This month, graduating 4th year university students across Japan are donning nondescript dark suits, and preparing late into the night in the hope of securing a promise for employment. That’s because June marks the official start of the job-hunting season or shukatsu (short for shūshoku katsudō 就職活動). Shukatsu is an overly organized, competitive time in the lives of many young university students, but it is about to change in the near future.
The Japanese academic year starts in April and ends in March. The whole job-hunting process can typically last for a year or so, starting as early as May-June of students’ 3rd year to stretch into autumn of their 4th year. Some universities have started giving course credits for internships, and thus students are carefully picking where to intern during the summer of their 3rd year. There are also occasional fall and winter internships available in September and December-January. Before the 4th year, students will do research on industries they wish to work in by applying to internships, preparing for the SPI aptitude test, or visiting alumni who work there. There are also exhibit-type recruitment events, or career fairs called godo setsumeikai (合同説明会), hosted at big venues in major cities, where companies belonging to the same corporate group (e.g. NTT Data Group, JR Tokai Group) or companies from a specific industry come together to appeal to job-hunting students. These career fairs help students save time and money for travelling to different locations. Average job hunters may spend 50,000-90,000 yen for the whole shukatsu process depending on where they live in Japan.
At the beginning of students’ 4th academic year in April, companies are allowed to start hosting official company info seminars. To apply, students are requested to prepare and submit “entry sheets” which will be screened by HR. The entry sheet is a typical Japanese-style job application form--it should include contents from one’s CV, career objectives, motivations, and so on. Students are also asked to write down in detail about why they wish to work at the company to which they’re applying. Even in this day and age, some companies still request that students submit handwritten entry sheets.
The peak of shukatsu this year is probably April-August for 4th year students. Only students whose entry sheets are accepted are invited to sit for further screening, including the SPI test, group work sessions, and interviews. There are so many alleged do’s and don’ts which make this process hectic and stressful for applicants, that some students report hair loss or insomnia! Students who pass are offered promises of employment known as naitei (内定). This can happen from June-August, or as early as April if the student had already interned there. Formal offers usually come by October 1. However, this timeline mostly applies to large companies in major cities, so small-to-medium-sized businesses would keep recruiting throughout this period, offering naitei well after summer.
Next month, we will focus on how this traditional system is set for some major changes in the coming years.