Although job hunting is one of the most important activities of our lives, it's amazing how little "smarts" people put into making sure that they get the right job. The procedure usually is to go to a job Web site, or read the Monday edition of the Japan Times, and after seeing an ad that looks interesting, go to the company's Web site. If all the available literature looks good, then there's a frantic rush to create the worldﾕs best resume and send it in by registered mail. And then what?
Most decent jobs advertised these days are getting at least 50 to 100 job applicants, so your chances of actually landing an interview, let alone the actual job, are pretty low. What you need is a way to increase your chances. Of course, recruiting consultants are best, because they know the market and can help you clean up your presentation. But there is another way that is pretty obvious when you think about it: getting in through the back door.
Most foreign companies that I know of have candidate introduction bonuses, and in fact some companies hire more than 50 percent of their staff from introductions made by their employees. The idea is that employees are likely to introduce people who they know and trust, and who they are willing to depend on to make the company more successful. In a country like Japan, where it is so difficult to get background bio-data on new mid-career job applicants, the over-worked HR manager sees employee introductions as a safe means of recruiting.
Without wanting to sound too cynical, the plan, then, is to watch the job ads, and wait until your area of expertise comes up. In the meantime, you need to start making your own social network through the various foreign chambers of commerce, foreign and Japanese industry organizations, and international trade shows - until you meet someone from the company who can take you in through the back door.
Knowing the employees of your target future company is of course also useful for finding out what the working conditions and opportunities are like at such a company. In addition, it's important that you understand the "drivers" for the senior management, so that you can present yourself in the best possible light. And try some local consultants as well, as they can often put things into perspective for you.
If you're hearing some negative things about a company you're still really interested in, try checking out the various "Keijiban" bulletin boards on ZDNet and Yahoo. Of course, most of the rumors circulating here are malicious and the writers are usually incognito, but you can usually distill a grain of truth, and who knows, an email to the writer may elicit a response that will lead to a deeper understanding of what is going on.
In any case, the advice here is that in Japan, internal connections are an important way to make your life easier. Use them when you can.