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. 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's more fun when you know Japanese.

Do I need to already be in Japan?

Be where the things are happening is better, but not necessary you have to be here first. See this story of How Derek Sivers became Ryuichi Sakamoto's guitarist!1

Foreigner friendly Jobs

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

Listing websites

These are sites that run by lovely folks in Japan that are probably more useful than this post:

  • { tokyodev } run by Paul McMahon

    It has job listing with opinionated recommendation by Paul. You can trust Paul, he is great.

  • japandev by Manami and Eric

    Introduce companies with salary information, pros and cons from folks who actually work there. Great initiative.

  • Remote jobs in Japan

    A list of companies who hire remote roles 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

Employers outside Tokyo

  • Go to HN Kansai
  • LINE in Kyoto and Fukuoka.
  • Hatena Co., Ltd. in Kyoto
  • Nintendo in Kyoto
  • GMO Pepabo in Fukuoka
  • Intel in Nagoya
  • Enishi Tech Inc. in Sapporo

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 to folks who can offer more advices on this. Try to have coffee with Patrick McKenzie (He is awesome!).

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.

Applying

I learned after so many years that you do not need to meet all the job requirements to apply. It's really true. Having a growth mindset is enough. JUST APPLY.

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. They're not the companies for me. I like company who test on what the job would be actually related to the role. If you really want to study, not for the interview, but for fun, I recommend you: norvig/pytudes.

For questions to ask, pick some that you care about from Reverse interview.

For real interviews, I am extremely nervous when I interview. My general strategy is to be me and kind during the interview. Study the company before the interview (About, Careers, Culture pages). Read what company writes (blog, memos). 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.

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.

A great question to ask would be:

  • What was the reason that didn’t work out for this role or similar role?

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. Folks around me making more than 9 million in average.

Salary in Japan in many companies usually include fixed set of overtime hours. You do not have overtime pay if you work more than the hours.

Usually it's 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. For public listed companies, you can check average annual salary on CLABEL, Mercari for example.

Negotiating Offers

Gitlab has a handy compensation calulator, stackoverflow also built one. This post by Jackie Luo. Check levels.fyi to get idea how much people got paid in Silicon Valley. I know Japan is far behind...

I never succeeded although having read most of above. But it does work for a lot of people.

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.

Finally..My first two jobs in Japan

I DM'd people on Twitter. Either directly asked about a role or for a coffee, that usually leads to interviews. The first job I was in Taiwan, this helped me move 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