Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Working in Japan: Interviewing

Let's say that you've come to Japan as a JET or maybe you've come via a contract with some eikaiwa school, and now you're ready to work at a "real" Japanese company.

First, if you're looking for work now, sucks for you; hiring season is pretty much over. The best time to look for employment, that is non-eikaiwa employment, is between January and March. Companies will be hiring new university grads at this time and it's when they set up interviews.

I can't stress enough the importance of a resume written in English AND Japanese. Some people will say that you only need an English resume, but in my opinion a Japanese resume is first with an English resume being a plus. Many companies that have job openings for foreigners specifically request a Japanese resume and shokumu keireki sho (職務経歴書), or employment history. 
Maybe I should have written about making a resume first...

It's not unusual for a Japanese company to have a round of interviews before making a decision. Round one is more of a relaxed interview, round two is more serious, round three is where they'll make their final decision. 

What to wear:
Wear a suit. It should go without saying, but a suit is the way to go. Make sure that your hair is neat. For men, facial hair should be shaved, or groomed. The suit should fit properly. 
For women, long hair should be pulled back, either in a ponytail or bun. If you prefer to leave it down, make sure that it isn't unruly. Women should wear make-up. In books about interviewing for Japanese women, every. single. one writes that make-up is a must. Just make sure that your make-up is clean and fresh looking. Not club make-up. Earrings should be small, the same with necklaces, bracelets and watches. 
Both men and women should make sure that they are not wearing perfume that's too strong. 

At the interview:
When you enter the room, pause at the door, bow and say "shitsurei shimasu." Then when you reach your seat, bow with a "shitsurei shimasu" before being seated. Do not shake or cross your legs. Do not fidget. Do not fiddle with your hands. Sit up straight. 

You will most likely be interviewed with up to three other people. There will probably be three or more interviewers. Each interviewee will be asked to stand and give a self-introduction. You won't have much time, and you will have to give your self-introduction in Japanese. The chances that the interviewers have seriously read over your resume are slim, so, try to highlight items that are not normally on Japanese resumes; years in Japan, experience in outside fields like blogging, etc.

If you are interviewed with a group of people, one interviewer will ask a question and then go down the line and have each interviewee answer. If you are not called on first, use this time to think over the question and to formulate an answer. I would suggest standing up to answer the first question. Standing up to answer questions is what Japanese students and business people do. It's quite formal and shows that you understand Japanese culture. The interviewer will probably tell you that it's OK to sit and answer, but they will probably be impressed that you know that part of Japanese culture.

The questions asked are typical; hobbies, a situation you've "failed" in and how it affected you, why you've applied to the company.

Special "foreigner" questions:
Based on the companies that I've interviewed with, the interviewers never fail to ask the "foreigner" questions. I can't comment on questions asked of Asian (born and raised in Asia) foreigners vs. questions asked of western foreigners. The questions I have been asked are quite frustrating:

- Do you like Japan?
No, I hate Japan. I'm interviewing for kicks and shits.

- Can you eat Japanese food?
No, I can't. Can you?

- Can you speak Japanese? (after conducting an interview with me in Japanese!)
No, I've obviously been speaking to you through an interpreter this whole time.

- Tokyo is quite far from where you live now, won't it be hard to move?
I moved halfway across the world, but, you're right, moving around Japan is wayyy harder.

- We have an American guy here, he causes problems by not asking questions.
Is this a question? Are you venting? What's this got to do with me?

Apparently, these types of questions are very important to Japanese interviewers. But, in my opinion, it just shows how underprepared they are in dealing with foreigners. You will most likely be asked things like this and more. Try not to lose your cool. 

When you leave the room, first stand and bow to the interviewers with a "shitsurei shimasu." Then at the door, turn and face the interviewers, bow, "shitsurei shimasu" and back out of the door. 

A word of warning:
Japanese companies are not interested in what you can do. They couldn't care less if you graduated first in your class from Harvard or whether or not you scraped by at a state university. If you are applying in a highly specialized field, this is different, of course.
They are not interested in what you can do for the company. They are interested in whether or not you will do as you are told, whether or not you will fit in with the company and as a foreigner, whether or not you will fit in with Japanese work life. The pay at Japanese companies is low, lower than the US, and in most cases there is a lot of unpaid overtime. 
A computer programmer here makes about 1,500 yen an hour, or $15 an hour...as an example. 

That's interviewing in a nutshell. If you have any questions, post them to the comments section!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fetish Much?

One thing that I always keep my eyes peeled for here in Japan, are instances of stereotyping. In America, we're familiar with the stereotypes of Asians as XYZ, blacks as XYZ, etc. But, most Americans never get to see the stereotypes that people in other countries hold for them.

One of the being assumptions that Japanese media pushes about America is that everyone is blonde, with blue eyes (white, of course). Even at my own workplace, none of the foreign staff is blonde or blue eyed, but the comics that the comic artist makes of Japanese people talking to "foreigners" are all tall-nosed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed characters.

It's quite annoying.

Well, a Japanese company, Bele Bel, has been airing a commercial that fulfills the fantasies of Japanese people. In the US, East Asians are portrayed with "small, narrow" eyes, jet black hair, white skin, and flat-noses. The flip of that is this hyper-white girl that Bele Bel has pulled out:
She's got long, straight blonde hair. Her blue eyes appear to have no pupils, and her nose is tall, but tiny at the same time. I swear, every time this commercial comes on, I throw up a little in my mouth.

Check it out below.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

United Update

Well, I have some happy news.
I was pleased to find an email from a United representative on Tuesday that detailed the reinstatement of my "expired" points.
In the past I would have been too shy or scared to email and request my points back, but I'm glad I did. The representative responded somewhat swiftly and politely. Props to them for that. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

United Airlines, WTF?

After a long week, I was happy to have the weekend to mostly relax. And I was...until I saw an email from United Airlines. It seems that my miles expired in February. And I've been given the kind opportunity to buy them back to the tune of $560+.
What. The. Fuck.

we got rid of ur teh miles, so u ken buy them back. LULZ

Now, I know that United has changed some policy with regards to miles. But, after they made these changes, they later sent me an email telling me that my miles would expire. In fact, they sent at least three or four emails and said that I could keep the miles active by using them, buying more miles or buying something with the miles. I decided to buy something with my miles. 
This time, I was given no warning, whatsoever. Of all of the United emails I got, none of them had anything about my points running out by a certain time written in them. I don't get how United can send me emails about flight "deals", emails asking me to sign-up for credit cards and emails about everything else EXCEPT for one that says my points are going to expire!
I've sent United an email asking to have my points reinstated. We'll see what they say. 
What a scam! Being asked to "buy back" miles that they didn't even have the courtesy of telling me were going to expire!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Can I Hanami?

Every spring, the sakura bloom and people prepare for hanami (sakura viewing). 
Despite sakura blooming earlier than previous years, this year, just like the years before found people setting up under the trees.

The company I work at hosted a company hanami. A few co-workers spent the night in the park to claim our spot under the sakura trees. 

Beautiful sakura!
Hanami really involves sitting on a blue tarp under the sakura and getting shit-faced drunk. It's pretty nice, and a fun way to relax. I love taking pictures this time of year. Japan has a lot of places where rows of sakura were planted, often by a river, and the scenes of fully bloomed sakura are breathtaking. 


If you live in Japan, you know that it's incredibly difficult to find a trash can. Garbage laws are tougher than the US, and garbage is separated into three basic groups of burnables, plastics and PET bottles (plastic bottles). Although signs were posted throughout the park directing people to take their trash with them and dispose of it at home, no one really listens. The result is this:

Sakura and garbage. Wabisabi at its finest! 

and this:

Can't pay attention to the sakura with all this garbage blocking my view!
The sad thing, in my opinion, is that this could be solved if the parks just put out garbage cans for people! Yes, I see that the garbage is situated around one can, but this happens every year! Cities KNOW that people are just going to dump their trash. Why not bring out a few large bins?  At the very least it would keep the park from looking like a dump.

That is my humble opinion...ijo.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Secret

I haven't worked in eikaiwa, and I haven't really done teaching, but I do have friends who are or were ALTs. And from talking with them, I've always gotten the impression that there is this thinly veiled hatred(?), competition(?) between the native English speaker and the Japanese teacher of English (JTA).

Today, my intuition was confirmed. A co-worker apparently told another foreign co-worker that he wanted to change departments because, "When I tell another Japanese co-worker to do something, he does it without questioning it. But, you foreigners question everything. It's making my life stressful." I applaud his honesty.

You might think, "Well, duh, if I give my subordinate an order, I don't want them to question me!," but, this is a little different. For one thing, in the Japanese offices I've worked at before, no one knew the abilities of the person sitting next to them. In the U.S., we are hired to fill specific positions with specific, mostly, well-defined tasks. In Japan, you're hired to be a jack-of-all-trades (but not necessarily a good one). 

If I am asked to do a task, I will ask about the time frame to complete it, and if I cannot complete it within that time, I have to say that I can't. If I am asked about whether or not another person's idea is feasible, I will give a nice, but honest, answer.

On the other hand, I have Japanese co-workers who will brag about how well they can speak English or how well they can do some other task, only to eat their words later when it comes to crunch time. And overtime? I would do it, but it seems that at my company overtime has to be approved by my supervisor, who, since I'm not a "real" employee (seishai-in) will probably not approve it. If I do become seishai-in, I can expect to not get paid for overtime...