Cultural differences in job hunting between the U.S. and Japan


Koichi Iwasaki

Takayuki Kato discusses differences between Japanese and U.S. job search customs. Photo by Koichi Iwasaki/the Gateway

Finding a job after graduation can be difficult. It can be even harder for international students if they want to pursue a career in the U.S. The 2019 Boston Career Forum is the world’s largest job fair for Japanese-English bilinguals, offering opportunities for top industry players, students and young professionals to connect.

The career forum was held from Nov. 1 to 3 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. More than 240 companies attended to hire mainly Japanese students in the United States and more than 10,000 students came to the forum to find a job, according to DISCO Inc.

Qualifications for the event include possessing beginner level skill in both English and Japanese, study abroad experience or professional work experience outside of Japan.

While U.S. students hope to have a job offer, it can be a different case for Japanese international students. If they cannot get a job offer, they have a blank period on their resumes, which is not preferable for job-searching in Japan.

Attendee Takayuki Kato said he felt there was not a relaxed mood in the career forum. Instead of calm atmosphere, his first impression was that everyone was very intense, Kato said, because “they had to get at least one (job offer).”

“Everybody was wearing the same suit, the same outfits, the same haircut and same attitudes,” Kato said. “It was fun and interesting but awkward. It sometimes scared me a little bit.”

Standard attire is required when while job-searching in Japan. Kato also added that everyone is expected to wear a “black suit, white shirt, tie with moderate colors, black pants, black plain leather shoes and business bag.”

“Backpacks are not preferable for Japanese job-searching,” Kato said. “Companies do not force students to be like the above, but the students are expected to look like these,” Kato said. “There are many rules to know beforehand job-searching, if interested in working in Japan.”