All you need to know about job-hunting in Japan

Shūkatsu: Job-Hunting in Japan

Have you ever thought, “After studying at a Japanese university, I would like to find a job in Japan”?
Many overseas students share this desire, and in order to be able to fulfill it, you have to know about the “Japanese job-hunting system”. Called “shūkatsu” in Japanese (abbreviation of “shūshoku [finding employment] katsudō” [activities]), it indicates a specific timeframe dedicated to job-hunting activities–and its many selection steps–, a process whose style greatly differs from that of western countries.
This article will follow the chronological development of shūkatsu, i.e. for students graduating in April, after four years of study at university, to present the Japanese job-hunting process in its broad strokes before focusing on how it works for international students.
The Federation of Economic Organizations (一般社団法人 日本経済団体連合会) establishes the beginning of the employment screening period every year, so for clarity reasons we will take the example of students entering a company in April 2016.

I. Shūkatsu from A to Z

The simultaneous recruiting of new graduates is a common practice in Japan, and most students tend to enter a company straightaway after graduating. In order to do so, they start the shūkatsu process in their third year at university.

Until February, 3rd year in college

During this period, there are different methods for students to look into industries or companies that caught their attention, including attending company information sessions, seminars, and alumni visits, doing internships and researching on the Internet. You also have to look back on their student life, self-analyze and start preparing before being overwhelmed and pressed by time with the submission of résumés and interviews.

From March onwards, 3rd year in college
The actual start of shūkatsu

In order to avoid hindering your studies, companies restrain from starting their recruiting activities until March. Still, shūkatsu support websites (Rikunabi, Mynavi, en, etc.) open their doors around that period and enable the submission of entries to companies. Then, documentation regarding information sessions, company guides, recruitment, and such is sent out by companies to students who submitted “entries”. You must remember that sending an entry is different from an application; it sends companies a declaration of intent, basically conveying your interest in their activities. Furthermore, each corporation’s website provides information on its recruiting activities. Since the number of corporate information sessions greatly increases over that period, all of a sudden shūkatsu becomes rather hectic and time-consuming. While gathering detailed data on companies–their work, achievements, recruits, etc.–you need to start concentrating your aim an industry or companies of interest. Regarding corporate information sessions, attendance becomes compulsory as you progress along the selection process.

From June onwards, 4th year in college
Résumés and entry sheets

In addition to résumés, some companies also request the submission of an entry sheet (ES). ES require more than simply filling out your academic background and achievements, you have to write about your accomplishments during your student years, your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a variety of details.
June and July represent the peak period for submissions, and after passing the document screening step, you can now continue with written exams, group work and interviews.

From August onwards, 4th year in college

August will be the month with the largest number of interviews, of which there are two types: in groups or individually. Companies usually carry out an average of three to four interviews, but this number varies from one corporation to another, some of them even conducting up to ten interviews.
Also, other than interviews, group works are often established to see how you can actually work. Students whom the companies may want to recruit are informed of their “naitei” (内定 is a Japanese word which refers to an unofficial/early official job offer) by telephone, e-mail or sometimes even during the final selection. From October to winter, students receive unofficial offers, thus completing their shūkatsu process.

This wraps up the main process for students who wish to enter a company as new graduates. Yet, there may be slight changes schedule-wise, considering that some companies may carry out their recruitment activities over a different time period while others do so all year round.

We took the April 2016 graduates as an example to best illustrate the shūkatsu process. However, don’t forget that dates change depending on the school year, so you will have to check dates yourselves for other 2017 promotions onwards.

II. Is the Process Similar for Study Abroad Students Who Want to Job-hunt in Japan?

The number of companies looking to recruit international students increases every year. Based on a survey by DISCO, the ratio of companies employing study abroad students in 2013 was 35.2% and is expected to rise to 48.4% in 2014.

Still, although the barrier for working in Japan appears to be slowly lowering, shūkatsu is no piece of cake. The various steps noted above such as résumé submissions, written examinations, interviews and so forth are essentially the same for Japanese and study abroad students. It must also be noted that the difficulty doesn’t only reside in Japanese proficiency: other than linguistic skills, elements such as the capability to adapt to a different culture as well as communications skills are also greatly valued.

Effective use of job-related support websites and attending job fairs is the key to get over this difficult task. The main job support companies (Mynavi, Rikunavi, Nikkei Shushoku Navi, Gakujo Navi, etc.) all operate websites dedicated to shūkatsu for study abroad students, which makes information collection easier. Also, job fairs for international students are held on a regular basis in Japan and overseas. Making the best use of these services can be a valuable way for you to meet with companies that require your talents.

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