Job Hunting

3 Characteristics of Japanese Companies That You Should Know [Job Hunting in Japan Series - Part 1]

How’s your job hunting?
Misoko
Miso Dog
Not going well. I’m not sure what to do…
Okay, then I will introduce the tips for Job Hunting in Japan.
Misoko

3 Characteristics of Japanese Companies

1. Occupational classification

The first thing you should know about is an occupational classification called "総合職". In other words, a generalist. This might be the closest translation.

In Japan, it is common to hire people as workers of "総合職".

To put it briefly, companies will transfer their employees to a different department regularly according to the characteristics of that person. This regular change of department is called “ジョブローテーション”, job rotation. The workers will gain different kinds of business skills and experience over the years as they move through various departments. 総合職 contributes to companies by producing generalists.

This 総合職 recruitment is the main path to enter major Japanese companies.

In other countries, it is probably common to hire someone work-ready that has a specific skill set or experience for the position. This is called スペシャリスト採用, specialist recruitment, which is the opposite of 総合職 recruitment.

Miso Dog
So does that mean Japanese companies don’t hire people who are work-ready with specific skill sets?
That's a good question. To answer that, let me explain "新卒一括採用“, which translates to “Simultaneous recruitment of new graduates” in English.
Misoko

What is "新卒一括採用 (Simultaneous recruitment of new graduates) “??

"Simultaneous recruitment of new graduates" is, in brief, the process in which companies hire students who are soon graduating all at once.

I won’t go into the details about why that specific process is used here, but the point is that Japanese companies are focused on hiring students who are expected to play an active role in the company in the future. After joining the company, employees are taught through in-house training and work experience, instead of having an already-built skill set.

In Japan, this is called "ポテンシャル採用”: Recruitment based on an individual’s potential.

This is why the employment system in Japan is unique compared to the rest of the world.

Also, note that once students graduate, often times job hunting will be way more difficult for them because companies tend to consider a student who couldn’t find a job during the job-hunting season unsuccessful.

Miso Dog
I see. In order to succeed in job hunting in Japan, we need to get it done before graduation.
That's right. Let's move on to the next slide.
Misoko

2. Pay structure

In Japan, the idea of ​​"年功序列“, seniority-wage system, has been around for a long time, and in many Japanese companies, the pay structure is based on years of service.

Why do we have this kind of system? As I explained earlier, it’s based on the assumption that new graduates will gain business skills and experience through corporate training after joining the company.

The longer you work, the better your job skills will be. That means your contribution to the company will be bigger.

Nowadays, Japanese companies have started to shift away from this pay structure but, yeah, it’s better to think that Japan will continue to have this wage system.

Hey, guess what the average starting salary is for college graduates!

It’s about 200,000 yen.

Miso Dog
Well, does that mean that the company won't appreciate however much you’ve accomplished if you haven’t worked for a long time?
That's not true. The company will, of course, appreciate your accomplishments. However, you won’t get promoted or a raise as quickly as other foreign companies. But you can request your next job task or department.
Misoko
Miso Dog
I get it. That means in a Japanese company, it may take some time for your achievements to be evaluated and reflected in your salary and job position.
Yes. Finally, let's move on to the third characteristic.
Misoko

3. Stability

The two characteristics I mentioned earlier may not be very enticing to you. However, Japanese companies have the stability that ensures you won’t be easily fired once hired. This is the premise of the concept of "lifetime employment."

In Japan, once the company hires workers, the company will have them employed until their retirement regardless of the situation of the company. The most important thing for Japanese companies is to flexibly allocate human resources and protect the employment of employees. The corporate culture of fostering generalists through job rotation makes this possible.

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Miso Dog
So, in other countries, when hiring a specialist, there is an employment contract with the company for specific work, so the contract will be terminated when the work is no longer needed.

On the other hand, Japanese companies sign employment contracts without specifying their work, so by adjusting the work they put their workers in charge of, it is possible to protect the employment of employees. Am I understanding correctly?

That's right. So, I’ll summarize what we’ve talked about so far.
Misoko

Summary

Japanese companies hire people on the premise of "lifetime employment"

If you want to continue working until retirement, it’s better to be a generalist who has skills in multiple areas, not just specific skills, so 総合職 would be the best choice.

Employees who work as generalists are repeatedly reassigned or transferred, and then gradually build up business skills and experience, so the salary system is basically based on seniority.

I hope this information helps you understand the general ideas.

That’s all for today. Japanese corporate culture might be very different from the one in your country.
Misoko

Miso Dog
Yes, it's completely different! Thank you for the lecture.

Check out the previous articles for information on Job Hunting in Japan:

7 Things That You Should Do in the Job-Hunting Process [Job Hunting in Japan Series - Part 2]

4 Ways to Search for Japanese Companies [Job Hunting in Japan Series - Part 3]

“I wish I knew this sooner!” Internship in Japan Basics [Job Hunting in Japan Series - Part 4]

How to Find Excellent Companies in Japan [Job Hunting in Japan Series - Part 5]

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