How to get a job in Japan

I swear I have been putting of writing this article for a really long time. In the following paragraphs, I will try to describe my road to Japan (which necessarily involves getting a job first) and hopefully provide a few advices that could help anyone wishing to pursue the same path.

May 12, 2018 - 8 minute read -
japan

For me, it all started in January 2017. When Kumi was visiting me in Prague at that time, we were having a serious discussion about whether she would be moving to Czech Republic or I should move to Japan. As the title of this website suggests, we chose the second path, and it couldn’t have been a more difficult decision – or rather a decision that would lead to a lot of hardships. I don’t mean to scare anyone right in the first paragraph – I mean, I am still in the phase where I definitely don’t regret doing this and everything around me is still awesome (with the exception of Japanese banks, but more on that topic in another article) – but I’m not going to lie and say that it was easy, because it was not.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page – why would one search for a job online instead of coming to the country directly and looking for a job in person? Well, if I overlook the obvious financial and few more legal reasons, the most striking problem is the fact that as a tourist on tourist visas, you can stay in the country for three months only, not a day more. So you’d have to rely on your ability to find a job in less than three months (during which you’d have to be staying in hotels, as you wouldn’t be able to rent a property on your own) and even if you were capable of doing that, the entire process of getting a work visas would still take three months on its own, so you’d still have to return to your home country before the entire process was finished. The only shortcut I can realistically think of is obtaining a marriage visas, but I haven’t tried that path so I can’t give any advice on whether it would work or not. You can definitely share your story in the comments if you know more on this!

What do you want to do?

The first question you have to ask yourself is – do you want to find a job in your field, or do you want to come here as an English language teacher? I have heard from many people that the latter is significantly easier and if you’re interested in pursuing this option, you should definitely check JET Programme and Interac. I was, however, worried about the gap it would create in my résumé and how it could affect obtaining my next job in IT much more difficult, so I decided to find a job related to IT.

One thing that should be noted, however, is that if you decide to go with either of these language programmes, you won’t be able to choose a location within Japan. You may express a preference but chances are you end up in some rural area of Japan, which can be interesting but it may not be what you’re looking for.

How long will it take?

The second question you don’t have to, but really want to ask yourself is – how long will it take for me to find a job in Japan? Obviously, that will differ from person to person; I have heard from Kumi that it usually takes from one to three years to find a job from abroad, but my reality was slightly better than that – it took me eleven months to find a job here, and then additional four months of obtaining the work visas. Factors affecting the time is of course your field (for example, IT in general is good, but then again, mobile development, something I had four years of experience in, is bad, that is quite often outsourced from Japan to other regions in Asia), experience (including education – my Master’s degree has been utterly useless for me in Czech Republic but really impressive in Japan) and perhaps most importantly, language skill.

Being unable to speak Japanese handicaps you more than I would have imagined before. It limits you from living in the cities you would perhaps want to live, as finding job as a non-speaker in Kyoto or Osaka was utterly impossible for me. As a non-speaker, you’re pretty much limited to Tokyo, and even that is problematic still. It limits you from the kind of companies you can join – start-ups are mostly a no-no, smaller companies as well, so you have to rely on being accepted by a large, preferably a global company that doesn’t mind you won’t be able to speak Japanese for a while1.

In general, I would prepare myself for about a year-long journey that will be surprisingly full of rejections, even if you aren’t used to them from your home country – that was precisely my experience actually, as I have never not gotten a job offer after an interview back in Czech Republic.

During these eleven months of searching for job, I tried many different sites with various level of results. The first one I found was one lovely called GaijinPot Jobs. At first it seemed like there’s plenty of different job offers but after about two to three months, it started to seem like I’m perhaps the only person still using that site, as new job offers stopped appearing. I’m not sure if every company moved elsewhere or if the site ranked me as “not useful” and stopped showing me new offers, but my overall experience with GaijinPot Jobs was not a pleasant one, even though I had a few job interviews organized through that site. Be warned that it seems like a majority of job offers in GaijinPot Jobs require business level of Japanese.

Next on the list is amusingly named Daijob, and it’s probably my favourite of them all. A lot of new offers every day along with great filtering (although a bit outdated – you can’t search for iOS-related jobs but you can search for Symbian developers for some reason?) and you can get new job offers right to your mailbox. Sometimes the companies even scout you (instead of you having to apply to them), which feels nice in the midst of the storm of rejections you’ll face. Daijob is ultimately a site that landed me my current job.

Quite similar to Daijob is CareerCross. I’m not sure if there was ever any rational reason for it but it always felt like a site that’s almost like a clone of Daijob, except maybe a bit better-looking. A lot of the job offers are, however, exactly the same offers you can find on Daijob. I still recommend it though.

Then there are sites such as Indeed and JobsInJapan but these never yielded any useful result for me. Maybe you’ll be more lucky!

Finally, there’s Wantedly, a site on which you can find mostly smaller companies and start-ups. I got one interview out of it which I had to attend personally in Tokyo, but it never amounted for anything in the end.

What to prepare?

Here’s another important part: make sure your résumé is amazing. In Czech Republic, I always had the feeling that résumé is something I need to have to get a job interview, but realistically it’s a miracle if anyone even skims through it a bit. Here, it actually matters.

In Czech Republic (and I believe in western world in general), there’s a rule that résumé that’s longer than one page is a useless one, as it’ll just be thrown into the trash (or laughed at, then thrown into the trash). Well, throw that expectation right out of the window, as I understood after a few months (or more precisely, was advised as a part of rejection) that the more thorough your résumé is, the better.

For example, the résumé I was sending out most often contained the following sections:

  • a full page of skills and experience, tools I worked with (as in software, not names of co-workers), frameworks and languages I know and certificates I obtained;
  • one third of a page describing my educational background;
  • one third of a page with a list of previous companies, including start date, end date and a reason for leaving;
  • half a page with my personal biography;
  • four pages (!) describing in detail what projects I worked on in each of my previous companies, size of team, my role in team, techniques used and how long it took to finish each project.

If interested, drop me an e-mail and I can send you that résumé as a starter for you.

Furthermore, having a portfolio of your accomplishments helps sometimes, especially if your previous work is difficult to describe or the results are not publicly available – it helps the company to understand what you accomplished if you show them more visually and again, in even greater detail.

Finally, be prepared that some companies will actually not be interested in our western-style résumé at all, and they’ll instead require you to send in a 履歴書 (rirekisho). I’m not even going to go into details about how much fun it is to write this document but in case you needed help, there are articles on the Internet that will help you slightly.

I got a job, now what?

First of all, congratulations, you’re almost here! Depending on your position and visas sub-type, you’ll probably need to supply a few documents to your future company (who will serve as your visas guarantor) – very likely your photo, quite likely also university diplomas translated to English. I went for a court-verified translation but I’m still not sure if it was strictly necessary; on the other hand, official instructions say that even court-verified translation is not sufficient and an translation with an apostille must be supplied, but that was not my case.

After your future employer has collected everything for the Certificate of Eligibility application, you can try (and fail) to forget about Japan for the next three months, because nothing will happen – until one day, you get an e-mail from your company, saying that the Certificate of Eligibility was issued and then the very next day, it will magically arrive in your hands – at least that was my case and I think Czech Post should really look into this – I mean, apparently it is possible to deliver a package within one day and not lose it three times during the process!

With the Certificate of Eligibility, you can schedule a visit to the Japanese embassy or consulate (if I remember correctly, you’ll need to bring another photo), fill in a simple form once you’re there and within no more than few days, the visas is finally yours. Just don’t forget to arrive in Japan within three months after that, or your visas become invalid.

I think that’s all the advice I can think of right now. Should you wish to take this journey, I definitely wish you the best of luck and feel free to reach out to me if anything was unclear and I’ll try to help in any way I can. Finally, quick shout out to INNTEGRA (and especially Anna) as they were the ones who actually helped me get my job in Japan – I am forever grateful for all the help and encouragement provided.

  1. I have heard LINE is quite tolerant when it comes to language skill, even going as far as providing Japanese language lesson as part of your work-day. I don’t exactly know if that’s true, just reporting it as something I heard.