Job Hunting Japanese-style
Today we relate a tale of one foreign reader who decided that it was important from a life experience perspective to work for a Japanese company, and furthermore, one far away from any of the major cities. He gives lots of good advice, in particular taking care of details, and how he successfully won a position that he loves.
MP: This is the first time I've worked at a Japanese company and I've had a great experience with them so far. I'd like to share a bit about how I found my position and got through the job interviews.
I started off by putting my Japanese resume together. I worked pretty hard on it, spending days and days typing, translating, and even putting pen to paper to handwrite the "rirekisho" (resume). My Japanese language teacher gave me a great tip that actually writing your resume in Japanese, despite your lack of fluency, really shows that you want the job. I also had a strong cover letter, written with the assistance of a friend. In the end the resume was 5 pages long, so there wasn't much left to the imagination.
Since I am not fluent in Japanese (yet), I was concerned about making sure the final documents would pass the HR manager, and I had a native Japanese friend check my basic translation. I feel that the secret in getting him to do a good job on it was to take the same approach as the job application itself. I did all the preliminary writing and translation, and my friend was so impressed with my effort that he couldn't help to try to polish the final result.
Once I got the resume done, I set off looking for work. I'm in the computer field and decided to go to Hello Work first. I may have gotten lucky, but there were plenty of jobs available. The only quibble I'd have is that Hello Work print outs don't clearly show whether a job is being listed directly by the company or by a recruiter. So I met a few of them too.
But actually that worked out well in the end, because interviewing with a recruiter is great for experiencing a Japanese interview. In the end I did 4 of them and got quite practiced in presenting myself. Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, the price to be paid - well I was looking for a job after all - is having to fill out their many standard forms.
Anyway, I eventually did get my job through Hello Work. I found my local office (well out of Tokyo) a friendly and well-equipped place to look for a job. They have the tools, the computers, the staff, (even some translators during certain times of the week), and the up-to-the minute updates of available positions. Some job postings specifically point out that the company is looking for someone with a high level of English, or even someone who is a native English speaker. I was able to get to these listings quickly just by asking the staff to do a special search and print-out for me.
Getting back to the resume and job application. Out here in the countryside at least, it's taking care of the little things that count towards making a sufficient impression on a company that they will call you in for an interview. My Japanese teacher stressed the point that especially technology companies are willing to hire non-Japanese so long as they can be sure that the person will fit in. He reckons that being able to write Kanji - at least enough for a resume and the address on the front of the envelope- is enough to get most managers of smaller companies to pick up the phone.
He also advised putting in the fact that I can drive in my cover letter and including in the job application packet a copy of my driver's licence. "No big deal" you might think, but in the countryside it can be a huge value-added point if you can get yourself from place to place. No public transport, remember?
Finally, I also included copies of all my technical certifications. I don't think Hello Work or the recruiters really understood what they were, but the end-employers certainly do, and if they don't have to educate you in a certain programming language or other skill, then that is one more plus on your job application score.
Maybe I was overdoing it, but I found that taking care of the little things and showing that I was committed to getting a job and fitting in certainly worked in my case.