Apr 30, 2018

Job application process in Japan

The application process for a job in Japan is quite lengthy and often involves several interviews and other tests. For foreigners that are not used to the procedure, it can be quite tiresome.

The bigger the company the more interviews

In general, you can say, the bigger the company is the more interviews you will have to go through. In smaller companies, a single interview can be enough whereas in bigger companies you might have to go through 5 or more.

In some cases, the application process starts with so-called Setsumei-Kai (説明会). This is an event applicants can attend to learn more about the company. Usually, HR people and other employees tell you more about the job and the application process via presentations, you can ask questions and sometimes you can even bring along your CV and undergo the first interview if you still want to after what you’ve heard.  

Otherwise, you will have to send in your CV by e-mail or postal mail or complete an application form on the company website. 

After the CV screening, you might be invited for an interview or for an SPI test preceding the interview. SPI is an online test that you can do on your home computer. It usually asks math questions and Japanese language questions. Whereas the math questions are still doable with some practice the Japanese language questions are way more difficult than the hardest level of the JLPT and I find them almost impossible to do good on as a non-native speaker. 

Job application process in Japan photo

Bookstores sell a lot of SPI preparation books with practice questions. 

But depending on the company you might not need a perfect score for passing or they put more focus on the math questions. Some companies even put English language questions in there, which can help you raise your overall score. 

If you passed the test you will be invited for a first interview. First interviews are usually done by an HR person and maybe also someone already working in a job similar to the one you applied for. The questions are still pretty basic and not too specific. You should definitely prepare a self-introduction and a good reason why you applied for the company and the job. 

The final interview is usually with the CEO

If you successfully passed the first interview you might have to go through several more interviews and tests depending on the procedure of the company. The further you go the higher the positions of the interviewers will be until you finally have an interview with the CEO. 

Depending on the number of interviews and your personal schedule it might take a few months until you finish the whole process. If you are currently working fulltime you might have to take time off for each interview as some companies don’t offer interviews on weekends or late in the evening.

I think it has pro and cons to have such a lengthy hiring process. On the one hand, it will feel like a huge waste of time when after the 4th interview you are told that they don’t want to hire you after all. On the other hand, such a process gives you plenty of opportunities to learn about the company you applied for and this might help to avoid companies that are not a good fit for you.



Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/