Finding jobs in Japan

This post is mostly about finding tech jobs in Japan. This may apply to find other jobs or find jobs in other countries. People often ask me how did I find a job in Japan. I only have two samples may not well represent this giant topic. But I will share some things I learned.

Do I need to speak Japanese?

If you do, you have more options. But I cannot speak Japanese when I came here. Also nothing can stop you if you really want to live in Japan.

Your skills can compensate Japanese ability. It’s worth the time to study Japanese if you plan to stay here for a few years. Everything is more fun when you know Japanese.

Do I need to already be in Japan?

Be where the things are happening is better (see this story of how Derek Sivers became Ryuichi Sakamoto’s guitarist!1), but not necessary you have to be here first.

Foreigner friendly Jobs

Mostly in Tokyo or Fukuoka. You would need decent Japanese to find a job outside Tokyo. Or you can find a job which allow you to work anywhere in Japan.

Finding Jobs

These are sites that run by lovely folks in Japan:

There are also Wantedly, Forkwell jobs, and Indeed. But I haven’t tried them yet.

Linkedin has proven not working for me and wasting both recruiter’s time and my time, so I deleted my Linkedin account. But I do know that sometimes folks at company posting recruiting updates exclusively on Linkedin. And recruiters like to use Linkedin to source candidates.

Find More Openings

Networking

Connect with people at technical meetups (Check Doorkeeper, HN Kansai). Attend conferences (confs.tech and Tech & Design conferences in Asia).

Meetups in Tokyo

Social Network

Find and follow 42 folks you like in Japan, twitter search keywords like "japan hiring" under people you followed.

Searching

Search by recruiting softwares companies are using:

Create Your Own Role

Things always start with someone you know. If you talk / cold email to folks at company you want to join. They think you’re good, they will talk to who has hiring authority, and creates an opening for you. Higher chances in Q1 and Q2. Or reach out (cold email) to folks who can offer more advices on this. Try to have coffee with Patrick McKenzie.

Vouch for you is too much

I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to vouch for you. They could get you on the door, maybe skip the screening interview at most. But vouching someone means they gamble their credibility on you.

Employers outside Tokyo

Homework

I look at these traits and criterias for a company:

With Health items (A rating from 1-3, 1=Bad, 2=OK, 3=Great):

10 items in Health, you should at least get 20 points.

See it in action (Airtable):

Annual Compensation, Signing Bonus, Salary, Benfits Perks, Annual Bonus show in million yen. Health field already deducted 20.

Then you can use these to evaluate which company is best for you.

Other than abovementioned japandev. The glassdoor equivalent in Japan is Hyouban, you can see how people say about a company, take a look at Paypay‘s review for example. You can check before applying.

Then you study the company‘s about page, culture, mission, what folks are saying on the internet, blog, their twitter account, status apge, past incidents. Write a dedicated, succinct cover letter like this one, specifically tailored for the company you‘re applying (From How I got hired by Basecamp).

Find few current and ex-folks from this company, see what they talk about their company (Twitter search company name under these people). Listen to podcasts from their executive or known folks. You could even email or direct message these people if you have any question.

Applying

APPLY ANYWAY

I learned after so many years that you do not need to meet all the job requirements to apply. You really do not. It’s really true. Having a growth mindset is enough. APPLY ANYWAY. Mindset and demonstrated ability are more important than formal qualifications.

APPLY, otherwise nothing happens.

Interviews

I do not study any formal interview process at traditional Japanese company: What to wear, how many times to knock the door, what to say before you sit down, etc. I like salaryman culture, but I don’t necessarily want to be one. They’re not the companies for me.

I do not study any whiteboard interviews (invert a binary tree, write a bubble sort), algorithmetic questions, puzzles, math riddles, or tricky questions. They’re not the companies for me. I like company who test on what really the job would be doing. If you really want to study, not for the interview, but for fun, I recommend you: norvig/pytudes.

For real interviews, I am extremely nervous when I interview. My general strategy is to be me and kind during the interview. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. Prepare yourself with a project / a failure you want and can talk in depth. interviewing.io is amazing if you want to prepare technical hands on interview. For questions to ask as interviewee, pick some that you care about from Reverse interview.

A great question to ask would be:

Salaries

Is x amount of money enough?
Is x amount of money enough to live in Tokyo?

It can be ¥3 million to ¥20 million, and beyond. This question also depends on your life style. Where you live? Do you need to support a family? What do you want? So there is no correct answer, because everyone is different. Only you know how much you want. Paul McMahon recently did a survey in the end of 2019.

Be aware Salary in Japan in many companies usually include fixed set of overtime hours (見なし残業、時間外労働, this sucks). You do not have overtime pay if you work more than the fixed hours.

Usually there is more than just Salaries. Japan has seasonal bonuses culture (but they may also reduce your monthly pay). Foreign public listed company may offer you stocks or RSU, signing up bonus.

SmartHR is very open about their salary. Everyone should learn from SmartHR. Japan needs more transparency on this.

Average salary of public listed companies are transparent

For public listed companies, you can check average annual salary on CLABEL, Mercari for example, or 四季報 by stock number. Example: Cookpad (平均年収).

Negotiating Offers

When someone ask you for a number, never disclose it.

Counter question: What’s the range of salary of this position?

GitLab has a handy compensation calulator, also stackoverflow.

Onsite interview, Onboarding travels

I want to mention Onsite / Onboarding travels, everything should be paid upfront by the company, not through expenses. I had experiences I covered first, and they pay me back months later.

This could be financially challenging for many people because international travel + accommodations + transportations are more expensive than you think, especially when you’re not working, and you may also have a family to support. Also see this relevant tweet.

Finally..My first two jobs in Japan

I DM’d people on Twitter. Either directly asked about a role or for a coffee, leads to interviews. The first job I was in Taiwan. I applied online, had few Skype interviews then moved to Japan. The reachout is better than apply through their websites directly (as far as I heard people are saying, I never apply without talking to someone first).

Hope you found this post useful. Have a good job hunting!

Good luck,
Juanito

  • 1

    Ryuichi Sakamoto

  • 2

    Annual Bonus could come from bonus, stocks, RSUs. For 10M yen RSU vest over 3 years, assume 20% yearly growth, 10M/3*1.2 = 4M. If you want to be realistic, go see the history of growth of the company and change accordingly.