Working in Japan: After the Interview/Getting Hired

The interview is done, yay!  All you need to do is wait.  Or maybe you’ve just gotten notice that they want to hire you.  In that case, congratulations! 😀

Here’s some pointers on how to wrap up the job application process.

After the Interview
When the interview comes to a conclusion, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration.  Later that day or the following day, you should also send a follow-up thank you e-mail.  Besides being a part of business etiquette and a display of politeness, a follow-up e-mail gives you a chance to reaffirm your interest in the position, clarify some of what you talked about during the interview (especially if there’s something you were given to think about or regretted not wording better), and gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have forgotten to bring up.

Some companies use follow-up e-mails as the last deciding factor on who to hire when two candidates are neck and neck for a position.  Whether or not the company cares about the importance of a follow-up e-mail, or whether or not they even e-mail you a reply back, it’s always good to err on the side of good manners.

Waiting for a Response
If a week or two goes by and you haven’t gotten a response, especially after a given time frame, it probably means they weren’t interested.  Some companies don’t respond to candidates that haven’t been selected, which is why I recommend asking about the decision notification time frame during the interview.   As a higher-up at one of the companies I used to work for once told me, companies won’t forget you if they’re interested; they want someone to fill the position just as much as any potential candidates wants to be hired.  Still, sometimes the decision process takes longer than originally anticipated.  If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to send another follow-up inquiry e-mail.

In the meantime while you wait for a response, I would recommend making a Plan B and going on other interviews if you can, just in case you don’t get your first job choice.  Likewise, if a company keeps stringing you on, I’d be weary about accepting any offer of employment they send out weeks later.   It shows disorganization or inability to value people’s time.  This behavior is not likely to change and could possibly get worse after you sign the contract.

Signing the Contract
Once you get an offer of employment, make sure to sign a contract.  Do not accept a verbal contract only.  Although verbal contracts can be legally binding in Japan, it’s hard to prove who’s telling the truth when/if a dispute comes up about the terms of the contract.

Make sure the contract includes the hours, benefits, etc. that you were promised during the interview.  The employer is only responsible for making good on whatever is listed under the contract (unless that contract stipulates something illegal), and nothing more.  The amount of times I’ve seen Japanese companies lie during the interview (to me or to other people applying to companies I worked for) about working hours or conditions just to get someone to fill a position, and then try to sneak a fastball in later in a contract is ridiculous.  The ALT/English conversation (eikaiwa) industry can be terrible about it.  These companies know that the Japanese Labor Bureau almost never steps in to mediate and that employees have little recourse available to them, so the best thing you can do is to take preventative action by not signing anything you didn’t agree to during the interview or follow-up communication.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to go over your contract with a fine tooth comb before signing it.  Feel free to look over it at home and then sign.  If an employer insists you must sign it then and there, they are probably trying to sneak a fastball on you.  If you have any questions, ask.  If it looks illegal, ask for a Japanese copy and take it to your local labor bureau office or union for advice.  If you catch something and your employer agrees to amend the contract, don’t sign until you have the amended copy.

Additionally, don’t go with any job that refuses to have the visa ready before you arrive in Japan and start working.  This is illegal!  If you get caught, you will be deported and possibly blacklisted from re-entering the country.  It also gives companies leverage to abuse you, because upon arrival they might say they will refuse to sponsor your visa unless you do x amount of unpaid work, overtime, or jump through a multitude of ridiculous hoops first.

Believe me, nothing sucks more than getting roped into a bad job, because in Japan that usually means waiting until the hiring season begins next year to find another one.

I hope these past few posts will or have helped you on your job search!  As always, comments or questions welcome.  🙂

– J

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