JOB-HUNTING SEASON STARTS EARLY
Firms Seek IT-Proficient, Internationally Minded Staff (March 8, 2004)
University students due to complete their studies in spring
2005 have already begun seeking jobs for after they graduate. Among corporations
recruiting potential new employees, the trend is toward front-loading and stricter
selection procedures. Some firms send out informal offers as early as January
- fully 15 months before the students graduate - and the bulk of major corporations'
recruitment activities will be over by mid-May. As firms make greater use of the
Internet to recruit their future employees, IT skills are a prerequisite for students
hoping to enter an elite company. Also, against a background of increasingly fierce
global competition and the breakdown of traditional labor structures like lifetime
employment and seniority-based pay, companies are increasingly dependent on temporary,
part-time, and foreign workers. This tide of changes in the structure of the economy
is also affecting the job hunting activities of university students.
|University students attend a briefing on employment opportunities offered by a company. (Jiji)
Most Spots Filled by May
In the past few years, job-hunting websites have begun allowing third-year university
students to register their details and providing job-hunting information in about
October - a year and a half before the new recruits will start their jobs. This
signals the start of a lengthy recruitment season that lasts until around mid-May
of the following year. From October to about March, students request materials
from prospective employers and attend presentations, and some even take part in
internships in order to experience what working at a particular company is really
like. Having researched their options, they file applications with the companies
they are interested in joining.
After the companies have screened the documents submitted by the students and
tested candidates in written exams and interviews, they make informal offers of
employment to those deemed suitable. In the 2003 recruitment drive, foreign-based
companies and consulting firms were among the first to send out informal job offers
to their next batch of recruits, in February, followed by some commercial banks
and insurers in March. The process peaks in April, when major manufacturers and
trading firms start making informal offers, and the majority of positions are
provisionally filled by the middle of May.
There used to be an agreement between industry and the universities that the annual
recruitment drive would not begin until students were in the fourth year of their
studies, but this accord was abolished in 1997, and the process has been starting
sooner and sooner. As recruitment is currently a buyer's market, the selection
criteria employed by many firms are becoming tougher and tougher, and an increasing
number of firms are adopting year-round recruitment drives in which they secure
the best of the year's students at an early stage and gradually whittle down to
the very cream of the crop starting in June.
Compared with the corporations, there has been little change in the students'
approach to job-hunting season. They all wear so-called recruit suits - brand
new suits bought especially for job hunting - and even now about two-thirds of
them have read Mensetsu no Tatsujin (Interview Master),
long regarded as the bible of interview technique. The identities of the most
popular companies also remain largely unchanged. According to a survey of students
due to graduate in March 2004 conducted by Mainichi Communications, JTB Corp.,
the country's largest travel agent, is the top choice among arts students, followed
by Toyota Motor Corp., Japan Airlines, Sony Corp., and Suntory Corp., while Sony
is the leading choice among science students, followed by Toyota, Honda Motor
Co., Shiseido Co., and Suntory. Firms that make liberal use of TV commercials
or have been featured in TV series have risen up the rankings, a sign that public
relations activities are having an effect on the recruitment side of businesses.
The Changing Labor Landscape
The labor market that job-hunting students will enter is currently undergoing
major structural changes. Intense competition in globalized markets is accelerating
the cycle of peaks and troughs experienced by industries and corporations, forcing
companies to shorten the length of time for which they can provide secure employment
to their workers. In order to survive the global competition in cost and added
value, they are also shifting to skills- and performance-based wages and benefits.
As a result, the systems of lifetime employment and seniority-based wages are
Companies are plugging the gap partly by hiring more temporary workers. Firms
that find it difficult to retain employees on a permanent basis are responding
flexibly to the changing economic environment by outsourcing some of the work
previously performed by permanent employees to temporary and part-time workers.
This has caused the value of the temping market to balloon to ¥2 trillion
($19.1 billion at ¥105 to the dollar). This market used to be dominated by
single women but now involves a far wider variety of people, including married
women and engineers. There are even students who choose to enter employment agencies
in order to become temporary workers when they graduate, not to mention "supertemps"
who translate their advanced specialist skills into salaries of over ¥10 million
Companies are also increasingly turning to foreign workers. Unlike in the past,
however, when foreigners were hired to make up for labor shortages, companies
are now actively looking to use the skills and knowledge of non-Japanese. In order
to cope with the increasing need to enter the Chinese market, for example, firms
like Toyota, Nissan Motor Co., All Nippon Airways Co., Marubeni Corp., and Asahi
Glass Co. are striving to boost the ranks of their Chinese staff.
In a 2002 survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, the
number of foreign nationals employed directly by domestic corporations was 141,285,
a rise of 8.3% from the previous year. Of these, 27,622 were engaged in specialist,
technical, or management jobs, a rise of 14.9%. The 2003 White Paper on International
Trade asserts that the acceptance of talented foreign workers with specialist
knowledge and technical ability is essential for Japan's economic growth and stresses
the need to make the domestic labor market and living environment attractive to
These changes in the labor market suggest that there is likely to be major diversification
in the hiring of new graduates, including a move away from the traditional practice
of hiring large numbers of new graduates straight from university.
Related Web Sites
Mainichi Communications (Japanese only)
Toyota Motor Corp.
Honda Motor Co.
Nissan Motor Co.
All Nippon Airways Co.
Asahi Glass Co.
Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare
2003 White Paper on International Trade
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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