Interview in Japan: Show your adaptability

This entry is so crazy, but I’m writing this for foreign people who want to get a job in Japan.

As you know, different countries have different cultures. Japanese companies have different cultures from foreign companies. The difference is based on Japanese culture and the law of Japan. Sometimes it does not make sense (for also Japanese) and is not productive. We, Japanese, need to change everything. However, changing is going slowly and never guaranteed. If you want to get a job in Japan now, you’d better know the difference.


Keep in mind that almost all Japanese companies are based on collectivism (集団主義) and can not adopt to individualism (個人主義) well.

Here’s a fictional example.

George came to Japan from the U.S. with his dream of becoming an independent developer, but he needed a job to live in Japan. He hired as a game programmer and then he got a chance to achieve his true dream or found a job paying better than his current job. However, his company has been very busy recently because the company is facing a deadline. What should he do?

For his happiness, he should quit his job right now and move on the chance. He has a right to do that. The law of Japan supports his right. This situation is what a lot of Japanese companies are afraid when they hire foreign people.

His company unexpected he does that. There are two reasons. At first, many Japanese companies don’t have a system to frequency turnover. The basic hiring system of Japan has been a persistent employment (lifetime worker) for a long time, so their system promises that “an employee don’t quit my company easily and quickly,” even if George is a contract worker. Next, the Japanese companies rely on the loyalty of the employees. It means collectivism.

In other words, the Japanese companies had been insuring to hire people as a persistent employee and relying on the loyalty of their employees. Their system and rules have been optimized to these two elements.

Some Japanese companies hired foreign people, but some people leave the companies easily. Nowadays, such companies tend to avoid hiring foreign people. I think the companies understand it’s old-fashioned. On other hands, it’s the fact that their system and culture can not adapt individualism practically.

What should you do?

I know some foreign people are individualism, but others are not. If you are a collectivist or came from a country known as collectivism, you should appeal it in an interview. If you are an individualist or came from a country known as collectivism, you should emphasize your understanding and adaptability.

It’s a fight against prejudice. In the case of George who came from the U.S, he should emphasize adaptability with collectivism. But, somehow?

  • He should say that his wish is to work in Japan for a long-term.
  • He should share his true dream in an interview.
  • He should swear that you never leave the company quickly even if he gets a chance for his true dream.

Once he shared his dream or career plan with the company and swore to adapt to Japanese custom, the company may be on his side. And the company is not afraid to hire George.

Note: How to resign?

In general, a contract between an employer and an employee in Japan includes the agreement about retirement. (e.g. “The employee has to submit a request for retirement at least a month before retirement day.”) In the fact, the agreement is illegal. You can resign your job at one day. However, I repeat, you shouldn’t do that.

Share you career plan, update it periodically and consult your boss. In my case, I had been sharing my dream, which is to work abroad, with my previous company. All my colleagues and my boss had been recognizing that I will go abroad someday. When I got a job in a branch of a Western developer, I said it to my boss five months before retirement day because I needed five months to finish all of my projects in the company. It was a typically amicable resignation in Japan.

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