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Japan: Job Search Overview

by GoinGlobal

Finding employment in Japan – aside from English-language teaching positions – can be challenging. Having contacts and networking is highly advantageous and is the best approach to finding the right position. It is important to consider timing when job hunting in Japan. Most firms have set hiring seasons, and April 1 is the traditional employment start date.

Traditionally, finding employment in Japan — other than English-language teaching positions — can be challenging, unless you are transferred from an overseas affiliate or already have established a residence and work history in Japan. Obtaining employment in Japan requires two things: clearly stated, marketable skills directly related to the job being sought, and personal introductions.
Having Japanese or foreign contacts in Japan is highly advantageous when searching for employment. With the right qualifications and connections, an interview may be nothing more than a formality. Without them, your best efforts may not be enough to obtain an interview. Networking is the best approach for finding the right position. Employers rely heavily on referrals for foreign candidates.
A significant increase in the use of executive search firms (or headhunters) since the early 2000s has provided much-needed services to those without the necessary interpersonal connections; however, many recruiting agencies work on a success-fee basis, and will only support candidates with the right set of skills.
In addition to executive search firms, online jobs sites and career fairs have surpassed traditional print media as the most prevalent means of securing employment in Japan. Use of the Internet has become the norm for job searches by both Japanese and foreign jobseekers. For those who already are located in Japan, combining this approach with a strong program of networking throughout the foreign and Japanese professional community will be the most effective means of securing satisfying employment. The best strategy may be to apply online for a fitting position and then arrange to have someone provide an introduction to the HR staff and hiring manager.
One factor you should keep in mind is timing. Most Japanese and many foreign firms in Japan have set hiring seasons and rotation seasons. April 1 is the traditional employment start date, which often does not match the timing of overseas university graduations. Mid-career hiring is becoming more flexible regarding start dates, but many opportunities still require or prefer an April 1 or October 1 starting date. The traditional timing requirement is beginning to change, however, as a result of several increasingly prevalent factors: a more fluid work situation; an increase in mid-career hiring and the use of executive search firms; and the decline of the lifelong employment system. Even so, in many cases the availability to start on a specific date — usually April 1 — can play a role in hiring decisions.


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