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Job hunting - How can a foreigner find a job in Japan?



During your visit to Japan, did you find it so nice that you actually toyed with the idea of working here?

Perhaps you haven't been to Japan but loves pop culture and anime so much, it became an ideal place for you to work in the future? 😁 

A friend of mine who had a wedding honeymoon here asked me May of last year, "Are there career opportunities in Finance?" I did not have an answer yet. See About Page for the reason we came here.

Now, I have some answers. Let's get right to it.

In this article:

1. A bit about my background (it will depend, of course, so you might as well know about me to know if it's applicable to you)
2. The preparation (the boring start)
3. The hunt 
4. The Interview (the nerve-wracking part)
5. Getting hired and VISA processing
6. Some Tips

ABOUT ME


It is important to point out that I do not speak Japanese. I am comfortable speaking in English, although my pronunciation and grammar are not perfect.  I've had the experience of talking to a crowd and several presentations.

My background is primarily in Finance. I handled various process improvement initiatives, mostly automation projects. Let's just say, I was exposed to IT. 

If you know my full name (which I am not revealing here or any of my social media accounts), you can search this out on LinkedIn. Please keep it a secret. 🙏🙏🙏

THE PREPARATION (you can skip this boring part)


The initial step of course is to update my LinkedIn profile. Later on, I learned how important it is here in Japan.

However, LI profile is so long and companies will still look for a CV. And so, I created one-pager CVs. 12 years of working experience compressed on that one page!

This was exactly the template that I used from Microsoft Word:

I transferred the "Skills" section to the side since it's taking too much space. I deleted the "Hobbies" section. My hobbies are irrelevant lolz!

Why a lot of CVs? Because I intended to apply for different roles. And different roles require us to highlight certain achievements or specific qualifications. But I'm sure you know that already.

And then, I also made Cover Letters matching those job roles.

THE HUNT

Okay, so we've been here in Japan for a year. Why only now?

Don't worry, job hunting did not take a year.  Let's just say, I was a bit lazy, I was trying to try out new things (including this blog & some freelance work), I prioritized the transition of the family and a bunch of nightmares happened to me.


Anyway, after all the preparations which took place in June 2020. I started looking for a job on LI and Flexjobs.

Flexjobs - it is an online site where you can find jobs that are mostly remote or flexible. But it isn't free. 

There are a lot of other sites where you don't have to pay a fee but I like Flexjobs because they have already screened all of the companies there. You don't have to guess whether they will hire you no matter where you are located and you don't have to submit a bid.

I send out a lot of applications (some of which are CrossOver, Mondelez, Viridor) because there were indeed a lot of companies who have switched to remote work (mostly in the US). I don't want to discourage you, but the sad part is, a lot of other people are also looking for remote jobs now. Feel free to still try because as I said, your background matters.



LinkedIn - there are two ways to look for jobs on LI here in Japan. First, follow companies you like or look for the roles you want. Second, connect with recruiters. Third, leverage your existing connections.

Jobs - I only sent out an application to Apple. Most of the Finance or project management jobs require at least Business Level or Native speaking in Japanese.  If it wasn't written in the requirement, it was just probably omitted.

Recruiters - I found out that recruiters are valued here in Japan unlike in other countries. And so, I sent out a lot of connection requests to recruiters in the field of Finance (about 50 of them). Along with it is a short message about my background, and that I do not speak Japanese. 

Here are some of the responses that I got:

  • Recruiter 1 - Over a call, I was told that I can either find a job as an English teacher or as a Recruiter. My Finance background will help me scan CVs and match them with job openings. Recruiters get a salary of ~3M yen per year plus commission for every successful hire. So as some English Teachers (depending on your qualification), but without a commission. 
  • Recruiter 2 - He said he's got a client who hires foreigners that do not speak Japanese. However, they were on freeze hiring. He's got a colleague who works with Amazon, he will try to refer me.
  • Recruiter 3 - After our call, he asked me to fill in a form. He said it will be hard but it is not impossible. And it was told that if I know how to code, then speaking Japanese won't be a problem.
  • Recruiter 4 - She works with Rakuten. In Rakuten, they have "Englishnation" campaign where everyone working there should speak English. Most of the job openings are in IT so I applied for a Project Management role, a Technical Analyst role, and a general role for which my qualifications fit but the role was not specified. 
Existing connections - A good referral goes a long long way.

THE INTERVIEW

I got an interview schedule for the Project Management Role for Rakuten. I was happy to have been considered because I have no certification as PM. And because I can't rely on my poor memory, I prepared. 

I finished the book Project Management Basics: How to Manage Your Project with Checklist by Melanie McBride in 4 days. I recommend this book if you want to learn about PM whether for personal or for work. The author really has broken down the basics. It was so easy to read.


A Surprise Interview

A few days before the interview with Rakuten, I got a call on a Friday. Someone wanted to schedule "a talk" with me on the morning of the next day! It was for a known brand so of course, I won't say no!

The "talk" was at 10 AM in the morning. Even though they did not want to call it an interview, I prepared my elevator speech. You know, what you would say to the statement - "So, tell me about yourself."

And indeed that was the first request. But I did not answer.

First of all, I don't know who I was talking to! I told him that I would like to know about him first before I talk about myself.

It was good that I asked because it turned out that his position is "President". From then on, I knew how I was going to talk - not too detailed.

He asked some difficult questions. Some of which were on what I think about their current business situation is during the pandemic, how I'm going to handle a team of ~60 people, how I'm going to learn about their business during the remote work arrangements, and especially that I don't speak Japanese.  He also asked how I'm going to build a relationship with people who don't speak English.

I remember answering his questions with a question. For example, in the question of how I'm going to learn about the business during this time and when I don't speak Japanese. I asked, "Do you have process documentation in English? Is there someone who can give me an overview? Etc.

At the end of the interview, I asked, "Do you think there is a role in your company that would fit my qualification?"

I mean, I had to ask, right? I wasn't even applying for a specific role. There was no position on my mind when I was blabbering about my past achievements.

I'm glad I asked because he said he liked my background. He also liked that I was calm & relaxed.

On Monday, I sent an email thanking him for his time and for connecting with me. He replied saying that one of his team will contact me.

It was vagued but I did not probe anymore.

I received a call from a Manager. Another surprise interview, err "talk". We discussed my background again, this time I gave more details.

The scheduled interview

It was like I had a practice interview with that surprise one. I haven't applied for an external job in 10 years!

Anyway, the recruiter provided a few points for my preparation. I watched videos on Youtube about Rakuten. I listed past projects and achievements and taped them at the sides of my laptop. Ah... the advantage of a remote interview hehe!

Unlike the first interview with a big boss, this one made my underarm sweat! To think that I had the airconditioning on!

The questions were super technical & situational. It's like having an exam about Project Management!

I was soooooooo glad I read that book!

I'm not going to say the detail of the interview. Needless to say, because I honestly have no hands-on experience as an official PM, the questions were harder for me to answer.

Fast forward to the result - I did not get this job. But because I have an agent, they were generous in providing the reason for the rejection.

The interviewer gave good feedback! He said I was able to answer all the questions really well. They decided to hire someone more qualified for the job. It's all good. They probably hired someone with a PM certification.

They did not want to let me go so they referred me to a different hiring manager. Good then, it wasn't too heartbreaking.

Getting Hired

Fast forward again - I accepted the job offer from the surprise Interviewers! (I won't mention the company, sorry.) It was unusual because I was referred to them and they simply wanted to check me out.

I canceled the application with Rakuten because I already liked the offer.

I kept on saying I got lucky! I really did, right? Imagine it was all within a short time and during such hard times!

Anyway, I got hired so now what? I have a dependent VISA. I would have to apply for a change in VISA to a Working VISA and get an OEC from POEA.  Most companies assist with that so I don't want to bore you with the details. 

Key Notes:

If you read this blog, you're probably interested in getting a job in Japan. So here's some note for you based on what I know:

  • I'm outside Japan, can I apply for jobs? YES!
    • Due to the increasing labor shortage here, sometimes they have programs for nurses, caregivers, and teachers so watch out for that news.
    • If you're in IT, there are A LOT of opportunities for you. Simply connect with IT recruiters on LI. One recruiter I talked to said they were able to hire from the Philippines.
    • If you're an accountant like me, there's a very little opportunity if you don't speak Japanese. Aim for at least N2 level in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Or, if you have a technical experience as well in coding or building dashboards, you have a higher chance with big companies like Apple, Amazon, and Rakuten.
    • Others - I am not familiar specifically but based on what I read, some people start out as English Teachers. International schools are becoming popular here. Also, parents hire private tutors for their children. If you really like Japan and are okay to start low, most jobs that only require conversational Japanese (JLPT N4) are in factories, kitchen, or hotels.
  • What other sites can I look into for jobs?
  • Connect with recruiters on LI. These people look for profiles that match job openings in Japan. When they have something, they can contact you right away. Maybe you'll be lucky too!

Remember, It's hard but it is not impossible!



* Chasing Fatima is a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, I may earn a commission if you purchase the book using the link provided at no extra cost to you.

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