Job-Hunting for Students in Japan

Unlike other countries, Japan has an interesting system for job-hunting. Most Japanese students do not have a gap between graduation and their first job. This is the outcome of the Shūkatsu system.

What is the meaning of Shūkatsu?

Shūkatsu is short for shūshoku katsudō, which means job-hunting activity. This term refers to college students looking for a full-time job about a year before graduation. So, the students in Japan usually already have a job contract when they graduate.

Japanese companies have a unique hiring system. They usually focus on hiring new employees straight from college. There are designated periods for hiring from the government. However, foreign companies based in Japan may not follow the schedule.

Can international students participate in Shūkatsu?

Of course! Shūkatsu is an activity for every student in Japanese institutions. Based on 2018 government data, there are 25,942 international students accepted to Japanese companies after graduation. The number has been increasing every year.

Interestingly, based on the government survey in 2015, more than 50% of the companies said the reason for hiring international students is that they were simply passing the selection process. The companies do not mind their nationality and consider them equal to Japanese peers.

How to start job-hunting?

Shūkatsu is conducted simultaneously with the college activities. The job-hunting period starts in March and ends in October. Your work contract begins after graduation, in April next year. However, the preparation of shūkatsu should be done at least a semester before the application and company briefing sessions in March.

It is crucial to prepare long before the application period. Compared to Japanese students, international students usually start later. It is a common mistake for international students with different job-hunting systems in their countries. Falling behind the schedule will make you miss the opportunity to work in many companies.

Here is the flow of shūkatsu.

Preparation: Self-analysis

The first step of job hunting is to know your characters, values, passions, and skills. Understanding yourself will help to determine what kind of job will fit you. You can also present yourself better during the job-hunting period, especially during an interview.

The process of self-analysis can be done as early as possible. You do not have to wait until shūkatsu starts. In fact, some universities give a self-analysis seminar for first and second-year students.

To do self-analysis, you can start by listing everything about yourself. What kind of person were you in the past? What do you want to be in the future? What are your strengths and weaknesses? You can ask people around you to get a better understanding.

Preparation: Job or company research

Do your research on the economic and social trends in advance, so you can apply immediately when the time comes. First, search for industries. There are a lot of industries in Japan nowadays. For instance, food manufacturing, services, information and communications, and many more. What kind of industries do you want to build your career in?

After narrowing it down to one or two industries, search the companies within the industry. There are a million companies in Japan besides the big well-known companies we hear about every day. It is your chance to explore small and medium companies to enhance your employment opportunity.

You can meet your school alumni to research jobs and companies. If you don’t know anyone, try to ask through the career center in your university. This way, you can ask the current employee directly about the information unavailable on the company website.

Preparation: Screening Test

The companies usually held written tests and interviews for candidates. They will assess your academic skills, basic knowledge, personality, and Japanese skills. If you have decided which job and company you want, you can confirm what type of test will be conducted.

Preparing properly will give you a huge advantage. Practice answering the common questions written and orally. Also, the test in Japan is commonly held in person, even during pandemics. Therefore, prepare the clothes and learn the manner for a job interview.


Apply to your dream companies as soon as they open the application period. Companies normally begin the hiring process in March. Sending an application means showing your interest to work there. Don’t worry, you can go for multiple companies.

To apply to a company, you have to send an entry sheet. An entry sheet is a form made exclusively by each company. It is similar to a CV. You can download it from the company website or call them to ask for one.

Upon receiving the application, the company will reach you back. They will give you information about the next step: briefing sessions.

Company Briefing Sessions

Briefing sessions start in March. It can be conducted by a single company or multiple companies. Big companies usually held individual briefing sessions or seminars. Small and medium companies often organize joint-briefing sessions.

Attending briefing sessions will help you to know further about the company. It is your opportunity to ask questions. Wear the proper clothes and behave accordingly because the employers are watching. Do not forget to bring your resume and a copy of the application form.

Screening test

After briefing sessions, the company will conduct a screening test for candidates around June to September. The test usually consists of a written test and interview, although the types vary between companies.

There are three types of written tests: aptitude, general knowledge, and compositions or essays. Interviews also can be differentiated into three types: group discussion, group interview, and one-on-one interview.

Confirm the date and time of the test, whether it will be held online or in-person, and what you have to bring. If it is conducted in person, familiarize yourself with the venue. Calculate the time needed to go there and be early. If it is online, make sure your device and internet connection is good to go.

Job offer

Finally, after a long process, you will receive a job offer(s). By October, companies will send official job offers to accepted candidates. Congratulations!

The company usually will phone you after the screening process. They will follow with a formal offer letter by mail later. If you want to accept the offer, you have to send a “declaration” to them. However, the declaration is not legally binding, so you can still hunt for another job.

In some cases, you may receive multiple job offers. Once you pick one company, immediately turn down the others by phone. Declining by email is considered insincere.

Changing the residence status

The last step is to apply for a visa type change. Your reason to stay in Japan is no longer to study but for work. It takes one to three months to process the visa, so you have to apply as soon as possible. The application begins in December or January if you are joining the company in April.

Firstly, prepare all the documents needed. You can check the list from the Japanese Ministry of Justice website. Then, go to the immigration bureau by yourself to submit the application.

Afterward, just wait for your visa to be approved by the Japanese government. In the meantime, always check your company timeline for new employees. There are events like social gatherings, job offer ceremonies, or training.

The process of shūkatsu may be tiring and long. However, you are not alone in this journey. You can always consult the career center in your university, the government employment services, and alumni who work in your desired company. Happy job hunting!


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