New Year, New Job in Japan?
By Liam Carrigan
On December 27, 2016
April is typically the peak hiring season in Japan. This is when a wave of fresh graduates from universities hit the working world for the first time. From an English teacher’s perspective, it’s also the start of the new academic year at schools, colleges and universities. as well as the peak hiring time for eikaiwa, or English conversation schools.
As with most things in Japan, those who take the time and trouble to plan ahead usually have an advantage when the time comes. Also — and perhaps more pertinently — the hiring process for many roles in Japan is somewhat protracted. So, if you’re considering changing jobs in April, then late November or early December is probably a good time to start working on your applications.
Most Japanese firms, and especially those in the education sector, do not like to leave things to the last minute. As such, the process, from my own experience. seems to follow this kind of rough timeline.
- Resumé screening, interview candidate selection, invitation to interview
- Initial meetings with candidates, normally in the form of an informal Skype chat or telephone call.
Late January/Early February
- Secondary interviews. Depending on the company in question, you may again be able to do this over the phone or you may have to attend in person at their offices.
(Note: Be sure to find out exactly how each step of the hiring process goes for any company you are interested in working for, and get this information as early on in the process as you can. If you’re an applicant from overseas, this is especially important.)
Late February/Early March
- Interview results and, hopefully, offers of employment are issued.
Brush up your resume
One thing that hasn’t changed throughout my time in Japan is that jobs applications here are always competitive. So how can you, as a new candidate, stand out from the crowd?
One important area is in how you present your resumé. It’s a common mistake to think that you need to stuff it with all the possible information you have available. Actually, good employers will value your ability to keep things simple, on point and easy to understand.
Good employers will value your ability to keep things simple, on point and easy to understand.
Last year I found myself job hunting for the first time in several years. As a result, my resumé needed a major overhaul. I was shocked to find that when I included all my experience, qualifications and additional information, it ran to more than six pages.
Some serious editing and redrafting later, I managed to get it down to two. Even then, some recruiters still told me that it was too long.
If at all possible, try to aim for a single page resumé. Also, remember to include a passport size photo on the resume. This may sound discriminatory to some people, but in Japan, unfortunately, it’s a must. Assuming you aren’t a Japanese citizen, make sure you also include your current visa status in your information, as well.
If at all possible, try to aim for a single page resumé.
Hopefully, once you pass the resume screening, the next step will be the telephone or Skype interview.
Prepare fully for the first interview
Here again, it’s the small, simple errors that often trip up even the smartest candidates.
If you’re doing a Skype call, make sure that you check all your connections in advance. Maybe get a friend to call you so you can check the clarity of the signal and quality of your camera image. Of course, the end result will also depend on the hardware and signal quality at the employer’s end too, but all you can do is be as best prepared as possible at your end.
When you do the interview, be sure to dress formally, as if you were showing up at their office. Unless, of course, you’re doing it over the phone, in which case, wear what you like!
Do your homework
A good prospective employer will be happy to hear your questions about the working conditions at the company. This shows the employer that you are self-aware and not merely an obedient drone. From your own point of view too, if you’re questioning throws up any potential negatives about working for this particular company, then it’s definitely worthwhile to consider other options and think carefully before you decide to proceed any further.
From my own point of view, the majority of problems I have seen workers in my field of expertise encounter in Japan have stemmed from either a deceptive or unclear policy on the part of the employer or a lack of prior knowledge on the employee’s side. Both of these unfortunate scenarios can be avoided if you do your homework ahead of the interview and ask the right questions when the time comes.
Finally, if all goes well and you get that offer of employment, take the time to consider it carefully before you sign the contract. One thing you probably won’t be able to do, at least if you are an English teacher, is to negotiate for better terms. As I said before, demand for teaching jobs in Japan is high, and as such pay and conditions are, in almost all cases, fixed.
As the old adage says — and I can’t emphasize this enough — make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.