Job-hunting has always been a huge headache for fresh graduates, but it is especially hard for fourth- year Keio student Jessica Sze, who is looking for a job in Japan in the midst of the pandemic.
"We usually start by going to job fairs and internships. Job fairs for third-year students are held every year and hundreds of companies attend for every fair," said Sze. "Before Covid, there were only face-to-face job fairs; but during Covid, most of the job fairs are held online and every company is given about 15 minutes to introduce themselves."
In Japan, internships are considered an introduction to the company, as well as a first impression to potential bosses in the future.
"Companies observe participants' abilities and personalities through the internships and invite students they want to hire to proceed to the next selection stage," she said.
Under the rule of simultaneous recruiting of new graduates (Shinsotsu-ikkatsu-saiyo), recruitment information can only be released in March of that year, and the recruiting process starts in June.
"However, since those rules have no legal effect and are without penalty, companies are not following the schedule, and the recruiting process usually starts in March and the offer of employment will mostly be given in June," she said.
Although the recruitment system is quite rigid and graduates are usually hired all at once upon graduating, there is no unified system of recruitment and students have to upload their entry sheets, similar to resumes, separately onto each company's recruitment website.
Entry sheets differ for each company, but they often ask graduates about their strengths and weaknesses and what they have done during college.
"Sometimes, it also includes original questions from the company. For example: 'What failure have you faced within a relationship?' or 'Tell me a story about you not giving up on your goal.'
"From these questions, we can see that Japanese companies focus more on personality rather than practical skills during the hiring process."
With so many graduates looking for job openings, competition is tough. Sze said that only half of the entry sheets would go on to the next stage of the process so students often submit up to 20.
If you're lucky to pass the first step, you would have to take the Synthetic Personality Inventory exam or other aptitude tests which not only look at your personality, but also try you on secondary levels of mathematics, Japanese and English.
It is only after passing the aptitude test that recruits are then chosen to go on to the interview stage, which is also divided into three or more separate interviews with different people.
"My thought is that the whole process is really exhausting and stressful because multiple tasks have to be done within a really tight schedule and we have to face a lot of failures in a short time, but we have no time to be upset," said Sze.
"We must find a job before graduation, since it is hard to find a job in Japan now once you graduate from university."
Nonetheless, Japanese students do not have to worry about not having work experience, which is required in a lot of jobs worldwide, even at the entry level.
Also, since there is an emphasis on recruiting fresh graduates, about 80 percent of students receive job offers upon graduating.
"Japan has a unique employment system which is different from all over the world. Therefore, students who want to get a full-time job in Japan have to be careful and should start to plan their careers in the early stages."