5 reasons why “job hunting” as a new grad in Japan sucks

Daisuke Yukita
6 min readJul 7, 2014

Are you familiar with the term “job hunting”?

I’m assuming it’s not the most commonly used term referring to the act of looking for jobs, but out here in Japan, we all call it “job hunting”.

Technically it simply refers to the act of looking for a job, but it’s more often used as the “specific routine” that Japanese university students go through when looking for a job. And that means everyone wears similar suits, everyone uses similar resume templates, everyone learns from similar seminars and everyone wants to work at similar companies.

Funnily enough, it does seem like a very Japanese thing to do.

Over the past few years, however, this “job hunting” style has caused many debates calling for change, considering the fact that it has been more or less the same way for over 30 years.

Anyone who reads the papers can see that the Japanese market needs some serious changes, and employment is definitely one issue we can start with.

So here are 5 reasons why this “job hunting” in Japan sucks.

1. Only the “newest” new grads are welcomed

Most companies would only hire students that will graduate within that fiscal year. Plus, they would only hire students under the age of 25, so you have to graduate at least within 7 years after getting into uni to get a decent job.

What does that mean?

Internships or studying abroad during uni must be within 3 years.

No gap years after graduation to pursue your passions, or to do volunteer work, or to go backpacking, or to even look for what you want to do.

Add that with the traditional Japanese fashion of dedicating your lifetime work to one company, and you get the typical Japanese life.

“Go to a good school, get a good job, and stay there. No time to play around.”

In other words, being the newest new grad is an enormous advantage just by itself. Those who graduated without putting much effort into their university life would still gain that advantage, and those who were bold enough to volunteer for a few years in an NGO after graduation would be starting their “job hunt” with a disadvantage.

2. No one cares about your GPA

As far as I’ve heard, students write their GPA on their resumes in the U.S, England and France.

In Japan, some students don’t even know what a GPA is. That’s how much companies don’t give a damn about your GPA.

Why? Because Japanese universities give out good grades like tissues in Tokyo (they hand them out for free). It’s often said that universities in Japan are difficult to get in but easy to get out. I think that is very well said, because trust me, with the right friends and information, it’s damn easy to graduate a Japanese university.

Of course, companies know how easy it is to get good grades, because the HR department is made up of people who got good grades at university. Thus, no one cares about the GPAs, because they are untrustworthy.

3. Instead you have to take an online test (cheat all you can)

Without GPAs, companies have no idea whether the new grad is smart or not, so most companies make them take an online test (often referred to as Synthetic Personality Inventory, or SPI).

Because it’s online, students are free to take it anywhere they want, including cafes, libraries, with your family, or with your friends while skyping with a bunch of other super-smart friends.

Each question has a fairly short time limit, so yes, it’s very difficult to look up every question in a book.

But it is possible to take the test with smart friends, in which case dumb students just stay online in the chat group and eavesdrop on all the answers.

What’s even worse is that, because the SPIs have been around for many years, many students have answers for the questions that are inherited down the generations by their seniors. In this case, all the students have to do is look at the question, search that question in the answer book, and click what the answer book says. How easy can that be?

It is true that some companies have enough sense to make their own tests, but most simply rely on the SPIs because it’s easier and faster. Oh, and it also attracts stupid students.

4. Massive employment agencies make the rules

As I’ve mentioned, most students dress similarly, apply for similar companies and take tests online with anonymous help.

So far it seems like everyone is facing the same battle, but what exactly differentiates each student from one another?

Information. Information about the company itself, it’s business style, it’s type questions at interviews and at online tests, what kind of students/resumes are favored, etc.

You can start off by researching by yourself, then ask your friends, families, graduates of your school and people who actually work there.

Basically, “job hunting ” is a battle for obtaining the right information.

And yes, information often requires a platform to collect and sort the information, which brings up the presence of employment agencies. It is impossible to explain the Japanese “job hunt” system without these information giants. Bottom line, they are the leaders. They make the rules.

Employment agencies, the two most famous being Recruit and Mainichi Communications, stands between students and companies, and helps the unemployed to be employed. Through the process, they suck tons of money from the companies and manipulates students so they can make the most profit.

They can do such thing, because hundreds of thousands of students start their job hunts by creating an account at a platform website created by these agencies. They are the doorman of the students.

As a result, it creates a situation where companies can access many students by paying money to these agencies to post adverts of their recruitment. Apparently, “putting a link of the company’s website” or “enabling to post blogs of the workers” are all an option the client company can choose, each costing lots of money.

Nevertheless, as long as these agencies hold thousands of students as their users, companies pay more money for more attention.

The problem here is that students too become totally dependent on these agencies. If they say wear a red suit, they probably will wear a red suit to the interview next day. Even worse, the employment agencies prioritizes making profit (obviously), so they can manipulate the students in such a way that they make more money, which is not necessarily the best choice for the students.

For example, every year the two giants agencies host an annual “job hunting festival”, where thousands of students and companies gather at a massive stadium. There are booths, seminars, and lots and lots of people. There are so many people that it is obvious one can not network with the companies executives (they probably don’t even come to these festivals), and that at the end of the day you probably don’t remember much.

Still, many companies and students unwillingly show up at these events companies because they don’t want to be left out.

Being stuck in the battle for information, it is inevitable to think “Everyone else is going, so if I don’t go, I’ll be left out. I have to go!”, which is exactly why the employment agencies continue to produce misguided students and companies.

5. Universities are ranked by how many of their graduates were hired at prestigious companies

I’ve been talking about students and companies, but universities have their own problems as well.

Universities in Japan are often ranked by the number of their graduates that were hired at prestigious companies.

Japan’s economy has long been on the downhill, so what people require from universities are simply whether they can work at a good company or not.

Japan’s birthrate has long been declining as well, so universities are having a tough time maintaining the number of students.

As a result, the universities have no choice but to prioritize the students’ “job hunt” over everything, and support them as much as they can.

Ultimately, universities, students and companies all fall into the hands of the employment agencies.

Now that you know the appalling situation of job searches in Japan, some may think students should try harder to think for themselves. Others may think companies should come up with new original ways to hire bright new grads. But neither can change unless they take the risk of leaving the current system.

Some may think employment agencies should change. Sure enough, more and more start ups emerge every year to the employment agencies market, only to find themselves soaked up in the same system. The principles of their business models are the same with SNSs: More users, more power. It would be awfully difficult to overcome the two giants without an innovative change.

Basically, no one can change anything on their own. Every element should change together to overcome the current rotten system.

Otherwise, I am confident that Japan’s productivity rate will continue its decline for the years to come.



Daisuke Yukita

English-speaking Janpanese. Or a Japanese-speaking English. Whichever way you please.