The job hunting season, known as shukatsu in Japanese, has officially started in Japan as of March 1, meaning that senior college students are now looking for a job offer before they graduate. But this year, Japanese students have been offered an advantage over their predecessors thanks to one ad campaign that’s going viral.
How does shukatsu work?
The shukatsu process in Japan typically starts with job fairs and private recruitment seminars aimed at senior students in college. Companies hand out promotional brochures and make short presentations about themselves, and students who are interested in the company can apply by submitting a job application called an “Entry Sheet,” also abbreviated as “ES.”
There are as many different entry sheets as there are companies, but they usually include questions such as: “Why do you want to work for our company?” and “What was your greatest accomplishment in school?” If an ES passes the screening, then the student continues to the next stage, which varies by company. This could be an orientation, where they are given a more in-depth presentation about what it’s like to work at the company, another recruitment seminar, a group interview or a series of individual interviews.
Under intense pressure to find a job within the shukatsu framework (it’s much, much harder to find a job post-graduation on your own), students usually submit entry sheets to dozens of companies — some end up applying to hundreds — all with the anticipation that they will be rejected by the majority of them without really knowing why.
If that all sounds confusing that’s because it is. The whole shukatsu process has been dubbed a “black box” because nobody can see what’s going on behind the scenes. Different media have reported how too often entry sheets get rejected for no clear reason, the recruitment process is too competitive while also being incredibly vague, and some companies even straight-up lie to get a wider pool of students interested in working for them.
A peek inside the “Black box”
Given Japan’s growing labor shortage problem — not to mention the fundamental issues with hiring new graduates en masse to a supposed “job for life” — the shukatsu process is becoming increasingly mired in malpractice and questionable tactics.
One glaring example of the lack of transparency in shukatsu is how many companies claim to not look at what colleges students will graduate from, yet they open company recruitment seminars only to top Japanese universities like Tokyo University and Waseda University.
According to an article posted by NetGeek on March 2 last year, a student tried signing up for a recruitment seminar at an unnamed company as a Teikyo University student only to discover that the three seminar time slots were already full:
The text shows the date below a button that says “Full” for all three days.
However, when the student changed her school to Waseda University all of a sudden the exact same seminars were wide open:
The same dates are suddenly followed by a button saying “Accepting Applications.”
One Career is bringing transparency to shukatsu with a new ad campaign
Job hunting review site One Career recently started an ad campaign in the second busiest train station in Japan — Shibuya. One Career is a small 47-person company with one million monthly users and big dreams “to get rid of disparity, lies, unfairness, and opaqueness using the voices of every job hunter and to make shukatsu transparent,” according to their website.
The first step they have taken towards that goal is to bring transparency to the entry sheets that pass screening by offering 36,000 copies of successful entry sheets to the public, completely free of charge. You can pick some of these entry sheets out of boxes attached to their huge banner ads.
With 1.2 million people passing through Shibuya station every day, it is a prime location for 2020 graduates to see successful job applications for various industries, including IT and advertising. This knowledge of what entry sheets pass screening will then help them develop their own ES to improve their odds of getting to the next stage.
Companies and individuals alike are showing their support
People passing by the ad are also praising it, using the campaign’s hashtag #ES公開中 (meaning “entry sheets open to the public”) to encourage job hunters to utilize this invaluable resource.
Taisuke Kake, who works at the Japanese gaming company Gaiax, voiced his endorsement of the campaign on Twitter:
— 掛 泰輔 | 「仲間」を呼び込む採用マーケティング (@TaisukeKake) March 1, 2019
“This #ES open to the public ad in Shibuya Station is becoming a hot topic. Bringing transparency to recruitment is easier said than done, probably because many companies would be in trouble if their recruitment process was made transparent, lol. But I hope this is the beginning of more companies saying, ‘we’ll be fine if there’s more transparency.’”
One company did respond in favor of the campaign — Cyber Agent, a major Japanese IT company. They wrote the following about One Career’s ad on their Twitter account aimed at new grad recruitment:
“ONE CAREER (@onecareerjp) is causing quite a stir in the shukatsu market. I went to check it out👀! (And I picked up some ES too, of course). This new initiative sure is interesting!
Also, this ‘IT Company C—’ looks a whole lot like Cyber Agent… lol
#‘ES open to the public’”
While there is a long way to go to bring equality and transparency to the recruitment process in Japan, this is a promising sign. With more companies embracing initiatives like this, hopefully, new graduates will experience more equality, know their value and be empowered in the first steps of their career.