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Job Market in Tokyo for Foreigners

2019 has been quite a favorable time for foreign job seekers to find work. The job market in Tokyo is abundant and many companies are looking for both English and non-English speaking foreigners to meet their employment needs for the influx of tourists, increase of foreign residents, and the decrease in the Japanese population.

The challenge to finding a job is doing the right preparation, having the right skills, and knowing where to look and who to talk to. We go into more detail about where to find a full-time job here.

If you want some tips on how to write a cover letter and resume, understand employers, and rock your interview, check out ultimate guide to teaching jobs in Japan.

What full-time positions are available in Tokyo

There are tons of jobs in Japan for foreigners in the service industry for tourists, recruitment industry, tech industry, and the language industry. We cover each of the industries in more detail in our lists of jobs in Japan for foreigners.

Do you need a Japanese resume?

You will need a Japanese resume for any positions that require higher than conversational level of Japanese or if you go the recruiter route.

Do you need to speak Japanese?

Many positions in Tokyo require Japanese skills, especially if your main customers are Japanese or you will be interacting with Japanese clients.

The main type of positions that do not need Japanese skills are those where your customers are foreigners and you do not need to speak with Japanese clients, very high level positions where you have a Japanese secretary or staff to handle all the interactions in Japanese, or teach English in Japan.

You can learn Japanese through self-studying, taking lessons from a Japanese school part-time or full-time in Tokyo.

English Teaching Positions

Many full-time English teacher positions in Japan require that you have a University degree, but some small mom and pop places are fine without it. You also need to decide if teaching adults English or teaching children English is better for you. Some people just don't have what it takes to teach children and vice-versa.

Can I apply for jobs from overseas?

Searching for a full-time position from overseas is simply saying you will have to spend more than 15x the effort to find a position. You will have to go the same route recommended as for domestic job searching but go through hassle to check to see if they hire from overseas.

Before you start the job search, learn about the Japanese work visa requirements to save some time.

The good news is that Jobs in Japan does have a section where you can check for positions that hire from overseas here.

job site boards for Tokyo

What job boards do you recommend for Tokyo?

Did you know that there are more than 30 job boards for foreigners in Tokyo and Japan? I was surprised to find so many after doing some deep research into what is available. 

Many of the sites can be found on google, but do not appear with a simple jobs in Tokyo search approach. You have to get a bit creative.

Lucky for you, our team at BFF Tokyo did the hard work for you and put together a long list of job boards for you and organized it based on what type of position you are looking for.

Here you can find where the jobs in Tokyo are listed. 

Networking in Japan and Tokyo

Networking is like a spider web, the bigger and stronger your web is, the more opportunities and chances that will come your way. That being said, although it takes time to develop a solid networking, knowing the right person can save you several hours to hundreds of hours with one quick phone call.

Most of the best job opportunities can be found through your network if you know the right people. Companies are always looking for talented people and even if the person you met does not have a job opportunity for you in Tokyo, they may know someone who does.

You do not need work experience in the industry to network with others in that industry. It is gonna be harder because people will avoid speaking to you, but if you try hard enough, good things will happen.

We go more into where you can network and other ideas for improving your networking skills in Tokyo and Japan here

Doing Proper Research on Companies

You do not like your job because you did not do enough research before you signed the contract

I often meet foreigners who really dislike the position and company they are in. In most cases, they found their job in Tokyo through one of the traditional ways of finding employment such as through an agency, jobs fairs, or through online ads or other platforms where companies need to pay to find people. The most common reason I found for a person not liking their job was because they did not know what type of position they wanted before signing the work contract and was more concerned about finding a position as opposed to finding the right one.

This is a mistake you will make a lot in your 20s because you often do not know exactly what you want yet because you have not experienced enough work environments. After experiencing multiple and hearing from people who had great and bad experiences, you have a clearer idea of what type of boss and company you would like to work for. I discovered that most people who disliked their job did not know or understand the company culture they were getting into before signing the contract.

What ended up happening was that their main goal was to find a company that would sponsor a work visa and in the end they got what they thought they wanted....a work visa. Their main goal was not to find a company that offered interesting or challenging work, so they ended up finding a position that was neither not interesting or challenging unfortunately. Tough love from an older brother here, but you often get what you are looking for.

To summarize how to find a good job is first knowing exactly what you want and then thinking backwards to guide your research to focus on things that are relevant for you goal. Portraying one clear message about who you are and what you are looking for in your resume and LinkedIn profile creations and networking. Many companies will say no to you, but when you find one that is a match, your needs and their needs will match more strongly than with other candidates and you will more likely find the position you can grow in and will want to remain in for multiple years.

Finding a workplace that is inspirational is tough

Many Westerners and especially Americans want to work for a workplace that is inspiring. A place that is inspiring is by definition a place that knows exactly who is the lawyer and where they want to be and that excites other people and wanting to join them in the journey. People who are inspirational are not going to want to hire someone who does not know want to see what they want to do because not knowing when you want to do is not inspirational. That is the unfortunate paradox of the work environment where the people who need inspiration are unable to attract the attention of the workplace that is inspirational. I am sharing this information with you because I do not want you to waste months years and maybe decades of your life working for a place that does not bring you joy.

recruiters in Tokyo

Can recruiters help you find a job in Tokyo?

Recruiters in Japan can help two types of people find work positions. The first type of positions are for those who have 8 to 15 years of experience in a certain field and are specialists in that area.

the second type of people are those who have just graduated University and are looking for entry-level positions. depending on which bracket you are in, the type of recruiter that you will talk to you is different.

Executive recruiters in Tokyo

Executive recruiters in Tokyo focus on hiring for positions four tiers and above. In other words your bosses, bosses, boss and above levels, which are usually vice president and director-level positions for marketing, finance, HR, and other specialized positions. If you are in an executive role in a company, you are already being headhunted and scouted nonstop and it is almost unavoidable because of how much money is involved. if you are not being headhunted or being contacted for these types of position then you are probably not an executive-level employee.

This is the high end and real cutthroat area of recruitment in Japan because the salaries are over 100,000 US dollars and the kickbacks for recruitment companies are often 30% of your first year's salary. Not your monthly but yearly salary which may sound like a lot but recruitment companies have to pay the salaries for training new agents and for nonperforming recruiters who are bringing in less money than is being spent on them.

The salaries for successful executive recruiters often surpass 10,000,000 yen yearly but it is a lot of hard work and takes many years to develop your network to the point that it starts to bring your new candidates through word of mouth. New recruiters may not even make one successful introduction in a whole year.

Entry-level recruiters in Tokyo

On the other end of recruitment are recruitment companies who are looking for foreigners to fulfill entry level positions. If you are someone who is just graduating from college and looking for a starting position or if you are an English language teacher who has high Japanese abilities they may be able to find you a position in a Japanese company. Recruiters for entry level positions normally look for people to work at companies that have more than 10 employees. Companies under a million dollars in revenue cannot afford the introduction cost for new employees.

How the system works is that they charge the company for one month of your salary similar to how apartment agents charge you for one month of rent. Since companies have a set budget for salaries it usually comes from your first year salary and not from an outside budget.

These companies often hire foreigners from non-English speaking countries and if you can speak Japanese fluently these agencies are usually the way to go for quick introductions. The only flaw with their system is they get paid when a company hires you as opposed to being paid when finding you the right company, so your goals and their goals are not perfectly aligned.

One large benefit is that these companies often do seminars on job interviewing, job hunting, and working in Japanese companies and sometimes the training is very good because they want you to get hired as soon as and move onto the next person. Be aware that they sometimes charge a lot of money for seminars while others they offer for free. Some provide these training for free.

These companies focus more on quantity and have a wider net since they are targeting entry level positions. Recruiters here definitely make more money but since you net is wide you will not have to go through cold calling hell. If you can handle rejection and doing cold calling you may able to get a recruiter position in the executive end of recruitment. Here are some companies that assist with entry level recruitment positions.

Japanese Website

English Website

Recruiters do not provide introductions for entry-level corporate positions

However, these companies will not introduce you to large Japanese corporation because large corporations usually use job ads to find employees on their own. Companies who use recruiting companies for entry level positions usually have more specific needs than a corporation. corporations often do not know what the division they will introduce you to until months after hiring you and will try to just gather large amounts of people applying to non-specific positions and then assigning people afterwards. Additionally, they already have a team to do recruitment for entry level positions.

Corporations often use recruiters for higher level positions because most executives are not using job boards and are often very comfortable in their position and are not actively seeking a position. Your job as an executive recruiter is to try to sell them the benefits of jumping ship.

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