30

Want to work in Japan once you graduate from school? You may be wondering what job hunting is like in Japan. Japan has a very different and unique culture when it comes to job hunting for fresh graduates, it is wholly different from job hunting when changing jobs. In this article, we explain Japan’s unique job hunting culture including schedule and how to prepare for it. We also cover how to change student visa to work visa in Japan.


Table of Contents

  1. How to Find Jobs in Japan
    1. For Fresh Graduate Overseas
    2. For International Students in Japan
  2. The Unique Culture of Job Hunting in Japa
  3. Job Hunting Schedule in Japan
    1. Early Stages
    2. Job Hunting Start!
    3. Written Examination, Screening & Selection
  4. Preparing for Job Hunting in Japan
    1. Self Analysis
    2. Company / Industry Research
    3. OB Visit / Internship
    4. Improve Japanese
    5. Japanese Format CV / Resume
    6. Interview
  5. Procedure to Change Status of Residence
    1. How to Change Student Visa to Work Visa
    2. Procedure for Job Hunting After Graduation
  6. Takeaway

How to Find Jobs in Japan

Interested in a career in Japan after graduating from university? Whether you are an international student studying in Japan or a local university student in your home country, there’s always a pathway to chase your dream job in Japan. 

For Fresh Graduates Overseas

Although quite difficult, there are ways for fresh graduates to gain employment in Japan from outside the country. With the right qualifications, you can apply for positions online or visit international job fairs and/or career forums. 

If that path is too difficult, another common method to get into Japan is to start with studying Japanese in Japan and then go job hunting. 

For International Students in Japan

There are more options for international students in Japan when it comes to job hunting. There’s job hunting services, online applications, and Japan’s unique culture of shuukatsu that all local Japanese, and an increasing number of international students, do. 

The Unique Culture of Job Hunting in Japan

Job hunting for fresh graduate students works very differently in Japan compared to other countries. In most countries, there is no specific time or schedule to follow when finding a job after finishing studies, just apply whenever you want. In fact, many people like to go on a vacation after graduating to have some fun before starting job hunting and landing a full time job. When to apply to companies for a position is entirely discretionary.  

This differs greatly from Japan where people don’t have such luxuries. Job hunting, called 就活 (shuukatsu), usually starts whilst students are still in school. Furthermore, a rare thing in other parts of the world, Japan’s job hunting system usually hires a whole batch of fresh graduates at once. Large companies may hire hundred(s) of fresh graduates during job hunting season. 

In addition, some Japanese companies have a “lifetime employment system” where employees are employed until retirement age. Although usage of the system has been fading in recent years due to employment instability due to recession, it is still a system that exists. The existence of this system makes it more likely for fresh graduates over mid-career applicants to get a job in some companies. Something to keep in mind if you are an international student in Japan. 

Job Hunting Schedule in Japan

The start of job hunting in Japan varies depending on industry and occupation but generally it starts in the 3rd year of university.

Early Stage of Job Hunting 

In June of the 3rd year in university, it is common for students to join internships, research industries / companies, and self-analysis. Around 2 months of this should be sufficient before the real event starts. 

Joining internships is a great way for some real work experience and to promote yourself for job hunting. Wherelse, self-analysis and company / industry research is done to understand your personality / wants and to find an industry / company that interests you. Summer internships are usually from June to September; winter internships are from October to February of the following year. If you are interested in a company or a particular industry, you should definitely give it a try. 

Speaking of internships, we have an article about Japan internships that covers everything from the benefits, average salary, and internship programmes aimed at foreigners.  

You won’t have much time to do these when job hunting starts for real so start early. It’s important to have a clear vision of your future and industry / company before applying for jobs. 

Job Hunting Start! 

Job hunting in Japan starts 3 months before entering the 4th year of university. At the same time, companies will hold information sessions to explain what they do, why you should join them, etc. You should definitely participate to know more about the company and gauge what type of people they are looking for.

Also, companies will be open for entries so prepare entry sheets (エントリーシート), a type of application document similar to CV, for the companies you are interested to work at. Deadlines for submissions vary for every company so check carefully and make sure to submit by the deadline. 

Written Examination, Screening & Selection

Entrance examinations and applicant screening usually occur near the end of your 4th year of university, specifically the sixth to ninth month of your final year. The screening process usually includes an entry sheet, a resume, a written test, and an interview

If all goes well, students that pass screenings will receive a nainaitei (内々定 unofficial job offer) sometime in September. Students that received a nainaitei will be invited to a naitei-shiki (内定式) in October, an orientation for prospective employees where they will receive an official job offer. All that’s left then is to wait for the nyuusha-shiki (入社式 new employees entrance ceremony) in April. 

Preparing for Job Hunting in Japan

Proper scheduling and careful preparations are essential for successful job hunting. If you are an international student who’s not familiar with Japan’s job hunting customs, do take the time to go through the points below. 

Self-Analysis (自己分析 jiko bunseki)

The concept of analysing ourselves to find out our personalities, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc. is not a concept unique to Japan but when it comes to job hunting it is taken very seriously. Here in Japan, it is considered downright indispensable for job hunting and is the first step to job hunting. 

Self-analysis is an important task to gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Ask yourselves questions like: 

  • “Why did you come to Japan to study?” 

  • “What kind of job are you looking for?” 

  • “How do you see yourself 5 years in the future?”

  • “What are your deal breakers when it comes to choosing a job?”

Consider what working environment you are looking for, how you can contribute to society, and narrow down your desired industry and occupation. Don’t forget to look back at your past experiences and how you reacted in those situations. Note down your strengths and details of events when you expressed those strengths which will come in very helpful when preparing your resume and to appeal yourself in interviews. 

Not just strengths though, many people have trouble answering questions about weaknesses. Give concrete examples of events when you displayed your weaknesses and the lessons you learnt from them in order to better yourself.  

Company / Industry Research 

After finishing with your self-analysis, you would have narrowed down your choice of industry and the type of job you are looking for. The next step now is to research companies you’ll be applying for. Understanding the company’s vision and mission is important to determine your compatibility with the company. 

Make sure your research is thorough. Check the news, forums/social media for previous or existing employees comments, etc. With due diligence, you can uncover many things about a company including average salary range, benefits, employee satisfaction, corporate social responsibility, scandals, and more. 

You can also discover what talent the company is looking for which is helpful for preparing for your interview and resume. When hiring foreign nationals, companies usually seek special talents or skills that they cannot find in local Japanese. So keep that in mind and highlight your strengths. 

OB Visit / Internship

OB is an acronym for “old boy” that is used in Japan to mean alumni or former employee. Meeting with a former employee is a great way to hear first hand experience of a company’s atmosphere and workload. Especially information that would be omitted at a company’s information session or interview. Even if it’s not about the company, meeting an OB of an industry also gives you insight on how the industry works and whether it matches your expectations. 

Internships are not as relevant to the hiring process as compared to in Europe or the United States but it is an opportunity to clarify what your occupation of interest entails and how Japanese corporate culture works. 

Internships and OB visits are not compulsory for job hunting but it is definitely recommended.  

Improve Your Japanese Proficiency

Japanese companies require international students to have some level of Japanese proficiency. In JLPT standards, a business level Japanese proficiency of N2 is the minimum you should achieve. Depending on the company, a Japanese language proficiency certification may not be necessary as long as you can show you can read, write, and communicate without any problems. In fact, they won’t even ask if you speak fluently from the get go. 

Keep in mind that Keigo is important when it comes to working manners and business etiquette. Appropriate honorific expressions are particularly important in business and sales positions. Brush up on your Keigo and include business terminology in your everyday studies. 

Japanese Format Curriculum Vitae・Resume (履歴書 rirekisho)

The rirekisho is one of the most important documents that will be evaluated by the company during job hunting. You can read all about rirekisho in our article that covers how to write a resume in Japan. Learn the basic resume template, rules to follow, what information to include, and the dos and don’ts of your resume photo. 

Interview (面接 mensetsu)

After the written examination and screening stage, you’ll have an opportunity to talk with the company’s staff. When asked questions, base your answers on your entry sheet and resume for consistency. The format of interviews vary depending on the company, it can be a one-on-one interview, group interview, or even presentation type. 

It’s important that you first read up on how to properly prepare yourself for an interview so you don’t get too nervous and know what to expect. Interviewers will evaluate your appearance, speaking manners, motivation and eagerness to join the company, so be mindful of how you act at all times. 

As an international student, it is highly likely you will be asked questions about your Japanese proficiency, your expected period of stay in Japan, and even more personal questions about why you are here in Japan, why you don’t want to go back to your home country, and what do you like most about Japan.  

Procedure to Change Status of Residence

The next step after successfully landing a job is to change your status of residence. Very importantly, this needs to be done by the date of joining the company. Working full time is not permitted under the status of residence of “Study Abroad (留学)” held by international students. And technically, when you graduate from university, your status of residence expires as your purpose of stay is concluded. Generally, you will need to leave Japan in a month. Therefore, if you want to work in Japan, you will need to change your status of residence to a “work” one. 

The procedure to change your status of residence will take 1~2 months so do the maths and get it done before your first day of work. 

Note: If your change of status of residence cannot be done on time, you should promptly inform the company. Until the change is completed and you receive your new residence card you cannot work. 

How to Change Student Visa to Working Visa

Changing your status of residence from student to work needs to be done at the Immigration Services Agency. 

Previously a visit in person was required, but with the introduction of the Online Residence Application System it can now be done online provided you have a My Number card. You can read about it and online visa renewal here

The documents you require can be separated into 3 categories:

Prepared by you

  • Application for permission to change status of residence (applicant part)

  • Passport

  • Residence card

  • Photograph (4x3cm) with name written on the back

  • Resume

  • Reason for application (optional)

  • 4,000 yen (if application approved)

Prepared by your hiring company

  • Application for permission to change status of residence (organization part)

  • Copy of employment contract

  • Copy of certified copy of registered information

  • Copy of financial statement

  • Company pamphlet

  • Reason for hiring (optional)

Prepared by your school 

  • Original certificate of graduation (or certificate of expected graduation)

  • Results transcript

※ Immigration Services Agency of Japan, “Application for change of status of residence

Procedure for Job Hunting After Graduation

If you did not manage to find a job before graduating, and want to stay in Japan to continue job hunting, you can by changing your status of residence to one of “Designated Activities (特定活動)”.  

Designated Activities is a status of residence granted by the Minister of Justice to individual foreigners to permit them to perform specific activities.Students from overseas who have graduated from a Japanese university but want to continue staying in Japan to find a job falls under Designated Activities 9

The maximum period of stay for Designated Activities 9 is one year so you must get a job within this period.

The documents you require are the same as above sans hiring company documents. You also need to submit proof that you are continuing your job hunting activities. Proof can be in the form of a letter of recommendation to continue job searching from your university, entry sheets to company, and the like documents. Documents from university may vary from institution to institution, check and prepare in advance before applying.

※ Immigration Services Agency of Japan, “Designated Activities 9

Takeaway

Job hunting in Japan can come across as intimidating to international students since it is so different from home. Being prepared is the key to overcoming fear and anxiety of the unknown, and just like many others have, you will surely do fine. Do what you can, do your best, and you will surely have no regrets. 

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WeXpats
Here to provide a variety of articles from useful information about life, working, and studying in Japan to Japan's charms and attractive qualities.

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