Performing well in interviews is a crucial element in successful job hunting. It is important to research the industry and the company well, do a self-analysis prior to the interview, and get a clear idea of how to explain your personal strengths and the reason for applying for that particular job in a concise manner. Here is the standard flow of the Japanese job interview process, and some important information to help you pass the interview procedure.
The process of interviews
Generally, Japanese job interviews proceed as follows.
- First interview (Mostly group interviews or group discussions)
- Second interview (Individual setting)
- Final interview (Mostly with senior executives)
The amount and types of interviews vary depending on a particular company, but you often have to go through three to four different stages of interviews before you can get a job offer.
At the first stage, it is common to sit with several other students and have a group interview or group discussion.
At the second stage, you usually have an individual interview. After you pass the first interview, it is not unusual to be interviewed by an HR manager instead of corporate recruiters at this stage. If a company’s selection process is longer, you might be invited to a third interview before you can move on to the final stage.
After you pass the second or third interview, you can proceed to the final interview. At this stage, you usually meet senior executives, regardless of the size of a company. The type of final interview differs by company. Some simply ask how serious you are about working with them, while others conduct a regular interview. Once you pass this process, you will hopefully get a job offer.
Types of interviews
There are various types of job interviews in Japan, and here are the most common ones you might encounter.
- Group discussions
- Group interviews
- Individual interviews
Group discussions are mostly done at the first step of the interview process. You might be in a group with four to six other candidates, and have a discussion or do group work on a given topic. Commonly, each group gets one evaluator to oversee the whole process.
The things that the evaluators value in group discussions include the candidates’ personal traits, the spirit of cooperation, and logical thinking ability. The evaluators observe how candidates behave in the group activity, not only when they are talking, but also when they are listening to others. Bearing this in mind, it is important to stay focused throughout the discussion even when you are not talking.
It is also advisable to show your spirit of cooperation during the group discussion. Make sure you are not the only one talking in the group. If someone is not actively expressing their ideas, try to give them a chance to speak. To make a favorable impression on the evaluator, try not to focus on promoting yourself too much, and instead be a facilitator to lead the conversation.
At group interviews, one to three interviewers come to meet two to five students at the same time. You tend to see this type of interview at earlier stages of the selection process such as the first or second stage.
In these kinds of interview, candidates are asked one question at a time and they have to answer them in a given order. You only have a limited amount of time to answer, so try not to elaborate much more than what is required to answer the given question, and make sure you speak concisely. Just as in group discussions, interviewers pay attention to your attitude during the entire process so do not lose concentration even when you are not speaking.
In individual interviews, one to three interviewers see one candidate at a time. If you are fortunate enough to pass the initial stages, you will often be invited to this type of interview. You will be given about 30 to 60 minutes in this process, so you can sufficiently express yourself.
How to dress for interviews
Do you know how to dress appropriately for interviews? Here are some tips on how to dress well and make a good impression on the interviewers.
- Hair: Make sure your hair is clean and tidy.
- Face: Male students should be clean shaven. Female students are recommended to wear only a touch of makeup.
- Shirt: A white shirt is the default. Wear a clean shirt with no wrinkles or stains.
- Suit: Wear a darker color suit such as black, navy or grey. You can wear either a plain or striped suit.
- Dress pants and skirt: Iron a crease in the front of your trousers, or wear a knee length skirt.
- Shoes: Wear simple black shoes. Make sure your shoes don’t look worn out, and polish them well before you go to the interview.
- Socks and tights: Wear a similar color of socks to your suit and avoid white or patterned ones. Choose plain tights.
- Bag: Choose either a black or brown bag. A bag that can fit A4 size documents will come in handy.
- Other: Avoid wearing heavy perfume or too many accessories.
When it comes to the outfit for job hunting, “tidiness” is your keyword. It is recommended to choose a simple and clean look as much as possible, and avoid showy or messy outfits. Some companies or positions may require you to come to the interview in plain clothes. Even so, be conscious about giving a good impression to the interviewers and choose a neat and tidy looking outfit.
Questions commonly asked during the interviews
What kind of questions are commonly asked during the interviews? Here are some examples.
- Introduce yourself.
- Talk about your qualities.
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
- How do your friends and family describe your personality?
- What is your most rewarding university experience?
- What made you interested in Japan?
- What motivated you to come to Japan?
- How long do you wish to work in Japan?
- Why are you interested in this industry?
- Can you talk about your reason for applying?
- Do you have any requests about the position or work location?
- What do you value when you apply to companies?
- What other companies are you applying to?
During the interviews, you often get asked about yourself or the reasons you applied to this particular company or industry. After you respond to these questions, the interviewers will ask further questions based on what you have said. Prepare well for the interviews in advance so that you know what to talk about, at least for the questions above.
Tips to make yourself stand out in the interviews
Lastly, here are some tips you should keep in mind to make yourself stand out in job interviews.
- Greet everyone you meet, be polite and maintain a straight posture
- Talk clearly and concisely
- Stay engaged during the interview even when you are not talking
- Do not give more information than is required to answer the question, and keep to the point
- Make a list of questions to ask at the interviews
Greet everyone you meet, be polite and maintain a straight posture
At the job interviews, remember to greet everyone you meet, including interviewers and receptionists. You also have to communicate in a polite manner. For example, do not hurriedly take a seat before your interviewers sit down. During the interviews, maintain a straight posture and make eye contact with the interviewers. Little acts of consideration like these can often make a stronger impact on the interviewers than what you actually say.
Talk clearly and concisely
Talk clearly and concisely during the interviews. Speaking too quietly or mumbling can make you look unconfident, and the interviewers may not be able to consider you as a potential candidate even when you are trying to sell yourself. It would be useful to practice in front of a mirror and see how you look when you are actually talking.
Stay engaged during the interview even when you are not talking
During group discussions or interviews, your attitude is constantly observed, even when you are not talking. Therefore, stay engaged and show your commitment by listening carefully to what both the interviewers and your fellow candidates are saying.
Do not give more information than is required to answer the question, and keep to the point
Endlessly talking about yourself is one of the most common job interview mistakes. For example, when you are only asked about the reason for application you should not extend your story and talk about your qualities. Try to keep your answers succinct and simply answer the questions.
Make a list of questions to ask at the interviews
At the end of the interviews, interviewers will often give you some time to ask any questions you might have for them. Asking questions can be a great opportunity to further highlight your qualities. You can also show your deep interest in a particular company or industry by asking insightful questions. Accordingly, plan ahead and make a list of questions you want to find out before attending the interviews.
This is the standard flow of the Japanese job interview process. Follow the instructions above and prepare well, so that you can get a successful outcome.
Read articles of Job Hunting Guide for International Students
- Features of job-hunting in Japan
- Japanese hiring culture
- Job-hunting schedule in Japan
- The advantages and disadvantages of working at different types of companies
- Finding employment for international students
- Why do Japanese firms employ international students?
- Industry research
- How to write a good resume
- Entry sheets
- Written exams
- The steps for receiving a job offer and joining a company
- The procedure to change a visa status
- About job hunting after graduation