”Job Hunting Troubles In Japan” Learning From A Student From The University of Tokyo

As NUMBERS of foreigners working in Japan increases, many foreigners choose Japan as their destination for studying abroad AND finding employment in a Japanese company. Mr. C is a Korean who we interviewed this time. He studied Japanese as a second language and PERSUADED his parents to go on to a university in Japan.  After that, he entered the University of Tokyo (the University of Tokyo is a public research university located in Bunkyo, Tokyo. It is one of Japan’s most prestigious universities.) and he will be working for a Japanese company from next year.  When we start writing like this, it might sound like a “Bragging Story” of an elite who is sailing smoothly, but during this interview, we were able to hear an unexpected “real setback experience job hunting in Japan”.

Father’s Influence. Wanting To Work In The “First World Country”

Mr. C, tell us, you are now attending the University of Tokyo. What are you studying?



I am studying economics, but I took classes in a wide field range. From mathematics-related subjects such as probability calculus to business administration-related subjects such as corporate governance.



What did you study when you were in college?



I studied economics just like graduate school. I wanted to take over my father’s business, so I became interested in the study of business and economics and went on to the Faculty of Economics.



What kind of business does your father run?



My father originally ran a real estate business, started by providing apartments to the Japanese trading company employees who were assigned to Korea. At one point it seemed to be thriving enough to build and sell apartment complexes in a new city near Incheon Airport. Due to the president’s real estate policy at the time around 2005, my father has stepped out of the real estate business.



What made you decide to come to Japan?



I think my father’s influences are HUGE. My father likes first world countries and wanted me to study in one. When I decided to study abroad, Japan was the second-largest economy in the world, and I had a good image of Japan for a long time, so I decided to come to Japan.



What kind of image did you have?



My image with Japan is the city is very clean, and the service is excellent, I feel professionalism. In Korea, the cities are beautiful, but they are not as clean as in Japan. The customer service is not comparable. I also liked the unique ideas of Japan. It would be great if I can also get a license for interesting products or ideas to sell them in Korea. That is why I wanted to live in Japan, now that the Internet has developed, Japan’s information is quickly passed on to Korea.



The First Job Hunting In Japan “When I went to the selection because of roast beef, I was surrounded by MONSTERS”


The first job hunting in Japan failed “When I went to the selection because of roast beef, the surroundings were full of things”



After studying at an undergraduate school, you did not go back to Korea and did your job hunting in Japan. How was your job hunting in Japan?



In conclusion, job hunting after graduating from undergraduate school has failed. So I went on to graduate school at the University of Tokyo. I have two job-hunting experiences in Japan, so I can talk about both failure and success.



First of all, I would like to ask about your experience in job hunting in Japan when you were an undergraduate (In 2015), but have you had any problems with job hunting in Japan, such as interview manners and resume preparations?



When I was an undergraduate job-hunting student, I used a recruitment agency for international students, and I didn’t have much trouble because I had a lecture on Japanese for business at university, so it was never pointed out in manners. It may be said in secret behind the scenes. (Japanese people tend to have that, don’t they?) laughs) Well, in fact, the Chinese people who had the same interview were just answering the questions, so I think it was better than that.



How did you choose the company you would like to apply for?



I’ve been very enthusiastic about corporate research. First, I check the magazines by industry and seasonal reports. I also bought a weekly magazine and read it as a countermeasure against current affairs. Originally, I wanted to read the Nikkei newspaper, but when I was an undergraduate, I didn’t have much money to buy Nikkei newspapers because they were too expensive to buy, so I bought Nikkei business instead and read only the important parts.



Where in the industry did you want to be in?



At first, I wanted to move on to the foreign-affiliated financial industry because I simply wanted to get high-value information and wanted to develop the ability to separate only the information that was truly valuable from the information I got. The financial industry has a piece of high-quality information and services that are required to investors. That way, I would be able to obtain high-value information and acquire the ability to separate only the information that leads to PROFIT.



How many companies did you apply for in the end?



In the end, I applied to just one company. I’m pretty cautious with a perfectionist idea, so it took me a while to narrow down the company. After all, only swiss banks entered, but the reason I decided was for the roast beef. 



Roast Beef?



Other banks only serve drinks and sweets when they go to briefings, but the Swiss banks served roast beef at the briefing, and I thought it was AMAZING! That’s why I applied immediately. However, when you proceed to the selection process, the human resource was shocking because everyone was a monster. There were undergraduates at the University of Tokyo that have come home from overseas, and fluent in both Japanese and English. That is why I thought I wasn’t called for, and that’s why I gave up the financial industry.



Isn’t it enough advantage to be fluent in Japanese and Korean?



In the foreign financial industry, interviews are also in English. That’s why Japanese and English are essential. I was relatively weak in English conversation, so I had only a disadvantage. Being able to speak Chinese may be a strength, but Korean is not so much. I guess it’s because the position in the financial markets in South Korea is not that high. There seem to be a lot of returnees and Chinese who can speak English to be adopted.



Interested In The IT Industry Due To The Impact of A “Zero Marginal Cost Society”

That’s why you changed the industry you want to work in. It’s the IT industry, but I feel that the direction is quite different from the financial industry. Why were you interested?



There are two reasons why I changed from the financial industry to the IT industry. The first reason was that the IT Industry believed it had strengths not only in information gathering but also in information analysis. The second reason that I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book “Zero Marginal Costs”. In this book, as a prospect of a world where a lot gets processed, it is explained that the marginal cost will eventually be zero, and a shared economy will emerge with the end of capitalism.



What does it mean to have zero marginal costs?



In an easy-to-understand way, there will be a world where things and services are almost free. An example of zero marginal costs is digital content., and the digital content market has adopted the subscription model because the marginal cost of providing services is as close to zero as possible. Consumers can now enjoy the content indefinitely by paying a fixed amount.


In this book, Mr. Rifkin says that the marginal costs will be zero and the sharing economy will EMERGE. , but the underlying factor was the IoT, the development of IT technology. In the onset of a shared economy, companies that do platform businesses like Uber and Airbnb would have to make a lot of money, and only IT companies were doing such platform businesses. At the time, the IT industry had less attention than it is now.



At the time of the second job hunting (2019), the IT boom had come, so I realized the change of the times.



How is job hunting going into the IT industry?



I went for about 30 companies. Since I was an undergraduate student, I passed 80% of the document selection and 5 companies left at the end. I couldn’t get into any of the 5 companies even though I went to the final interview. Looking back now, I think that at that time, the passing rate of the document selection was high, and there was a place where I was careless. I wasn’t ready for the interview…



It’s very easy talking to the programmers and department managers during interviews in the IT industry. When I think about it now, I think that it was rather appreciated though we only talked about the insistence and the basis because my Japanese was not very good at the time. However, it was very difficult passing by all means when I talked with the person in HR at the final interview.



Human resources who are compatible with the company rather than the immediate force. Awkward interviews in Japan


How are you analyzing the causes of your rejection in the personnel interview?



I think it was because I was a different type of person than the company’s image of human resources. When asked what other industries I was looking for, I was frankly asked that I was originally an aspiring candidate in the financial industry. I explained why I changed the industry and that I wanted to go from the financial industry to the IT industry, but they were not convinced by the reason I had. Besides, I had the feeling that I was the type of person who didn’t fit well with the interviewer at other companies, and at that time I tried my best to appeal myself, but I was still dropped. I was once told that HR was more compatible with the company than the interviewer’s job, but I think I didn’t fit with the terms of this compatibility. 



In Japan, where long-term employment is the premise, compatibility with the company is important when hiring new graduates.



Also, I heard from a senior at the university that the financial industry applicant applies for the company because of the high salary, and the rate of resignation decline was high. With that story, I was convinced that I was dropped from a company that said that I wanted to be in the financial industry, but I felt that it was not good for me to speak my true minds on a Japanese Interview.



What exactly are your thoughts?



So It’s about the money. My dream is to be rich, and I want to retire rich at the age of 45. I didn’t talk about it until retirement, but I ended up talking about money at the interview.



Did you think you shouldn’t have talked about it in a Japanese interview?



Yes, I think so. In Japan, I feel that the company in Japan wants you to state the ideal reason for applying and which you have to say, “for society” and “to be helpful to fellow humans”. In that respect, when I’m on a roll, I can talk about my true thoughts. I think that it might have become a cause to be rejected. If I knew that, I would’ve been very careful about being bland, but when I was on a roll, I talked about money and my dreams for the future. Maybe the idea they had in mind was that I’m going to become independent someday, so I was often refused because of the reason been said, “you did not fit our company”.



Have you noticed anything else in the interview in Japan?



I feel that in Japanese interviews, you need the ability to appeal to yourself to some extent. I’m not good at that kind of appeal, but my friends told me that they told the interviewer that he could speak English and got a job offer. He was not that good at English, so when he was stationed at a department where they use English, he retired after a year because he didn’t have the confidence to work with English. (Laughs)



Appealing is good, but a lie for making yourself look big is a NO-NO (laughs)



In South Korea, The Style Is The “Interview to Assess Ability”

Do you ever feel the difference between interviews in Korea and Japan?



I’ve had interviews in Korea several times, and some things make a difference. Like Japan, Korea places importance on whether or not the applicant matches the human resource image they seek, but it is very important not only the reason for the application but also the ability to use to the company immediately. Many Koreans are forced to retire voluntarily in a manner close to forced dismissal before retirement, so most people are considering retirement by the time they reach their 40’s. The company throws away its employees in a short period, so it is important not only for the reason of their choice but also whether it will be an immediate force. Perhaps because of that, there are many questions to identify ability in the interview. For example, they would tell you to speak Japanese on the spot if you can speak Japanese.



Wow, retirement in Korea is very fast.



This practice took hold at the time of emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund in 1998. The company recommends retirement to workers in their late thirties and forties to cut labor costs. Many people who quit the company are self-employed, and 1/4 of them are said to run fried chicken shops. Cafes and fried chicken restaurants are popular because you can start up a business with a small initial investment.



It’s quite different from Japan.



I don’t see many companies in Japan looking for an immediate force for the company, perhaps because there is a custom in Japan that recruits new graduates and educate them in the company. They focus if you’re reasons and the motive for applying matches the company philosophy. I think that’s the biggest difference between Japan and Korea.



Your Career Path Is Decided At University In Japan

There are other parts of the job hunting in Japan that make me feel strange. Why do Japanese people have their career paths decided in university? Regardless of the level of the university, I graduated from, I tried various industries and companies with high magnification. However, there are very few people who do it in Japan. It seems that Japanese people have set their limits based on the level of the university they attended to.



Certainly, when it’s mentioned, Japanese companies focus on the educational background



I think it’s better to try the field you’re interested in without being too particular about the level of the university you attend. I feel a little uncomfortable with the trend of Japanese society, which is decided based on which level of the university you attend.


Japanese Job Hunting Learned From Experience of Failure

Thank you for your time. I was able to hear various stories through the interview, but why did you tell me so much about your job-hunting failures in Japan?



Mainly, because I hope this information will be useful for foreigners who want to work in Japan in the future or for students who are currently studying at a Japanese university and are preparing to find a job in Japan. It’s hard to find a job in a different country, so I think there are a lot of foreigners who have failed, like me. That is why I want people to learn what it takes to work in a Japanese company by reading my failure stories.



That’s a wonderful spirit!!!



Some people might lose confidence when it’s just a success story, don’t they? If people know there are people like me, then there may be someone who will try harder without giving up. I hope this will be a good opportunity for such people to take the first step in working in Japan.



Well, thank you very much for this interview. We would love to hear about job hunting after you start attending graduate school!!

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