The Right Time to Call
You read all the time about Japanese major companies doing most of their hiring for April (first month of the fiscal year in Japan), and it's a big deal when they start searching for candidates as early as 6-10 months beforehand. But did you know that 97% of Japan's 64 million person workforce actually works for small companies? And the small guys can't afford the luxury of once a year hiring. They hire whenever business is good.
But even though small businesses, and certainly the foreign firms, don't have a set time to hire, there are definitely times when they don't hire.
For example, you would find it difficult to find anyone willing to bring on a new person just before a major holiday period (unless, of course, they're looking for someone to relieve a vacationing employee).
There are 3 holiday periods before which, the recruiting activity in Japan really slows down. These are: firstly, Golden Week - a string of holidays usually happening at the end of April and/or early May. Next year, 2004, Golden Week is from the 29th of April, to the 5th of May. Second, there is Obon, the late summer festival when many employees go back to their home towns and honor their ancestors. Obon generally occurs in the middle of August, though this can vary according to regions in Japan.
Lastly, there is the New Year's break, which is really disruptive. In fact, this period is usually only 3-4 working days long, but for some reason the change of the year knocks almost 6-8 weeks out of the recruiting calendar. Not many companies will hire for the whole month of December and for the first 2-3 weeks of January. In January the reason is understandable, because everyone is out visiting clients and wishing them the best for the New Year (an activity which is a necessary sign of respect for the client). But why no one hires at the beginning of December is not exactly clear - maybe it's something to do with all the Nomikai (drinking bouts) the business managers need to attend with their customers?! Who'd want to conduct interviews with a year-end hangover?
Just as there are times of the year when it is unlikely you'll be hired (so go take a holiday and get rested instead), there are certain times of the day when you're likely to have more, or less, success as well.
For example, if your style is to call directly through to a business manager to try to get a job (before being blockaded by the HR Department), the times you're usually likely to reach such a person - and they must be busy or they wouldn't be hiring - is between 08:00 and 09:00 am and after 18:30. Of course, if you can still reach the bucho at 21:00, you might want to ask yourself if you're ready to work at a company with those kinds of working hours...
Then there is the right time to do interviews. Many harried Japanese managers don't have breakfast, so this means that unless you get them right after they've had their morning coffee, an interview later in the morning is probably going to be punctuated with stomach growls and their distraction about thinking of what to eat for lunch.
Then, because lunch is often the "main meal" of the day, many people start feeling sleepy in the early hours of the afternoon - and they're probably only hearing 50% of what you're saying. Thus, the best time of day to have a job interview is around 16:00~17:00. Your interviewer has probably had a hard day, but not to the extent that they're falling asleep yet and they should be over the sleepy post-lunch period. And since you're probably the last interview for the day, you'll have an opportunity to pull in a bit more talking time if you want to create a strong and lasting impression!
As always, my contact details are simply:
Looking forward to getting some enquiries...