As the winter holidays are fast approaching, workers and companies alike are starting to consider their options for the spring. Generally workers in Japan start in March-April with the new fiscal and school year, so now is about the time to start getting those CVs out!
Nervous about your upcoming job interview? Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd.
1. Be Early
In Japan, early is on time, and on time is late. When you’re meeting a recruiter or prospective employer, always be early.
Personally, I try to arrive for my interview at least thirty minutes early. That gives me time to grab a cup of coffee nearby, calm my nerves, and enter the building ten to fifteen minutes prior to my meeting time. This also gives me a buffer time in case of unexpected delay.
Prepare for the worst– train delays, accidents, and bad weather can strike at any moment. It’s up to you to be ready and to still arrive to your meeting with time to spare.
If the worst does happen, and you will be delayed, make sure you call recruiter as soon as you know, giving them plenty of time to rearrange the schedule for you.
2. Bring a Hard Copy
Nowadays, most people apply for jobs online through various job postings or online portals. So most recruiters or employers will already have a copy of your resume, cover letter, or any work samples on hand.
Even so it is best to always bring a fresh, clean hard copy of any materials you submitted online to the interview. Computers can make mistakes, and online applications can distort, cut off, or ruin the formatting of your perfectly crafted resume.
Also, it could have been months since you last updated the online version, so it’s best to always bring a copy so you can show any relevant changes than what they may have seen.
3. Have a Business Card
In the same vein of bringing a hard copy of your resume, make sure to bring a physical business card as well. Business cards are still an important part of Japanese business culture, and can leave a positive impression on your new potential employer.
Don’t have any business cards? There are several online sites that make professional business cards for a lower cost than a print shop, or you can print yourself at home if you have the correct materials.
4. Be Strategic with your Timing
The new fiscal year starts in April in Japan, and most companies will have their new recruits start in the March-April timeframe. If you are an English teacher, most schools will also do the bulk of their recruiting to fit this time frame as well.
So be prepared, if you are taking an interview in September, it may be many months before you actually begin to work. Make sure to confirm with the company when you are expected to begin work, and make clear arrangements if you are currently employed.
Japanese law requires two-weeks notice prior to leaving your current position, but many English teachers find themselves in contracts that may require up to three months notice before leaving. If your job requires more notice before leaving, make sure your new potential company is aware of that. Most jobs will be flexible for the right candidate, but having a clear availability date will give you a leg up on the competition.
5. Dress to Impress
Did you know there is an official job-hunting suit in Japan? Most university graduate recruits all purchase identical black suits for job hunting, and even people who are making a mid-career change will don a black “job hunting” suit for their interviews.
However, times are slowly changing and dress codes are becoming slightly more relaxed in recent days. But for an interview, it is better to stay on the safe side and dress more formal, and conservative than you may normally.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out an immediately buy an expensive “job hunting” suit. But generally for an interview you should wear a black, dark blue, or grey suit, and a basic colored button shirt. For men, a tie is necessary. For women, stay away from overly high-heels.
Grooming wise, Japanese men tend to be clean-shaven for an interview, and women will stay away from excessive makeup or overly complicated hair styles. In fact, many recent graduates will dye their hair back to their natural color for job hunting. The goal is to look clean, conservative, and professional.
While interviewing for Western companies, the rules are a bit looser. Dress less flashy than you may in the West, but don’t be afraid to show a little personality. Get a feel for the company culture, even if the company is very casual in day-to-day dress (think engineering or IT), make sure to dress up for the interview. If the job is more formal (think a law-firm or sales position) make sure you dress to the nines for your interview.
Good luck on the job hunt!