What foreigners must keep in mind when seeking a job in Japan

foreigners ,job seekers

Increasing Foreigners in Japan

In contrast to decreasing population(shortage of manpower) in Japan, number of foreigners in Japan are increasing. Why?

Japanese baby boomers have started to retire since 2007. They make about 30% of Japanese population.Since then Japan’s shortage of manpower issue emerged.Shortage of manpower is observed from high skill to low skill resources. And Japanese government introduced a new system enabling to work foreigners in Japan. It is an epoch-making change to open its doors to foreigners in Japan.In a long run, high skilled foreigners in Japan may compensate Japan’s decreasing population.

In a long run, high skilled foreigners may compensate Japan’s decreasing population.

(Source: Ministry of Justice)

Accordingly, the foreigners’ demography that makes steep increase is high skilled Professional (+105% over previous year) followed by engineer/humanity and international business visa holders (+17.5%)

 (Source: Ministry of Welfare and Labor)

Japan’s most needed areas of manpower: IT engineers and specified skill labor

According to World Economic Forum, Japan lowered its world competitiveness rank from 5th to 6th in 2019.  https://www.weforum.org/reports/how-to-end-a-decade-of-lost-productivity-growth (Quote) The world’s largest economies also have room for improvement on technology governance. Based on how the legal frameworks in their countries are adapting to digital business models, only four G20 economies made it into the top 20: United States (1st), Germany (9th), Saudi Arabia (11th) and the United Kingdom (15th). China ranks 24th in this category. (Unquote)Japan is struggling with shortage of IT engineers. As if to responding to that, many Indian engineers are aiming to get a job in Japan.It is probably because they seek higher salary or safety or more comfortable life in Japan.

Unique Japanese corporate culture and business practices

In business, Japan still values formality including presentation of business card, attire and so on. Japan is a high context culture, which means We have common norms without explaining. For example, Japanese know where the head of table is and who should sit there. We observe foreign job seekers having difficulty understanding this rigid culture. For job search, ID photo should not be taken casually: ID photo is a threshold and it makes your first impression.It is recommended to take with high resolution, wear properly pressed business white shirt with smile a bit rather than glaring into camera. This is a chance to make you look professional, charming and trustworthy. Other example, foreigners may take a Skype call casually. In Japan it happens punctually, and it is preferred to take it indoor with professional setting. It is recommended to dress professionally as if it is a face-to-face meeting or interview.

<Language>Many English speaking foreign engineers used to head for the US to work. However, due to the US immigration policy change destination change is observed: Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, England are preferred new destinations.Japan is ranked 7th. Probably the biggest hindrance is the language. Japan is notoriously poor in foreign language, even after educated Japanese spent English education for 10 years, people hardly speak English fluently. Therefore, many Japanese companies expect foreigners to speak like Japanese: JLPT N1 level is the common requirement, N2 or equivalent is compromise.

<Job hopper>When we see requirements for job openings, quite unique element for many Japanese companies list is number of job change. Many companies restrict it less than 3 companies. It means Japanese companies do not prefer job hoppers. When you have already changed job more than 4 times, it could be a hindrance.

<Salary negotiation>Japanese corporate system tends to look at long term employment. They want to grow employees by providing inhouse training (often including OJT) Although seniority system is shifting to meritocracy, many companies still carry the traditional culture. And Japanese seldom bargain or negotiate salary. Many foreign candidates prefer to discuss about salary and work conditions at the interview. But it could be wiser to do it after the job is offered.

<Boasting or oversell your ability> Japanese tend to be humble. When we give a gift to a friend, even if it is valuable,Japanese say, “please accept this trifle gift.” Foreign job seekers like to oversell their capability: for example, when you do not have N3 JLPT certificate, you write in the CV that as if you have N3, which means he thinks his Japanese is N3 level equivalent. Ouch!

Interesting reference: Communicating with Japanese in Business by JETRO https://www.jetro.go.jp/costarica/mercadeo/communicationwith.pdf