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Monday, 4 April 2016

A Primer on Job Hunting (就職活動) in Japan

Since I've been blogging a little about job hunting in Japan recently, I thought I should make a guide on job hunting in Japan.

By the way, because I'm writing this in the start of April, and that means that I've only just started the process. Most of the information comes from what I've heard, rather than what I've experience. I will probably make another post/updates later on, but here's what I know so far.

What is shukatsu

Shukatsu (就活) is short for Shushokukatsudo (就職活動), which means "job hunting". According to a presentation I heard, only Japan and South Korea have such clearly defined job hunting seasons. And by clearly defined, I mean "all the job hunting sites can only open and accept entries on a certain day (March 1)". Although before that, you could use it to apply to internships, but no applying to work at companies. The thing about the season is that if you miss it, it becomes much harder to get a job. I've heard of people delaying their graduation so they could get a job - that's how much Japanese companies want "fresh graduates". Of course, this is not always the case, but by and large, this is how students think.

This year, shukatsu season began on March 1st. This was much earlier than before, because the 選考(senkou; selection) process was moved from August to June. For foreign-owned companies and mass media, it starts even earlier - in November (according to Toyokeizai)

So you may be thinking "if the selection process starts in June, why does the season start in March"? One reason may be because there are many, many stages before you get a job in Japan. Not all companies follow this model, but generally, I've found that things go like this: 合同説明会 (Godou setsumeikai - I'll explain later) -> Pre-entry -> 単独説明会 (tandoku setsumeikai) -> Document Stage -> SPI Test (may be held concurrently or a little before the document stage) -> Interview (group) -> interview (with a senior member of the company) -> job offer. Oh, I think the most variation I've seen is in the interview stage - some don't have group interviews, some have more rounds, some have less, etc.

The other reason (and this is really just my hypothesis) may be because the Japanese job hunting system is built on the assumption of failure - it's expected that you'll fail many times before you get a job offer. I've heard that the average student applies to 8 to 10 companies (or from another source, about 14 companies), and only get offers from 2 to 3. Of course, this varies tremendously between students, but I suppose this may be one reason why a lot of time is needed.

Explanation of Commonly Seen Words

I've been using words like "SPI" and "setsumeikai", so now it's time to explain what I mean.

説明会 (せつめいかい; setsumeikai) literally means "explanatory session". Other translations I've seen are "briefing session" and "information briefing". In the broadest sense of the word, you can use 説明会 for almost any briefing for an event.

But when we're talking about 就活 (job hunting), then the 説明会 or 会社説明会 (かいしゃせつめいかい; kaisha setsumeikai - company briefing) is very specific. It's an in-depth opportunity for the company to appeal to prospective job applicants. Quite a few of them also have tests for interested applicants - this could be a personality test, or it could be an aptitude test.

Subcategories of the word include 合同説明会(ごうどうせつめいかい; goudou setsumeikai), which I've been translating as "joint explanation sessions". Basically, a bunch of companies gather in one place, and they have shorter (35-40min, from what I've experienced), information sessions.

From there, interested students go for the 単独説明会(たんどくせつめいかい; tandoku setsumeikai), which is the single-company, in-depth session that I talked about.

The next word that you'll see a lot is 適性検査 (てきせいけんさ; tekisei kensa), which means "aptitude test". This most commonly refers to the SPI, which stands for Synthetic Personality Inventory. Basically, it tests your Japanese, your Maths, your Logic, and it does a personality test. There are quite a lot of questions and very little time. Actually, I find that the most challenging aspect is the lack of time. There are two ways you can take the test:

1. By internet (and by that, they normally mean "using Internet Explorer, on a Windows", which is extremely frustrating for people like me, who use Macbooks)

2. On paper.

The best way to deal with the SPI is to practice as much as possible. Get a workbook, and just practice. Someone else told me that they purposely applied to more companies just so they could practice, and after they got the hang of it, applied to the companies they actually wanted to go to. Either way, it seems that practice is key.

Ok, I think these are all the keywords, but if I miss any, let me know! Or if there's anything you want to know more about shukatsu, just drop me a comment or email. And obviously, I'll be blogging about it as I continue.

Now, a random picture to end the post:

Ok, maybe not so random, because I took this picture while in Kumamoto for a shukatsu event.
But if you've seen my previous post, you've probably already seen it. 

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