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Japan: mixed
response to
recruitment shift
by Beckie Smith
Japan’s business association, Keidanren, has brought forward the national start date for its companies’ rigorous graduate hiring processes. The move has prompted some concern that the change may negatively impact students who study abroad, though educators have welcomed encouragement that companies strive to hire these students.

From this year, Keidanren has advised its 1,329 members to begin interviewing students from June 1 – two months earlier than the previous year – and issue job offers from October.

This is the second time in two years the date has been modified. Last year, the annual recruitment drive was moved from April to August, in an attempt to enable penultimate-year students to focus on their studies.

Takafumi Ota, director, Information Services Division at the Japan Student Services Organisation’s Student Exchange Department, stressed that interviews beginning in June rather than April, as they did two years ago, is better for students who study abroad.

“There is a merit for students which are in the middle of study abroad programmes and are about to return home in late May or June”

“There is a merit for students, in particular for junior/senior year students, which are in the middle of study abroad programmes and are about to return home in late May or June after finishing a semester,” he said.

However, Tatsu Hoshino, executive secretary of the Japan Association of Overseas Studies, said the June start will nevertheless be “worse timing” for students who have studied abroad than last year, and some educators are concerned that students who return from placements overseas in July will effectively miss the process.

“I can’t say this change is favourable for the students,” he added.

Last year’s shift to August was an attempt to enable penultimate-year students to focus on their studies. The period when companies advertise jobs was also moved from December to March, to shorten the process.

However, a survey by Keidanren of its members revealed that rather than delaying recruiting, many firms instead simply extended their recruitment process, resulting in some firms pressuring students to take early job offers.

However, its chairman, Sadayuki Sakikabara, emphasised that “the assessment is not all negative”, with students reporting that they were more able to concentrate on their studies.

“We also hear that studying-abroad students are saying it has become easier for them to do their job search,” he said last year.

Despite concern that students returning in the summer might find it harder to apply for jobs, educators have welcomed new guidelines from Keidanren that businesses should make allowances for these students when hiring.

“Companies shall strive to take students with experience of studying abroad into consideration,” the guidance reads.

“As for their recommendation on prioritising students who study abroad for their members’ recruitment, of course it is positive,” added Kazuo Kuroda, dean of Waseda University’s International Affairs Division.

However, he predicted that its influence in the business community will be minimal.

“I think its impact is modest because individual companies have their own standards for their employees and international enterprises have already prioritised such students.”