Ultimate Guide to Finding Jobs in Tokyo
In This Article
- The Old Job Hunt
- Job Hunting Is Much Easier
- Not Sure What to Do?
- 20+ Job Boards for Foreigners
- Full-Time Jobs for Foreigners
- Part-Time Jobs for Foreigners
- Networking in Japan
- Using a Recruiter
- Now Go Get That Job
Links to Separate Articles
Job hunting in 2008 sucked
When I was job hunting in Tokyo, Japan, for a non-teaching position a decade ago, it was tough. I had passed the N1 level of Japanese and had an N2 level of speaking. I had a degree and experience. But it was hard to find companies willing to hire someone who was not a fresh college graduate. Companies believed that their staff should work the same job for life; they didn't want someone who had a record of changing jobs.
Although I was hardworking, willing to put in 60 hours a week, open to feedback, wanting to learn, and hungry to develop a career after teaching for five years, being twenty-seven years old and looking for a full-time position at a Japanese company was not a good place to be. This was despite my Japanese language skills and job-hunting in Tokyo, which you'd think would have been full of opportunities. Companies back then wanted to hire fresh Japanese graduates, and westerners were stuck with either teaching, translating, or recruiting.
Easier Job Requirements for Foreigners Now
The great news is that 2019 is a completely new ballgame for foreigners. In 2008, you needed N1 proficiency just to get the interview. N2 was not high enough unless you had a great connection in the company who was Japanese. In addition to speaking near-perfect Japanese, you also had to have relevant work experience, be really sharp, and be a Japanese culture ninja because Japanese HR managers had many reservations about hiring foreigners. They did not want to be blamed if the foreigner did not perform or understand the “rules.”
Jobs in Japan for foreigners is now a seeker's market. Japanese companies are hiring many foreigners straight from Japanese school, university programs that teach in English, and visitors in-country on tourist or working holiday visas. Hundreds of foreigners whose Japanese proficiency is not at the (unreasonable) levels expected previously are getting jobs today. The biggest problem now is that companies are hiring foreigners, putting them in charge or marketing, sales, or programming, but really not knowing what to do with them in general.
What Are Some of the Job Market Changes in 2019?
Among the top reasons for the shift in the job market are, in my opinion, the decreasing population and resulting smaller pool of Japanese talent to choose from, the increase in the number of companies doing business overseas, the desire to not be left behind by competitors who are expanding to markets both domestic and foreign, relaxation of immigration policies and regulations, and the big influx of foreigners studying Japanese or vacationing in Japan - there were only two westerners in my school of 800 students.
In general, the Japanese know that they need to open up their country in order to stay competitive in the global economy. The bad news is that no one in Japanese top management has a solid plan for how this will work. They all seem to be trying to figure things out on the fly.
Do you need to speak Japanese?
Many jobs in Tokyo require Japanese language skills, especially if the targeted customers are Japanese or the employees will be interacting frequently with Japanese clients. Do foreigners really add a competitive advantage in these fields where the target audience is Japanese? You may think you can, but from personal experience and humbleness, I have only seen very few foreigners succeed at this, and I am not one of them even with N1 level Japanese. I only mention this to help you focus your attention on jobs where you can bring a competitive advantage over hiring a Japanese person.
The positions that do not require Japanese skills are those with primarily foreign customers, those with few Japanese clients, very high-level positions with a Japanese secretary or staff to handle all the Japanese interactions, or teaching English in Japan. Many foreigners who don't speak any Japanese are able to get full-time positions in 2020.
That's not to say that Japanese isn't required at all. Many businesses now cater to the needs of foreign residents and tourists in Japan, and the numbers of these customers are rising. This creates more jobs suited to foreigners who speak those languages. But you'll still want to be able to communicate with your supervisor and coworkers, and knowing at least conversational Japanese (N3 level is the new standard) will help further your career.
Do you need a Japanese resume?
It always helps to have a resume ready for any employer who asks. Not every position requires one, particularly the part-time jobs. However, you will need a Japanese resume for any positions that require a more-than-conversational level of Japanese (N3+), or if you go through the recruiter route.
Can I apply for jobs from overseas or with a tourist visa?
Short answer: Yes. However, please consider the following points.
Before you start the job search, learn about the Japanese visa requirements. Seldom is anything worse than finally securing the perfect job only to discover you can’t start because of immigration requirements.
Searching for a full-time position from overseas means that you will have to expend far more effort to find a position than someone searching on location. You'll go the same basic route, but you’ll have to double-check every posting to ensure that an individual company hires from overseas.
Some good news is that JobsinJapan does have a section where you can check for positions that accept applicants from overseas here.
One of our interns attended a job fair for teaching English in Japan; read all about it!
Experience is Not Needed for Working in Japan
Having relevant work experience always helps, but there are many ways to find a job in Tokyo when you don't have industry-specific experience. Let’s say that the only job field you've ever worked in is teaching, but you've watched videos about a particular industry and are interested in marketing. You could take some free online courses on coursera or start building your own Facebook or Instagram channel. If you apply what you've learned and build your following to around 1000, this shows the hiring managers you're sending your resume to that you're sincere about entering a different industry and are taking steps to make it happen.
Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes.
I sometimes meet foreigners who have more than 5000 followers on YouTube or Instagram and no experience outside of part-time jobs. If they were to ask me for an entry-level job position in marketing, I would have no hesitation in introducing them as a potential marketer. They took action to learn and proved they could get results.
You'd be surprised at what experience you have that recruiters become excited about. I (Diana) have held a number of jobs over the years that were basically filler positions as I searched for the right job. While at a job fair for teaching English in Japan, the skill that gained the most attention was the "filler" item on my resume - my sideline in writing fiction. Since I'm a far cry from a best-seller, I didn't think much of my books. You'd have thought I had a Pulitzer from the way recruiters zeroed in on what I considered an excuse for not having a "real job".
I've also sung semi-professionally for the local opera company as chorus or small roles - nothing major. That's valuable experience when applying to teach in Japan, even though I never had a main-cast role outside of school productions. Teaching involves being in front of an audience and reciting lines; that is, speaking and demonstrating information. Any performing arts experience will give you a leg up because recruiters will know you can handle the spotlight at the front of a classroom.
I had jobs behind a desk, in grocery stores, waiting tables, and in sweatshops. All these added up to being versatile, adaptable, and able to provide amazing customer service to the most difficult people. These are the skills that impressed the recruiters, not my teaching certification or (brief) classroom experience.
Don't discount your experiences or the jobs you took to get by. Everything contributes to your ability to provide a unique and valuable experience to your future students.
More foreigners are starting companies in Japan
Today, Japan has lots of companies owned and/or operated by foreigners compared to a decade ago. In previous years, even foreign-owned companies focused on hiring locals and other Asian employees rather than Western foreigners. But with the increased number of English-speaking foreign company owners from all over the world comes more opportunities for foreigners in Japan.
Some of these current entrepreneurs may not even target Japanese customers despite being based in Japan. For example, with the car export industry, their main target is to sell and export used cars from Japan to all over the world. Even though the corporation’s main office is in Yokohama, employees would be primarily on the phone, speaking with customers who are not in Japan. Foreigners in these positions don't have to learn Japanese language, business culture, or customs, and only need to focus on the targeted customer countries.
Here are some companies created by my foreign friends:
Here are some companies I created:
More Japanese are creating companies that target foreigners
Japanese natives have also begun creating more businesses aimed towards foreign customers. In the past, most companies targeted Japanese customers and had no need to hire non-natives for customer service positions. Last decade, most of the jobs going to foreigners were either in the eikaiwa or manufacturing industries.
Currently, Japanese businesses are focusing on specific countries, meaning there's most likely some business that targets your country or the region. You could narrow down your job-hunting field for a fairly simple reason: creating a business that targets foreigners will always be outside of any Japanese person’s core strength and knowledge. An outward-minded business will need to find talent that knows the specific market, and that gives you an advantage over foreigners of other nationalities and fresh Japanese university graduates. Depending on the company, you may even have an opportunity to jump quickly into a managerial position or a role with responsibilities.
Choosing the right career path
Start your career journey by considering where you are in life and what your specific needs are. Don't limit your thinking to only the anticipated job; factor in what your personal needs are.
Say that you're moving to Japan with your Japanese spouse and child, and you're expected to be the “breadwinner” of the family. Do your skills meet the demands of the employers? Do you have a specific requirement for your living situation that you expect to pay more to meet? What's the lowest income you could survive on? Do you really want to survive on so little money?
Consider the type of job that would be a dream to have. Does the job market have that type of job? Could you work another job while you wait for that dream job to appear? Do you need to create a savings account for an expected expense? Are you in a phase of life to take whatever is available, or do you need a specific employment?
Know what you need before you start looking so you don't waste time with jobs that won't improve your life or will set your career back by several years.
Think about what industry you want to work in
Your particular situation affects what job you should take, and knowing what industry you want to enter will help you develop the most effective network. Also, the more networking events you go to in a narrow field, the more you will run into the same people, and the more they will get to know you. It won't help you land a position to run all over the place, going to events outside your desired field, so choose your direction first.
Doing proper research on companies
When you're in your early 20's, you often won't know exactly what you want because you haven't experienced many work environments. When you've held a variety of positions and heard from other people who had great and bad jobs, you'll have a clearer idea of what type of boss and company you want to work for.
I often meet foreigners who dislike their position and/or company. In most of these cases, they found their job here in Tokyo through one of the traditional ways: an agency, jobs fairs, online ads, or other platforms where companies pay to find workers. The most common reason I heard for a person not liking their job was they prioritized finding any position over finding the right position. They also didn't know or understand the company culture they were getting into before signing the contract.
Typically, their main goal was to find a company that would sponsor a work visa. In the end, they got what they wanted: a work visa. And they got little more than that. Their goal was not to find a company that offered interesting or challenging work, so they ended up finding a position that was neither. Tough love from an older brother here, but you usually get what you're looking for.
To find the good jobs in Tokyo, first know exactly what you want. Then think backwards to guide your research so you focus on jobs that are relevant to your goal. Present a clear message about who you are and what you are looking for in your resume, LinkedIn profile creations, and networking. Many companies will still say no to you because they can see that your needs and theirs don't align. Eventually, though, you will find a company that says yes because you match more strongly than the other candidates. This is how you find a position where you can grow and where you'll want to remain in for multiple years.
Finding an inspirational workplace is tough
Many Westerners, especially Americans, want a job in a workplace that is inspiring. An inspirational workplace is one where the top leaders know exactly what their vision and goal is, and they're excited to find the right people to join them for the journey. People who are inspirational don't want to hire a person who doesn't have their own vision and/or goal. They want to share their journey, not drag an indifferent person around.
The unfortunate paradox of the work environment is that the people who need inspiration won't attract the attention of the inspirational workplace. If you want to work someplace that makes you glad to get up and go to work every morning, you have to create and hold on to your own inspiration. Outside sources definitely help get the excitement going, but they are not long-term providers. I don't want you to waste months, years or decades of your life working a job that doesn't bring you joy.
Know what you want and go hard after it. You'll find the inspirational people along the way.
Final words on research
A word of advice for the time it takes to find that amazing dream job: if you must take a job to make ends meet, choose a company where you will gain experiences that are transferable to other industries. This will give you an edge on the competition for finding a better position going forward.
Before you go for an interview, make your own list of the best traits and the worst traits of companies and work environments, and use this going into an interview. This gives you a basis and structure to find what you are looking for and prevent you from making an avoidable mistake.
Full-Time Jobs for Foreigners
What full-time positions are there for foreigners?
In this article, we provide the types of jobs in Japan for foreigners that you can apply to. Here is a big list of positions that do not require Japanese skills:
- English teacher
- Car export staff
- Study abroad staff
- Apartment and housing staff
- Hotel staff
- Hospital aid staff
- Relocation staff
- Tour guides
Full-Time Travel Agency Jobs
Travel agencies want foreigners on staff to assist with non-Japanese clients. Salaries and benefits are based on experience, and they're frequently competitive. You get to help individuals and companies book travel experiences, and you'll often get opportunities to travel yourself.
Full-Time Translation Jobs in Tokyo
Most translation jobs were full-time ten years ago because there weren't many foreigners who could speak Japanese, but now positions are a mixture of full-time and part-time. The unique thing about this field is that it doesn't involve any Japanese. Most of the documents or writings have already been translated from Japanese to English, and all they need is employees to translate those articles from English to your native language.
There are many travelers to Japan from European countries, and few of them speak Japanese. This means that you, as a native speaker of that language, have an advantage for getting hired. Asian languages tend to have an abundance of translators to and from English, so the most important documents have already been converted for those languages.
Be aware that many places want to hire someone part-time at first and see how well they can translate before offering full-time, so don't despair if you don't see many posts for full-time.
Here are some places to find translation jobs:
Full-Time Marketing Jobs in Tokyo
There were almost no marketing positions available for foreigners in 2010, but luckily for you marketing is currently a high-demand position. In years past, Japanese companies hired Japanese employees to market to a foreign population, and that seldom worked as well as expected. Learning from this experience, more Japanese companies are hiring people from the target country or region to lead and develop marketing strategies.
From the business standpoint, bringing in foreigners to their headquarters in Tokyo to spearhead marketing has not played out the way most companies expected. The problem for many not-huge companies is that upper management doesn't understand marketing and can't train new recruits on how to do it. They tend to avoid hiring experienced marketers because they're not willing to pay the higher salaries needed to attract proven performers.
What often happens is that these companies hire foreigners whom they like and assign them to do marketing, but they don't provide any clear vision beyond “bring in customers.” If you ever interview for a marketing position (especially you new grads out there), always ask what the marketing budget is. Avoid any companies that expect you to do marketing purely through free channels and/or without a budget. It takes money to bring in money; ground-up organic marketing is tough for any new hire.
Nonetheless, there are still many job opportunities out there in marketing:
Entry Level Marketing Positions in Tokyo:
Mid to High-Level Marketing Positions:
Extra info - Marketing networking groups in Tokyo
Jeff and Sayuri run the Tokyo Digital Marketers meet up group with regular monthly meetings. This is a great group for people who already know marketing.
For the newbies - Japan Association of Marketers or JAM has great presentations for people who are starting out or interested in marketing. The organizer is very entertaining!
Full-Time Computer Programming Jobs in Tokyo
There are plenty of programming positions available in Tokyo for those who don't speak Japanese. Programmers are few and far between among the Japanese population, and companies both Japanese and foreign can't find the number of local IT employees they need to expand their businesses.
The number of programming academies and schools for beginner-level foreigners has recently increased. The coursework will enable you to operate on your own and find employment as an entry level programmer. These schools charge a hefty tuition but provide intensive courses; you'd have to quit your current job to attend this full-time study. If you need to keep your employment while taking IT classes, there are alternatives that are less intensive but take much longer.
Most of these programming schools have a connection with companies who hire entry level programmers, so make sure to consider their ability to teach you and help you find programming jobs in Japan once you graduate the course. Most likely, they will introduce you to companies that have recently received a subsidy from investors to expand the business.
Here is a list of programming schools in Tokyo:
Here are some places to find coding positions:
Last but not least, here's a great article on getting your first programming job in Japan.
Full-Time Sales Jobs in Tokyo
There are some companies in Tokyo who hire foreign sales staff with no Japanese skills. These positions are limited, but they exist and pay well. Most are with technology companies who want to sell software to large corporate clients. Foreign English textbook publishers like Oxford and Cambridge also hire sales people from time to time, and you can find their positions on GaijinPot.
If you are bilingual, you have more options for sales positions. Be aware that most companies who want to sell to Japanese clients will normally just hire a Japanese person, unless your Japanese and knowledge of Japanese culture is phenomenal. You can check sites like career cross for the bilingual sales positions.
Full-time Export Business Jobs in Tokyo
There are many companies involved in exporting goods from Japan to a country near you. The most common type of export business that hires non-Japanese-speaking foreigners is the used car industry. Companies in Japan export used cars, trucks, and other vehicles to foreign countries. They are looking for staff to serve as customer support, using your native language or English to find clients in your home country.
These jobs can be tough because you have to learn export law and tariffs. You also have to work when your client is working, so you may be in the office during some strange hours of the night. People in customer support positions don't make much, but you can find employers who accommodate your schedule preferences.
Service Jobs in Japan
Full-Time Study Abroad Support
Japanese language schools are always looking for foreigners to join there school. There are companies like GogoNihon, which matches foreigners with schools and these companies are looking for foreigners to bring in new customers and to take care of current customers in Japan.
Full-time Apartment and Housing Companies in Tokyo
Companies like Sakura House and Oak House hire foreigners, even those on a working holiday visa, for full-time positions. When I went there to see what they offered for housing, I was impressed to see so many people from countries all over the world. Those employees handle general emails in English and customers in their native languages. They did not need to speak any Japanese at all because they had a team of Japanese staff who could speak English. Since they are all receiving an influx of foreign residents, they are almost always looking for staff.
Some of these housing companies may offer discounts on housing for employees. Craigslist also has listings you may find helpful.
Full-time Real Estate Companies in Tokyo
Not all real estate sales positions in Tokyo require Japanese language proficiency. You will only target foreign individuals, companies, and investors who want to purchase property in Japan. Some of these people will be purchasing for personal reasons, while others are doing it for investment purposes. Search for active listings on Craigslist.
Full-time Relocation consultant jobs in Tokyo
A relocation consultant is a professional who oversees the largest portion of the moving process for an executive or high-level employee of a major company. These corporations normally pay the relocation costs, and relocation consultants support the new employee with everything from getting a phone, gym membership, moving companies, utilities, the paperwork for visas and registration, to nearly anything else involved with moving.
The time of these high-level executives is extremely valuable, and they want their minds focused on the company from the moment they sign the contract to the moment they arrive in Japan. They need the process of moving to Japan to be as simple as getting on a plane, having a private taxi pick them up at the airport, and arriving at a fully-set up apartment. Dealing with any aspect of the moving process takes them away from the job they were hired to, which means that you can be hired to do that process for them.
Note: Relocation consultants are not the same as Moving companies. Moving companies help you transport your furniture and possessions and are normally a one-person operation; they generally do not hire foreigners full-time. Relocation companies organize all aspects of the move and must have a full-time staff to facilitate the process. These positions do come up in internet searches, but they aren't frequent or consistently posted. Search for them on GaijinPot or JobsinJapan, and you might get lucky.
Full-time jobs in Japan for foreigners in the healthcare industry
I am very accepting of the fact that Japan has its established customs and methods and is often not foreign-friendly. Despite this acceptance, I am unable to recommend the hospital aid position unless you really need the money or a visa to Japan.
When you mix a stressful situation like the environment of healthcare with communication issues, you will have a lot of conflict and anger issues between the staff members. The Japanese staff are under tremendous pressure, and they often take out that frustration on the hospital aids. Working these types of jobs can be incredibly draining and difficult for foreigners.
Full-time Hospital Aide or Caregiver Positions in Tokyo
A hospital aid does caregiving work requiring a formal nursing education to accomplish. This will involve more of the individual care aspects of healthcare, such as lifting and washing the patients. You will be working in an all-Japanese environment, so if your Japanese is not good enough that you can operate on autopilot (without stopping to recall vocabulary or grammar), you will slow down your Japanese coworkers and they will get frustrated.
If you still want to pursue this industry, you can find listings here:
Recruitment Companies in Japan
When you join a recruitment company, you will be assigned to a particular field, such as biotech, finance, etc., and you will specialize in seeking out and contacting executives and employees in that field for your clients. Landing a recruiter position in Tokyo as a new graduate or young person is difficult unless you speak both Japanese and English fluently. Many recruitment companies in Tokyo resist hiring younger applicants because the pressures of meeting sales quotas are so overwhelming.
“Young guns" in the recruitment industry are actually in their late 20s and have multiple years of professional experience in the area they specialize in. People in their late 20s and early 30s usually have a clearer idea of what they want to do for their career, or they have dependents to take care of. Recruitment companies feel less anxious hiring someone who has a strong and clear vision of their future because that vision will help them survive in the competitive recruitment environment of Tokyo.
If you have never held a sales position, this job can be either a nightmare or a blessing. Sales is one of the hardest positions to do because you’re constantly being rejected by people who automatically assume you're wasting their time. Every so often, you find the right person at the right moment, and you get the joy of helping them find the position that provides the challenge they're not getting from their current company.
The recruitment industry has a very high turnover rate due to sales goals and the strictly black-and-white measurement of your performance. When you're starting out, the company will pay your wages and train you as an investment for the future, but they have to use the sales income brought in by other recruiters to do so. After your training period, if you aren't bringing in clients and money, then you aren't earning your own salary. Obviously, they can't wait forever, and you will receive additional pressure to perform.
If you're good at networking and making connections, you can make good money in the executive recruitment industry. However, the stress of meeting your sales targets and the need to do it again and again, month after month, is extremely tough. Thus, the high turnover and your increased opportunity to jump in.
Full-time Recruitment industry jobs in Japan for foreigners
Tourist Industry Jobs in Japan for Foreigners
Hotel Staff Jobs in Tokyo
There's a large number of hospitality jobs in Tokyo and all over Japan. Some high-end hotels in Tokyo want foreign staff to assist with their international guests. Some hotels prefer Japanese abilities, but in general they seem to be fine as long as you have conversational Japanese skills and business-level or above English language skills. Hotels positions outside of Tokyo are usually seasonal, with winter positions in Niseiko and summer positions in Okinawa.
The challenge with finding these positions, though, is that hotels use different names to describe the position, and you have to search for them all. Here are some of the names we saw: Front Staff / Hotel Staff / International Reservations Consultant.
Full-time hotel positions:
Mainly part-time positions:
Tour guides and travel planner jobs in Tokyo
Similar to hospitality jobs in the hotel industry, tour-based jobs in Tokyo are in abundance. Many require that you have conversational Japanese, but seldom more than that. Positions range from tour guides to travel coordinators. Travel coordinators manage the whole process of a trip, from pre-arrival to return flight, making sure that everything goes smoothly for the customers paying for a full-service sight-seeing trip. Tour guides oversee the actual tour, ensuring that customers get on and off in a timely manner at each stop.
Check out some listings here:
Part-Time Jobs in Japan for Foreigners
There are tons of part-time jobs in Tokyo for foreigners in the tourism and service industries that do not require Japanese abilities.
Check out our ultimate guide to part-time jobs in Tokyo, which introduces 22+ part-time jobs in Tokyo for foreigners that do not require Japanese proficiency. There are more companies than you might expect that hire foreigners, with some interesting positions like working at Legoland Tokyo and go-kart drivers.
What are the limits to doing part-time jobs
Depending on your work visa and company, you may have some limitations to the number of hours and types of work you are legally permitted to do.
If you're on a student or dependent visa, you can only work up to 28 hours, and you'll need to get work stamp from immigration. If you are married to a Japanese person or are the child of a native citizen, you are able to work any number of hours you like.
If you have a work visa, you are normally limited to work only in the area your work visa designates you to. If you have a "specialist in humanities" visa, you have more flexibility compared to other types of work visas.
People on a tourist visa are not allowed to work in Japan.
What type of part-time jobs are there for foreigners in Tokyo?
You can find positions as wait staff, cook, hotel receptionist, cleaning staff, fast food delivery, convenience store, retail store, modeling, and as a travel guide. Some coffee shops and cafes are looking for foreign staff as well, like Blue Jam Cafe in Daikanyama. If you can speak some Japanese, you might even be able to get a part-time job in Tokyo at an izakaya or one of the beef bowl places that pay more than $13 or ¥1,400 per hour for those who work after 10 PM.
For those with expanded skill sets, you can also find a part-time position in translation, freelance photography, design, programming, or marketing. If you are super lucky, you might be able to find a paid design or marketing internship. Our Caucasian and black male readers can also get a nice gig as a wedding priest. Think weddings in Las Vegas or Reno: the officiants work part-time performing weddings, and there's a certain look associated with the role. In Japan, Western-style weddings require a non-Asian male to act as the priest.
What part-time jobs in Tokyo pay the most money?
Freelance, translation, and wedding gig jobs normally pay the highest in Japan; as such, they require the most previous experience. For people in university or new to the workforce, your best options for high paying part-time jobs are in teaching children. You can find a job teaching adults, but part-time children teaching positions in Japan normally pay more than other types of positions.
What job boards do you recommend for Tokyo?
After my job hunting experience in 2008, I was surprised to find that there are now more than 20 job boards for specifically foreigners in Tokyo and Japan. Many of the sites can be found on Google, but some do not appear with a simple “jobs in Tokyo” search approach. You have to get a bit creative.
Luckily for you, our team at BFF Tokyo did the hard work for you and put together a long list of job boards and organized it based on the type of position.
Job Boards for all types of foreigners in Japan
Here's a list of job boards in Tokyo with a little bit of everything. If you're not targeting start-ups or mid-career positions, these are the places to check.
Start-up businesses are normally looking for sales people, programmers and developers, marketers, and designers. They may feature some other positions, but these are what most start-ups need. Once they become more established, they're more open to hiring for other positions. Here are a few places to check:
These jobs boards only cover English teaching positions, but have posts from all over Japan:
Entry Level Positions for Bilinguals
These are job boards that feature jobs for foreigners who can speak and read Japanese at the N2 and N3 levels.
Medium and High Level Positions
The job boards are for people with five to ten years in an industry and have a business level of Japanese. Please note that most of the positions are for Japanese native speakers who are fluent in English.
Part-Time Job Boards
The following part-time job board are really large and great for foreigners who are looking for positions where they can use Japanese.
Jobs in Japan Rocks
On a side note, we wanted to give a special shout out to Jobs in Japan. We are great friends with them, and they are the official job board of English Teacher Japan. They have a bit of everything and are definitely worth checking out.
Networking in Tokyo to Find a Great Job
I doubt you're going to like hearing this, but I have to say it. You're probably not as good at networking as you think you are. I thought I was good at networking until I met people who are masters of the art, and it made me realize that I was an amateur. Start from a mindset of humbleness, and you'll actually have an advantage in developing your business networking skills. Overconfidence can tank your future career as easily as lack of confidence.
Networking is like a spider web: the bigger and stronger your web is, the more opportunities and chances will come your way. It takes time and effort to develop a solid network in Tokyo (or anywhere for that matter), but knowing the right person can save you hours of panicked scrambling with one quick phone call.
Most of the best job opportunities in Tokyo come from a network made up of the right people. Companies are always looking for talented new hires, and even if the person you met doesn't have a job opportunity for you, they likely know someone who does. If nothing else, you'll get a warm introduction for a job interview. That actually counts for more than it seems, since you may be able to add the interviewer to your network.
You don't need industry experience to network with others in that field. It will be harder because people won't have a reason to speak to you, but keep making that effort. It will pay off.
Professional and career networking in Tokyo
To prepare for networking, the self-reflective questions I like to consider are, “What challenge or problem do I hope to solve by coming to this networking event?”, “What type of person would I like to meet here for business?”, and “What is my biggest pain point for business?” I often asked these questions to all the attendees I met and would look for opportunities to connect with them. Many attendees hadn't considered these points, and I was able to help them improve their experience at the event. In the spirit of karma, these people often went out of their way to help me after I helped them.
If you haven't decided on your target industry, then networking is probably going to be a poor use of your time.
People risk their reputation when they introduce a potential employee to a friend of theirs who is hiring. Making a poor referral will often have a negative effect on a business relationship, so don't expect a solid connection when you aren't sure what you're looking for. Successful networking revolves around understanding what the other person wants and aligning your needs with theirs. If what you each want isn't compatible, then it's up to you to look elsewhere.
Create your own consistent message about what industry, position, and company you're looking for. This will make it easier for influential people to connect with you; when you meet them again in the future, they will remember your stated goals. I experienced numerous instances as a manager when people would ask me if I were still looking to hire for a certain staff position and mention that they had a friend looking for a job that matched my hiring need. I have also received emails after networking events from people who wanted to introduce their friend to work at my company.
Finding a job is easy, finding a great one is tough.
Finding a position in Tokyo is easy if you have a University degree and can speak English fluently, so the challenge becomes finding a company that you actually want to work for. The most interesting and unique companies tend to hire new people through word of mouth and don't rely on job boards.
If you only search by browsing online ads, you're limiting your search. The companies who outsource to find people generally aren't as invested in their employees as those who have built a network to gain referrals by word of mouth. You can certainly find a job on a board, but your chances of finding the right job are much lower. This is why networking is so critical.
Networking is the most time-consuming way to find a position, but it provides you with access to opportunities that other candidates won't have. The bigger your network becomes, the more opportunities will come your way. Investing in developing your network is a great long-term solution to having stable and quality employment in Japan.
Developing a professional network is hard work
The next question is: how do I develop a network? Building a network involves meeting and helping a lot of people, both online and in person. There are many networking events on the website meetup.com that are business-related and job industry-specific.
Networking in Japan without work experience
Let's revisit the question of work experience. For someone who has no relevant professional experience, the best way to network is to read articles (like this one) that give you a straightforward view of the job market. The next-best way is to talk to as many people as possible about their company cultures. This is how you get a solid understanding of which companies are great to work for and which are not that great. People love to talk about themselves; you'll have no problem getting others to share about their work experiences.
You can begin your connections search wider than your desired field and talk to entry-level employees from many different industries. Use the information you get to solidify what you want. Then you can start focusing on the events for the specific industry that you're interested in. The more events you attend in one industry, the more you'll know what topics people talk about, and the more you sound knowledgeable and thus easier to introduce for a position.
Another hot tip: research the featured speaker for the event and ask questions related to your industry. More than half of the questions asked at these events are really generic and could be answered with a quick web search. Asking a question that references more than the "About" page on the speaker's website will set you apart from the other people in the room. You want people to take positive notice of you, and this will put a really good light on you.
Links to Networking Groups
Here are some places you can network with other people. I focused on choosing groups that have been active for 2 or more years.
General Business Groups
These groups are usually friendly to newcomers and those trying to make the jump.
The following two groups are for experienced HR professionals.
- Experienced Marketers - Tokyo Digital Marketings Meet Up Group
- Beginner Marketers - Japan Association of Marketers or JAM
Both are new groups as of this moment, so I am not sure how long they will last.
Entrepreneurship and Technology
Too many to name. Easily find them on Meet Up or Facebook.
High Level Networking
Are you a director or a senior level manager in your company? The event fees are expensive but worth it.
Using Recruiters to Find Jobs in Japan
Recruiters in Japan help people find really nice jobs in Tokyo, but they cater to two types of work positions. The first type of position is for those who have 8 to 15 years of experience in a certain field and are specialists in that area. The second type is for those who have just graduated University and are looking for entry-level positions. Different recruiters talk to each type of applicant, so the experience of each person will vary.
Before you search out your recruitment consultant agency
Many people don't realize that deciding to change your job is just as life-altering as things like buying a home. We've noticed that many job seekers are grossly under-prepared for finding a job in Tokyo through a recruiter.
Finding the right recruitment agency involves knowing what sector you need their help breaking into and doing a deep self-evaluation to find out what you want. We discuss the different types of recruitment consultant agencies in Japan and provide a checklist of self-reflection questions to ask before reaching out to them to help you find jobs in Tokyo.
Executive recruiters in Tokyo
Executive recruiters in Tokyo focus on hiring for positions four tiers up and higher: usually vice president and director-level positions for marketing, finance, HR, and other specialized positions. If you're an executive in a Japanese company, you're already being headhunted nonstop. If you're not being regularly contacted for these types of positions, then you're probably not an executive-level employee.
Corporations often use recruiters for higher-level positions because most executives aren't using job boards, are often very comfortable in their positions, and are not actively seeking a new position. Your job as an executive recruiter is to try to sell this executive on the benefits of jumping ship.
This is the cutthroat area of recruitment in Japan because of the money involved. Salaries are over USD100,000 and the kickbacks for recruitment companies are often 30% of the executive's first year's salary. The annual salary, not the monthly salary. It may sound like a lot, but recruitment companies have to pay for training new agents and non-performing recruiters.
The salaries for successful executive recruiters often surpass JPY10,000,000 annually, but this comes from a lot of hard work. They spend years developing their networks to the point that they get better-quality new candidates through word of mouth. New recruiters may not even make one successful introduction in a whole year.
You could jump into the thick of things by joining the recruitment company. Recruiters in Japan definitely make a lot of money, and once your net is wide enough, you won't have to go through cold-calling hell. If you can handle rejection and cold calling, you may be able to get a recruiter position in the executive end of recruitment.
Entry-level recruiters in Tokyo
On the other end are recruitment companies looking for foreigners to fill entry level positions. These companies focus more on quantity and have a wider search radius for candidates. If you're just graduating from college and looking for a starting position, or if you're an English language teacher who has high Japanese abilities, they may be able to find you a position in a Japanese company. These companies often hire foreigners from non-English speaking countries; if you can speak Japanese fluently, these agencies are the way to go for quick introductions.
One major flaw with this system is that recruiters get paid when a company makes a new hire and not when they find you the right company. Many times, your goals and their goals are not perfectly aligned. Recruiters charge a company for one month of a new employee's salary, much like how apartments require one month of rent up front. Companies have a set budget for salaries, so this cost usually comes from your first year's salary, not from a different budget line item.
One large benefit is that recruitment companies frequently do seminars on job interviewing, job hunting, and working in Japanese companies. Often, the training is very good because they want you hired as soon as possible so they can move onto the next person. Be aware that they sometimes charge a lot of money for certain seminars while others they offer for free. Some recruiters provide all this training for free. A little research goes a long way.
Here are some companies that assist with entry level jobs in Tokyo:
Recruiters do not provide introductions for entry-level corporate positions
Be aware that entry-level recruiters won't provide any introductions to large Japanese corporations. Large corporations generally use job ads to find employees applying for non-specific positions and then assign them after hiring. Additionally, they already have a team to do recruitment for entry level positions.
Entry-level recruiters normally work with companies that have more than 10 employees because companies with under a million dollars in revenue can't afford the introduction cost for new hires. Companies who use recruiting agents for entry-level positions usually have more specific needs than a larger corporation. Rather than hire a herd of people for undefined placement, they want a certain type of employee for a specific role.
Finding the perfect recruitment consultant in Tokyo
Now that you have done the personal deep-dive into what you want for your career, you are ready to interview recruitment consultants to find the best person who will help you find the right opportunities.
We prepared a list of questions to help you distinguish between a good recruiter and a bad recruiter and another set of questions to determine how knowledgeable they are. We hope you use this to compare recruiters before choosing one. There are more than a few low-quality recruiters in the Tokyo area, and we understand how disappointing they can be. However, we strongly suggest that you treat all recruiters' time with respect. You never know; they may be the ones to help you land a job in Tokyo in your time of need.
Personal experience with Robert Walters Japan
If I'm going to help you find some jobs in Tokyo, I need to practice what I'm preaching.
Years ago, I had been declining interviews to meet with recruiters from Robert Walters Tokyo over and over. They continued to send me job offers, and I received one just as we were preparing this using-a-recruiter-in-Tokyo guide. I decided to share my journey meeting a Robert Walters recruiter and provide some tips on how to prepare for your first meeting with a recruitment consultant.
Why Robert Walters Japan? I have friends who worked for them in the past and some friends who had just started working there. RWJ is one of the most famous recruitment agencies in Japan and is well known for professionalism. (Hey, maybe they will recruit me to do their PR with all this promotion!) Click the link above to read up on my experience with them.
Getting a Work Visa to Japan
The types of employment you can do depends heavily on what type of work visa you have. People with a work visa often can only work in one industry; one common example is for people with an instructor job in Tokyo. They cannot teach English outside of the specified education institute without a special exemption that they must obtain from Japanese immigration. There are many Japan visa types that are not work related, and we go into much more detail about all your options for coming to Japan in our ultimate guide to Japan visas.
Getting a Job in Japan - The Real Process
You will have one chance to persuade a company to give you a chance. Getting a job you love means standing out from the other candidates. We'll walk you through the whole recruitment process, from applying for jobs in Japan to interviewing for those positions.
The information in here also applies to part-time jobs in Japan. For more information on what part-time jobs are available in Tokyo, you can check out our Ultimate Guide on Part-Time Jobs in Tokyo here.
The first step to getting a job is to find a company and position you're genuinely interested in. Hopefully, as you've read through this article you've gained a clearer picture of your future career. We have many recommendations of where you can find a job, but we have to plug our friends at Jobs in Japan. They have a great selection of positions in Japan, from large corporations to small mom-and-pop shops. They also include a section that lists companies that hire from overseas and will sponsor a visa.
The second step to getting a job in Japan is to understand what an employer is and is not looking for in applicants.
You do not need experience for entry level positions
This is a great question to ask employers for jobs in Japan. Most major schools and dispatch companies in Japan hire people with zero experience or certification, so it's not a make-or-break point in the decision process. Nearly all of the big corporations have an average retention rate of one to two years; they couldn't fill all their positions if they only hired experienced and certified applicants.
Certifications aren't always necessary
Having an industry-specific certification definitely boosts your chances of getting a job. It shows that you're more serious about hiring in than the average Joe in Tokyo. This also helps to prove that you have the minimum understanding of the concepts used in your target business. Depending on what job you're going for, you might need a specialized degree or accreditation. Always check each job post regarding the minimum education required.
You do need experience or certification for higher-paying jobs
Some companies don't want to invest time and money into someone inexperienced. Their customers expect high quality from the very beginning, and these companies risk losing millions of yen by inserting an under-educated amateur. They offer more money and want someone who will stay longer than the average one-year period, and they offer perks to motivate employees to stay. Long-term employees are great for customer satisfaction.
Another example of a place that offer more money are universities, who normally only hire teachers with a master’s degree. High-level business lessons in Tokyo also start with higher wages, and getting a job there often requires specific business experience or business-teaching experience.
The ideal candidate
If I had to choose one characteristic for jobs in Japan, it would be reliability. Most employers have had their share of problems from people who treat working in Japan as a paid vacation. The customers are Japanese, and they expect from you and the company the same things they expect from other Japanese: being on time, polite, attentive, available, and clean. The bar isn't high; most companies want someone who will be on time, who will complete the contract, and who takes a shower daily! One unreliable employee can cost a company millions of yen by driving off both current and potential clients.
Some other examples of undesirable behavior include: being absent without giving notice, constantly taking time off, frequently taking the same day off, and not adhering to company procedures.
Writing Your Resume and Cover Letter
The third step for getting a job in Japan is to write an outstanding resume and cover letter. Eighty percent of cover letters are uninspiring and don't encourage follow-up. Someone who meets the minimum requirements and actually took the time to look at the company's website is an easy decision to move to the next round.
For non-native speakers
In my experience as a recruiter for jobs in Japan, most of the generic cover letters we receive are from people who are NOT from the US, Australia, UK, and the other so-called "native" English-speaking countries. I sympathize. Most companies aren't open to hiring instructors who are not from native speaking countries, so these applicants tend to just blast their resumes all over the internet. My recommendation would be to check if the company hires non-native speakers, do some research into their history and current model, and then send your cover letter. You want to focus on the places most likely to hire you and also distinguish yourself from others.
Ideal cover letter length
Keep your total letter to two or three paragraphs long. Four paragraphs are too many and one paragraph is too short. Good companies hiring for an entry level position are satisfied with something that covers the point concisely.
The first paragraph should focus on why you are applying for the position – you need to communicate why you want to work at company X instead of company Y without mentioning company Y. Example:
“I looked at the websites of many companies, and your website stood out to me. You provided great detail about your vision and team. It looks like your staff is passionate about [industry/product/service], and that's a company I want to work for.”
The second paragraph should focus on why you are suitable for the position – i.e. why they should hire you. Remember that you are applying for jobs in Japan; avoid mentioning that you don't really care about or that your dream is to do something else.
Your final paragraph should summarize the key points you made and remind the recruiter that you really do want this job. Express your confidence that you'll be talking to them soon. Example:
"I look forward to discussing your job requirements and my qualifications with you."
Close with a simple "Sincerely" and your name.
Common Resume Mistakes
Resume Mistake 1 : Addressing recruiters by their first name
Even if you already know the recruiter, don't refer to them by their first name. This can be interpreted as unprofessional by some hiring managers. For Western recruiters, refer to them by family name and title (Dear Mr. Johnson) or (Dear Hiring Manager) if you don't have a specific name to send to. For Japanese recruiters, refer to them by their last name + San (Tanaka San; Miyagi San) – referring to someone by their last name + San is the equivalent of using Mr. or Ms.
I personally don't mind being called my first name, but even I hesitate when someone refers to me casually in the first interaction or two. The caution comes from wondering if this person will be overly relaxed in other areas of employment.
Resume Mistake 2 : Sending generic cover letters
A generic cover letter starts out with "To Whom It May Concern", doesn't mention anything specific about the company, and was obviously sent to numerous other companies.
If you must send a generic cover letter, at least include the company name and website. Many recruiters automatically throw generic cover letters into the digital trash can. It shows that you aren't interested in that company; only companies who are desperate for staff would respond. A company desperate for employees is probably not a good place for you to work.
Resume Mistake 3 : Business selfies and other bad photos
Recruiters know when you use your smartphone to take your own photos. Ask a friend to take your picture from a short distance. At a minimum, use the timer to let you step back and avoid the selfie look. Also, use the light feature to create decent lighting. Entry-level positions seldom require photos, but if you're applying for managerial positions and can't demonstrate simple camera skills, then you come across as potentially unable to handle more complex operations. No group photos or travel photos as your resume picture unless you're applying for a tour guide position!
Resume Mistake 3 : Using chat speak and slang
I often see fresh graduates use internet lingo and unprofessional in cover letters, resumes, and email interactions. Examples of this include shorthand like “i c”, “gr8”, and trendy terms like “wicked” or “pimping.” Show you understand professionalism by using proper English in all your writing interactions. This mistake is not funny or "ironic" when you're applying for a job.
Resume Mistake 4 : Not including required details
Here's what recruiters want to know before considering someone for a position; include all of them if you want your application to make it out of the slush pile:
- Contact details and picture
- VISA type and work permissions
- How long you plan to stay in Japan
- What is your nearest train station if you are already in Japan
When under time constraints, a recruiter may choose another candidate over you simply because the recruiter doesn't have the time to pick through your application for the relevant information.
Resume Mistake 5 : Grammar and spelling errors
Everyone makes spelling, grammar, and typing errors. Not everyone makes time to double-check their communication before hitting "send." You spent hours making the perfect resume and cover letter, so why let them become worthless because of simple errors? This advice is on websites everywhere because people consistently refuse to use a spell checker. Prove to your potential employer that you can and do make good use of basic editing tools.
The internet abounds with free grammar-checking software; you can also use the tool built into Microsoft Word and/or Google Docs. Using a grammar checker is simple, and recruiters commonly complain about how both native and non-native speakers write emails and send cover letters with a ton of mistakes in them.
How can a small mistake result in you not getting hired? In the HR field, there's a famous expression: you're only as good as your last hire. A recruiter can hire twenty-five great people in a row and lose that reputation with one lousy employee. To protect themselves, recruiters are risk-averse. They use any excuse possible to disqualify a candidate, and that includes spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.
Recruiters spend almost twenty percent of their time filtering unqualified candidates. Spend a few minutes of your time getting into the eighty percent.
Resume Mistake 6 : Not including business achievements
If you don't learn anything else from this section, this is the one takeaway you need.
In my experience, ninety-five percent of those who apply for jobs in Japan only write their job description when explaining what they did for their previous company. This is relevant information to know, but it doesn't tell the recruiter what you're capable of contributing to their company. Use this opportunity to showcase your accomplishments rather than saying you met minimum expectations.
Example 1 : Job descriptions vs Job accomplishments
- Description: Taught students aged 5-12 once a week
- Accomplishment: Achieved a 95% yearly contract continuation rate with young students
There is a difference between merely teaching students and having your students continue year after year.
Example 2 : Job descriptions vs Job accomplishments
- Job Description: Typed up notes for company files
- Accomplishment: Created files with detailed notes on procedures for company-wide use
There is a huge difference between making files vs having your work used across the company.
Resume Mistake 7 : Not tailoring your resume
Even if you don't have any experience (or it's in another area), you can still tailor your resume for working in Japan. Since any industry is actually about servicing customers, design your resume around how you helped customers, increased customer satisfaction, and reduced customer attrition wherever possible. Reliability is a huge issue for hiring in Japan, so take every chance to showcase where you stayed at a position for a long time, your attendance and tardiness record, or took responsibility for a project.
Tips for improving your resume
The Interview Stage
Congratulations on making it past the tedious process of sending resumes and cover letters! Now is the time to prepare for the fourth step in this process: the interview. Your charisma and ability to answer questions are what will help you land a job.
Questions during the interview
The best way to approach an interview for any job in Japan is to allow them to interview you for half the time and then you interview them for the other half to see if it's a match. Asking penetrating questions is a good way to really understand the company and give them a clear indication that you want to do well in their company. You should also balance questions that you really need to know like taking time off and salary with questions that explore if you have the same philosophy as the company. Only asking questions that concern your benefit raises questions on how dedicated you are to making this a win for the company.
Tips for an interview with a Japanese interviewer
- Make sure to sit ONLY after the interviewer gives you the signal to sit.
- Make sure to answer their questions and not ask questions when it is not your turn to. It's considered disrespectful to ask the interviewer questions out of turn.
- Dress formally even if a Japanese interviewer tells you not to. I made this mistake twice!
Don't forget that Japanese interviewers look for different things than foreigner recruiters.
Questions during the interview: What not to ask
Those who hire for jobs in Japan want to know that you consider making their customers satisfied as your number-one priority. Questions that show you are interested in the company philosophy, philosophy, priorities, customer base and profile, and characteristics that separate them from other companies will give you a big jump ahead of other candidates.
Here are some generic questions from almost all inexperienced candidates. Most of the questions can be organized into categories of: you didn't check the website, what you want and not what the school wants, and asking pointless questions that show no thought or creativity.
Unnecessary Questions : The answer is usually on the website (or in the interview)
- How many hours do I have to work a day?
- Do you provide any training?
- Do you pay for transportation?
- Do I have to wear a suit and tie?
Self-centered Questions : Focused completely on the candidate
- How does taking time off work?
- When do you make salary payments?
- Do you allow employees to date one another?
Pointless Questions : Time-wasting inquiries
- How many employees do you have?
- How many managers do you have?
- Does it really matter if you agree with the company mission?
- Do you provide desk materials?
- Where do I park my bike?
Job hopefuls who ask self-centered questions at the first interview will usually be hired only by a company with a retention problem. That's not the kind of company you'll want to work for.
Questions during the interview: What you should ask
Selective companies don't hire people who are looking for just any job instead of looking for the job they truly want. The company you'll want to work for is one that hires as much on desire as ability. Here are examples of better questions:
Employees and training
- What separates a great employee from an average or a bad employee in your business?
- What are the main challenges I need to be aware of in my first several months?
- What parts of training do your employees find the most beneficial and why?
- What additional options do you offer for training after initial on-boarding?
- Do you allow interviewees the option to observe operations?
- What is your philosophy towards giving employees corrections?
- What is your company's philosophy towards using various languages on the job site?
- What is your philosophy towards manager to employee team ratios?
- What is your philosophy towards unpaid work?
- What are the main reasons why employees hire on with your business?
- What are the main reasons why employees stay with your business long-term?
- What do most employees like about working here? What do they find the most challenging?
- What is your company's mission?
- What separates your company from your competitors?
Critical interview mistakes that can cost you the interview
Fail 1: Not wearing professional attire.
You'd think this is common sense, but some people come with a t-shirt and shorts as a way of showing nonconformity. Save your time by either dressing up in professional attire or not interviewing for a company that stresses professionalism.
You can tell what the required dress code is just by looking at their website. If the people in the photos are wearing suits, you should wear a suit as well. At the least, wear a nice polo and khakis.
Fail 2: Not checking the website in advance.
I have interviewed many candidates who did not take the time to look at the company’s website. It was an automatic indicator that the candidate was not going to make an extra effort to learn without being forced or pressured to do it. They could have saved themselves several hours of extra effort by taking 30 – 60 minutes to check the website.
Many businesses in Japan have pictures of their location and general explanations about what it's like to work for them. Give yourself the basic education before the interview.
Fail 3: Taking control of the interview.
Many candidates don't understand that the recruiter has a set amount of time for each interview. Making the interview go longer because of constant interruptions, tangents, and questions is a good way to annoy the recruiter and potentially be considered disrespectful.
Let the recruiter take charge of the interview and blast through the details they need to confirm; use the remaining time to ask your questions. Once the recruiter has written down what they needed to know, they will be listening to you with an open mind instead of a mind distracted by the need to gather certain information.
Fail 4: Not practicing an assigned demo with another person.
Certain jobs will require you to show what you know, and the posting will indicate that. Some jobs, like teaching, assume that all applicants will have to present a demo lesson before the final decision. Again and again, read the posting thoroughly!
Many applicants mistakenly feel they can just practice the demo on their own and be fine. This assumption is wrong almost all the time, even for experienced workers. Approaching the demo as if you are NOT one of the few people blessed with innate ability will go a long way. Don't overestimate your abilities or underestimate the amount of skill and experience that goes into presenting the required information. Practice your demonstration for one or two hours with someone, and get their feedback on how you did. Then do the same with another person or group to get another perspective.
Even if your practice audience doesn't understand the technicalities of your field, they can help you with how you present. They can tell you if you're boring, rambling, don't speak loudly enough, or some have other issue.
Fail 5: Not assuming you are being evaluated all the time by everyone.
The person in the elevator. The staff member who picked you up. Everyone you meet may have a say in you being hired or not. Be polite to everyone you meet and introduce yourself. Fails include hitting on the co-worker of the recruiter, making negative comments to a fellow candidate about the company in the bathroom, and demanding that staff call the recruiter after waiting for only three minutes.
Fail 6 : Misunderstanding the definition of casual
Dressing casually does not refer to wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. Come with nice jeans and a polo shirt (depending on the company) or dress shirt without a tie instead. It's really hard to overdress for an interview in Japan.
Fail 7 : Coming too early
Avoid coming more than fifteen to twenty minutes early; you may be interrupting the staff or recruiter from their normal work flow. Try to arrive around ten minutes early if possible. I personally do not mind when an applicant comes in early, but different recruiters have different preferences. Arriving ten minutes early will ensure you start the interview on a high note, no matter who the recruiter is.
Fail 8 : Poor body language
Definitely avoid any overly-relaxed or dominant behavior, like putting your arms over something or crossing your legs during the interview. Another thing to avoid is crossing your arms or other forms of defensive body movement. The goal for interviews is to create rapport and not distance! Keep your body language open and focused, and the recruiter will know that you're serious about hiring on.
Translating the real meaning of interview questions
Most recruiters in the same industry look for the same things. Recruiters look for someone who is reliable, will not break the contract, who can adapt to working in a Japanese work environment, and who is professional in conduct.
Translations for commonly asked questions by recruiters in the interview :
1 : Why did you come to Japan?
Translation 1: Are you planning to stay in Japan long-term?
Translation 2: Do you like Japan enough so that you will not break contract and go home?
2 : Can you speak Japanese?
Translation 1: How much do you like Japan?
Translation 2: Are you dedicated and disciplined?
3 : Where do you see yourself in five years?
Translation 1: How long do you plan to be in Japan?
Translation 2: How likely are you to break the contract and run home to your country?
4 : Why would you like to work for our company?
Translation 1: How can you benefit our customers?
Translation 2: Do you like helping people? How would you like to help people?
Translation 3: Are you a caring person who likes to help others?
5 : What do you like about Japan?
Translation 1: How well do you know Japan?
Translation 2: Do you have a superficial or deep interest in Japan?
Translation 3: How long do you plan to stay in Japan?
6 : What do you dislike about Japan?
Translation 1: Is this person able to see the positive and negatives of a situation?
Translation 2: Is this person unsuitable to work in a Japanese company?
Translation 3: Is this person accepting of cultural differences and playing by Japanese rules?
7 : What are your weaknesses?
Translation 1: Is this person aware of their weaknesses?
Translation 2: Does this person notice the weaknesses that I notice?
Translation 3: How does this person respond to challenges?
Translation 4: Does this person make an effort to improve/overcome their weaknesses?
Translation 5: Does this person expect others to accept their weak points?
What are the signs of a good interview?
Compliments from the recruiter
When a recruiter compliments you, you need to listen carefully to what they are complimenting you about. They could be complimenting on criterion or areas that are relevant to the position itself, or they could be referring to something outside the scope of the job. A compliment about how you did in the interview is not a guarantee you will be hired, but is an indicator that they either liked you or were impressed by you.
Compliments about a specific skill need your attention. If the compliment doesn't relate to a skill required by the job, consider it neutral. For example, I routinely compliment candidates on how well their YouTube channel has done or their number of Instagram followers, which is usually completely unrelated to being a good employee. If the skill is relevant for the position itself, that's a good sign. If I complimented someone on their job demo, there's a good chance that we're interested in hiring that person.
Any compliments about your work experience also need consideration. If you're applying for an entry-level position and someone compliments your five years of managing experience, their compliment may be “Wow; I am surprised someone as qualified as you is applying for this lower position.” The compliment is genuine about your experience, but it's not necessarily applicable to the position in question. Are they impressed that you can obviously do the job, or are they worried that you're a flight risk?
Signs of urgency to hire you
I have to start this off with a huge caveat, because this could be a great sign or terrible sign about the company. Japanese companies like to take their time with the hiring process, and changes to that method must come with critical analysis.
Thinking positively, if you are someone who matches the experience needed, culture, and personality of the company better than the other candidates, a Japanese company might allow you to skip their traditional, cautionary approach to hiring. In this case, the Japanese recruiter is thinking, “I want to hire this person before they get hired by someone else, so I need to act quickly.”
Thinking skeptically, the company may be in a desperate position, and they need to fill in the position as soon as possible. My general thought is that if a company is rushing through the hiring process for a single applicant, eighty percent of the time it means they have an internal deadline.
A quick note: interviews conducted in Japan by Japanese recruiters are different from interviews elsewhere. If you're applying from overseas and have a local recruiter conducting your interview, then the standards of your country would apply to the speed of the hiring process.
Extending the normal interview time
Most recruiters have a set amount of time to conduct each interview based on the position and stage in the interview process. A recruiter extending the normal interview time from the second interview onward is a good sign that they are interested in you for the position. The first interview isn't a good measure of your chances because the recruiter is most likely merely being polite in extending the interview.
You can take the initiative to prolong the interview by asking insightful questions and ensuring that you've answered all of their questions. At the end of the interview, ask them how long most their interviews go and apologize for making them go past that time. If they respond with a “it’s ok” or a genuine compliment, it's a sign that the interview went well.
Moving to the next stage of the interview
The sounds obvious at first glance, but applicants often underestimate how much it means for a recruiter to pass you on to the next-level hiring manager. If you get the next interview, it means that they are, at a minimum, somewhat interested and at least willing to spend money in labor costs to give you another chance. Most companies are not going to waste salary on an applicant who has no chance. The worst-case scenario is that they like something about you, but there is something that they are suspicious of and need more time to figure out.
Spending extra time doing small talk at the end
In about fifty percent of interviews, the recruiter immediately knows if you will get the position or not. If they know they will not hire you, they will most likely not spend a large amount of time making small talk after the interview. Recruiters have to meet a monthly quota and manage their time carefully. In the other half of interviews, they genuinely will not know if they can hire due to factors outside their control. For example, having too many good candidates or a popular former employee suddenly requesting to come back can throw off their estimation.
What actions should I take after an interview?
Always follow up after an interview
If you are honestly interested in the position, you should contact the recruiter once you reach home and mention why you would like to join that company over other companies. I personally recommend interviewing at least two different jobs, so that when you express your reasons for wanting to join one company, you can use the other company as a basis for why company A is more suitable for you. Avoid sending an email by mobile phone; always send important emails by computer.
The above applies even when you have already scheduled the following interview with the company. If you can write a memorable message, they are more likely to continue to think about you even after they interview more candidates. Applicants will usually remember the interview more vividly than the recruiter will. Recruiters often remember their most recent interview, particularly when they have multiple applicants. For this reason, sending an email on the same day or one day later is a great way to keep you foremost in their mind.
Follow up if they do not respond by a promised date
If the recruiter does not respond by a previously promised date, state your interest in the company again. Give a short follow-up note by saying something like, “I understand that you have many demands on your time, and I wanted to quickly follow up with you about the scheduling of my next interview. I'm available on [DATES] and [TIMES]. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.”
Give a brief reason for your interest in the company to tie it off. You don't need to go into the detail you used in the post-interview email, but show that you are not passive and are truly interested in the position.
Balancing multiple offers
This is question is highly context-based, and you need to read the situation carefully to determine the most profitable course of action.
Question : Do many people want to work at that place?
If the answer is yes, then that employer probably has a good work culture, the staff are probably satisfied, and people know the value of working there compared to other places. If this is the case, mentioning that you are considering other places means that you are not sure if they are the right place for you. They will probably not wait for you and will hire someone else in the time you're exploring other options. To be clear: they will hire someone whose first option is their workplace. Depending on when you contact them, they may be willing to wait three to five days for you think about the decision. But don't bet on it.
If the answer is maybe or no, then you have the luxury of juggling your options. Any place that doesn't normally hire through referrals is probably used to hearing candidates mention that they would like to explore other options. They'll probably wait up to two weeks for you, but no longer.
Tip : Check out multiple places while job hunting and interview for your second-choice job first. One, you get to practice your interview techniques and get some experience in the "hot seat". Two, you will be able to put the second-choice employer on hold as a backup if your first choice does not go through.
Question : What is your skill level?
The general rule of thumb is: the greater the impact you'll have on the business, the longer they'll be willing to wait to give you time to think. The salaries and responsibilities are much higher, so it's normal that you would be given more time to think.
If you're applying for an entry-level position (level 1), you can probably negotiate for up to three days and a maximum of 2 weeks. If you're going for a team lead job (level 2), you might be able to negotiate over one to three weeks. If you're angling for a manger slot (level 3), you might stretch negotiations over two to four weeks, depending on your experience. And if you are on the director level (levels 4 to 5), you'll probably have three to six months to consider the offer because you can change their whole company, and they're willing to wait.
What decisions go into hiring someone for jobs in Japan
Hiring a candidate is not a simple yes or no question
The first thing that surprised me when I become a recruiter was the number of unseen factors to consider when hiring a candidate. When I was merely an applicant, I thought the hiring process was a simple "we have an opening and therefore we need one person to fill the spot" equation. These are some of the hidden reasons that affect hiring an applicant, from the company's viewpoint.
Unseen hiring factors
Factor 1- Internal Preference : We want to interview both internal candidates and external candidates for the position. We have a great external candidate, but we are waiting on a good internal candidate. We'd need to fill their shoes if we hire them for this new role, so we are delaying our response to the external candidate.
Factor 2 - Cultural Fit : We want to hire someone who would be a good fit for the team's manager - this may be different than the type of person I would hire for my own team. I must seriously consider if your personality fits with the team and/or manager, and that's not something I can answer during the interview.
Factor 3 - Stability : We want to hire this candidate because they're obviously the most talented. However, they might be a flight risk, so we will choose a slightly less talented but more reliable candidate.
Factor 4 - Diversity : This is more of an American company situation, but even Japanese companies may have to hit their diversity or gender ratio quotas to avoid criticism from their own employees and by the public. Under these circumstances, the decision to make hires is prolonged in an attempt to manage ratios.
Factor 5 - Timing : We need to hire someone for the position immediately. Unfortunately, the top candidate can't start for another three months. We can't wait that long, so we will choose the next best candidate.
Factor 6 - Longevity : Companies are not looking for people who want to work for one year and then go somewhere else. They want an employee whose goal is to work for five to ten years and will generally hire on that criteria before others. They aren't going to waste their training investment on an uncommitted employee.
Congratulations on making it all the way through our Ultimate Guide! We gave you a lot of information here, so don't think you have to have it memorized after one read-through. Come back as often as you need to and be the best-prepared applicant on the hiring block.
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