You probably have heard of this scary thing called JOB HUNTING (or shukatsu, 就活) in Japan – and how it’s long, tiring and very different from the rest of the world.
And one of the key reasons for all this is Japan’s job hunting calendar – which is unique and the cause of much of your confusion.
So if you are wondering any of the following:
- When does it start?
- What are the steps in the process?
- Which companies are hiring at what time?
- Am I too early to start? Or am I already late?!
This article is meant to shed some light all these questions and ensure that you are well prepared for Shukatsu!
Just do be aware that this typical calendar is not the only way to get a job in Japan though – take a look at this article about recruitment loopholes and backdoors for the other routes.
When does shukatsu start?
The earliest time that recruitment starts is the holidays 3 semesters before you graduate.
This means for example, if you are graduating in March 2022, your job-hunting can start as early as the summer holidays of 2019.
But what if I graduate in the autumn!
If you are graduating in the Autumn, do the above calculation as if you are graduating in the spring in the year after.
This means that for example, August / September 2021 graduates share the same calendar as the March 2022 graduates. This is because many companies will ask Autumn entries to only join a company with the Spring graduates in the following year.
If you do not want to wait though, do note that there are increasing numbers of companies hiring for Autumn graduates. In general, these recruitment schedules are different from the calendar below though – the best way for you to be aware is to Google keywords such as “Autumn (or fall) recruitment Japan” or “秋採用 新卒” in Japanese.
The rest of the article assumes that …
Just be aware that the rest of the article works with the example of someone graduating in March 2021.
Please do adapt the information to your graduation date!
Summer internships: August 2019
The first step that many people for job-hunting will do are summer internships 3 semesters before they graduate.
Unlike other countries in the world, “internships” here can refer to job experience programs of even one day – weird we know!
Why even participate then? Because these can be good places for you to know more about how industry works and try to see how companies are from the inside. In addition, catch the eye of a recruiter and they may open a separate recruitment route for you! In addition, when you actually apply for a job later, companies will often see what summer internships you did as a factor in considering your application.
Generally speaking, Rikunavi and Mynavi are the two big platforms for these internships. The links here are for those graduating in 2021 but when your year comes both websites will open internship portals relevant to your years.
But what if I actually want a long term internship where I actually get to do stuff you ask. Well! Japan has an increasing number of companies offering those too – check this article out for how to get a long term internship in Japan.
MNC / SME job applications and application preparation: Fall 2019
Summer ends and your fall semester starts – and this is also when you may begin some job applications. But not all companies are hiring! Read on for more details.
Minority of companies’ job applications open
A minority of companies start recruitment in Fall 2019 – mainly Small and Medium Companies (SMEs) and Multi-National Companies (MNCs) which are not bound by Japanese recruitment rules.
Many of these will have additional recruitment in the following Spring, but some don’t. So if especially you are looking to join a MNCs (and these are definitely popular choices among foreign students) be aware. Applications can start (and close) very shortly after the new semester starts.
Self-analysis, exam prep
Even if you are not applying for the types of companies above, the fall semester is also important as a time to prepare for the recruitment barrage in March.
This preparation includes the following:
- Self-analysis (自己分析)
Thinking about your strengths, weaknesses, wants and therefore what kind of companies you want to apply for
- Company research
Research about companies in your field of interests and what kinds of companies may want to hire you.
Side note: many companies do not hire foreign students – we have a different article for you to discern whether companies are hiring foreign students or not
- Examination preparation
Preparing for the more common examination types such as the SPI commonly used in the recruitment process.
- Interview preparation
Scouting out the more commonly used interview questions and preparing your answers etc.
- Getting any necessary certificates which may help
Including accountancy certification, the TOEIC (most common used English test in Japan) etc.
Winter Internships: February – March 2020
The winter holidays in the year before you graduate is when some companies offer winter internships. Same deal here as summer – these 1-5 day experiences may boost your resume when applying for jobs and may be a good chance for you to do research about companies.
Job Fair / Seminar Season – March 2020
March is when the big rush of recruitment activity starts! This is when the vast majority of companies hold huge seminars for interested applicants.
Sometimes these take the form of combined job fairs (godo setsumeikai – 合同説明会). These are events where companies have booths where they talk about the kinds of people they are hiring as well as explaining about what makes their companies special. Some other companies will be holding individual seminars instead.
This month is also when companies start accepting job-applications. These, called entries (エントリー) in Japanese, can be either submitted by hand at these fairs or seminars or online.
Do note that there are some job-fairs specifically aimed at foreign students. Going to these ensures that you know those companies are hiring for foreigners and so may save you some time in job-hunting. Oshigoto run by JAPI is a good resource for these so do take a look.
Crunch time – Spring 2020
Once your spring holidays (though they may very well not feel like holidays) are over, the main bulk of job-hunting starts.
This means the following:
- Sending in entries to companies’ whose recruitment applications are still open.
- Attempting any written examinations such as the SPI
- “Group discussions” – a form of interview particular to Japan.
This is one area where foreign students struggle the most in job-hunting – more about how to deal with this in this article.
As you go through these steps (hopefully!) you will start to rack up some job-offers (内々定 – nainaitei). These are informal confirmations of a job-offer which you can turn down.
Generally speaking though, you are expected to make your decision and inform the companies you are not joining by October 1st of the year before you graduate.
Congratulations (?) – October 2020
October will be when companies hold the naiteishiki (内定式) – or the ceremony to welcome confirmed hires for the following year.
If you do not get a job offer by then, do not worry too much! There are some qualifications to this schedule as stated below.
Some important qualifications
This is the main idea of how recruitment works in Japan but there are some very important points to note here.
You are never too late
Even if you are “late” or have not received a job offer by October of the year before you graduate, be aware that there is always someone hiring. Especially in the labor crunch right now, many companies have additional rounds of hiring even after the main recruitment calendar ends.
Also, do not forget that there is the option of converting your student visa into a job-hunting visa after you graduate – which gives you possibly up to two more years to find a job within Japan.
Leave no stone unturned
There is a tendency for foreign students to focus on big, multi-national companies in the job search but don’t forget about the others! Very often, smaller and more dynamic companies are those which do not follow this calendar.
Many of them hire year round and which are easier to be hired by!
There is already news that the rules governing the hiring calendar will change from 2021 onwards. So please be aware of any possible changes coming – talking to your school’s career center may be a good idea.
Right now though we do not know what the changes are nor how fast these will be implemented. What is most likely is that the calendar above will still remain for a few more years to come.
Hope that helped
The road to a job in Japan can be long and tiring – but Japan is one of the job-markets in the world which is friendliest to fresh graduates without experience.
The calendar above therefore is both an obstacle but also an advantage. We wish you the best in your job-hunting and hope this helps!
Do check the articles below for some more job-hunting resources though!