Jobs & Careers in Japan

Employment in Japan

Employment Examinations

Document-based exams, written examinations and interviews are often used as part of an employment exam. Preparations must be made prior to taking the examinations, and you must also review certain rules and manners beforehand. This chapter will provide you with information regarding the exams.

Document-based Examinations

Document-based exams make up the initial phase of job hunting activities. The entry sheet is one of these documents. By submitting an entry sheet, you make a formal application to take the employment exam. The entry sheet is very unique in the following points. One is the fact that companies are adopting different test formats. Another is short Japanese writing sections where you have to appeal what you did during your school life, why you would like to enter the company, and so on. Many foreign students who experienced job hunting activities in Japan often confess the entry sheet was the toughest task. In this section, you have to answer the company's provided questions with a set number of Japanese characters (around 200 to 400).

Sample Entry Sheet Questions

  • Describe your personality using a suitable food in 400 characters. (Food industry)
  • How will you contribute to this company after being accepted? (Trading company)
  • Describe why you would be indispensable to our company by referring to what you did your best during your school-life. (Machinery)
  • Describe what you have learned from your own experience of failure. (Trading company)
  • If you had 300 million Japanese yen, what would you do to promote world peace? (Information/Communications)

Preparing for Document-based Examinations

In terms of measures for the document-based examination, what companies want to see in your essay is how you have thought and acted in your past activities, and how you think about the future. In order to respond to these matters, you have to look back on your personality and past experiences. Of course, you have to research the company and think about the reason why you would like to work for them.

Writing in Japanese takes some time. In order to balance school research and other activities, prepare your essay early and gradually, and proofread it while consulting with your school's career support department.

Written Examinations

Written examinations are conducted to ascertain whether students have reached a certain level of intellectual and academic ability, and whether they possess the thinking and judgment skills, work speed, processing ability, and accuracy required for the job. When there are numerous applicants, these tests are used as efficient tools for selection.

As paper exams are basically carried out in Japanese, applicants must have a high level of Japanese comprehension.

Though some companies offer original tests, most of them use ready-to-use exams developed by expert companies.

Exams generally include an aptitude test, general knowledge test, and Japanese writing or short essay. Generally speaking, many companies adopt various aptitude tests. There are a variety of aptitude tests, but they include language-related questions in Japanese and English, as well as math-related questions.

Although aptitude tests in Japanese and English or mathematics are not particularly difficult, time is limited. You have to train yourself in advance to answer many questions correctly in a short time.

Samples (SPI3)

(1) Choose the phrase that uses the underlined word with the closest meaning.

(Ex.) 無理がきかない

① 見通しがきく ② 薬がきく ③ 先生にきく ④ 気がきく ⑤ 音楽をきく

(2) There are 200 grams of water with a salt concentration of 3% and 300 grams of water with 4% concentration. How much will the concentration be after mixed?

① 2.6% ② 3.6% ③ 4.6% ④ 5.6% ⑤ 6.6%

Answers) (1) ①見通しがきく (2) ② 3.6%

Preparations for Written Examinations

The first step is to find out what types of aptitude tests are used by the companies to which you are applying. As for big companies, you can find past exams from "Kaisha shikiho" (The Japan Company Handbook) or aptitude test preparation books. For smaller companies, you may find past records by checking graduates' reports at your school's career center.

After obtaining information about your company's test, try to familiarize yourself with the patterns of aptitude tests and how to solve the problems. It is necessary to know and become familiar with the trends in the types of tests and the types of questions that will be asked. Practice with test preparation books sold at bookstores as well as questions you find online.

Finally, try to get used to the time limit. What is difficult about an aptitude test is solving many questions in a short amount of time. As you have to solve questions efficiently, it is very important to always simulate the actual time span and get used to the limit even during a practice test.


It is common for a company to have three rounds of interviews.

Companies conduct multiple interviews because they want staff members of various positions to check the applicant's personality and way of thinking in order to ascertain if they are really suitable for the company.

There are several types of job interviews in Japan. The three types commonly adopted by most companies include group discussions, group interviews, and individual interviews.

Sample Questions

  • Have you ever used our company's products? What do you think of them?
  • What do you expect from a company and a job?
  • Tell me why you came to study in Japan. Why would you like to work for a Japanese company?
  • How long do you expect to work in Japan?

Group Discussions

In group discussions, students are to discuss a given theme in groups of 4 to 6 people.

Interviewers will evaluate the situation objectively. The purpose of this kind of interview is to check how an individual performs in a group.

Group Interviews

Group interviews are carried out by a company with many applicants in order to bring down the number of candidates to a reasonable number so that individual interviews can be done.

This kind of interview is different from an individual interview and is characterized by a shorter time to respond, as well as comparison with other candidates. Interviewers will ask questions based on candidates' previously-submitted entry-sheets and personal histories, which each interviewee will answer.

Individual Interviews

Unlike group interviews, more time is spent with each individual in order to understand their characteristics.

The interviewer is checking not only your answers to questions, but also your demeanor, posture, facial expressions, and even the way you speak.

Based on the entry sheet and resume, the interviewer will ask questions to the applicant.

At first, you will be asked about the content of your resume or entry sheet, and then you will be asked questions for more details.

Preparing for Interviews

During the interview, you will be asked to provide a more detailed explanation of what you have described in your entry sheet. So prepare for questions that are highly likely to be asked. In order to express yourself effectively in a short time, explanations should be easily understandable.

Train yourself to start with your conclusion, followed by certain episodes and a summary. You can record your speech and practice with a mobile phone. Check your eye contact, speaking mannerisms and what you talked about, then work on improving these points! It is also important to practice with your friends or staff at your school's career center, who can act as the interviewer during a simulation.

To Chapter 5. Status of Residence

(Supervised by Manabu Kubota, Visiting Researcher of JASSO)


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