The job-hunting process is almost as competitive as the battle for places at university with companies holding seminars and events to attract the top graduates. For the famous shosha (Japanese trading houses), the mega-banks like Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, the makers like Nissan and Toyota, as well as the foreign companies like Google the competition is ferocious, with the process consisting of screening by “entry sheets” (sometimes hand-written), separate tests, and group and individual interviews.

Like the cherry blossoms, the appearance of university students in the same plain black suits (referred to as “recruit suits”) and white shirts is a seasonal event. Woe betide the applicant who dare turn up in a blue pinstripe or stray from the norm with a snazzy tie.

The recruitment process typically begins in February of the year before graduation with companies holding events from March through as late as September. Job-hunting is the core focus of final year university students during the first semester. Students who receive a company offer (naitei) can sit safe during the final semester knowing that they have a job waiting for them at the end. According to Recruit—one of the biggest recruiters in Japan—approximately 95% of students have received at least one offer of employment by the time they graduate, a statistic that should provide some comfort for international students wondering about employment prospects post-graduation.

For the unlucky few that do not manage to receive a naitei all is not lost. They can search for employment via recruiters or opt to join the ranks of Japan’s temporary workers (which make up about 40% of today’s workforce) while they continue their search.

International students can apply to change their visa status to Designated Activities which allows them to stay in Japan for one more year to look for work. Moreover, Japanese companies (even the more traditional ones) are becoming increasingly aware that they need employees who can speak a language other than Japanese to compete globally. English is the most sought after but Chinese and Korean language skills are also in demand. Work visas once you have an offer of employment are not difficult to obtain and are issued for up to five years.

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