Japan firms in extra rush to recruit new graduates

Japan firms in extra rush to recruit new graduates
Prospective graduates entering the job market gather for a joint explanatory meeting in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday.

Many corporations are racing to do everything they can to employ good students in spring 2016, prompted by a new rule requiring orientation meetings for upcoming graduates to start three months later than in the past.

The new rule will likely turn this year's job-hunting season into a short-term battle, according to observers.

The new regulation has made companies even more eager than before to hire excellent students, as exemplified by their moves to effectively screen such prospective hires through the use of recruiters.

Some students already launched their job hunts last year, adding to the pressure on their peers who are getting a later start.

Due to the current labour market, which favors workers and has spurred companies to step up recruitment efforts, there is a growing trend of firms conducting de facto selection processes despite the new rule established by the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).

"When I did an internship at a company in February, it turned out to be a briefing session on the business," said a third-year student at a private university in Tokyo at a joint explanatory session held in the capital on Sunday. "I'm planning to go to a few job interviews during March."

Another student was called for a screening in February - before the opening day of companies' recruitment activities - from a life insurance company where the student had worked as an intern.

At another explanatory meeting in Tokyo, a 21-year-old male student at a private university said: "I've already gotten informal job offers from two employers, including an IT firm. Since summer of last year, I've been participating in job-hunting activities, like an internship and a discussion session with employees. I'll keep going to recruiting events if I get better options."

Some companies have already begun giving provisional or informal job offers to students, as foreign-capitalised firms and information technology companies that are not Keidanren members have launched full-fledged recruitment activities.

As a result, companies that follow the new rule have expressed dissatisfaction, saying the situation is unfair. Keidanren Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara said at a press conference on Feb. 23, "We ask that the government publicize and promote the new rule."

Among university students set to graduate in spring 2015, the percentage who found jobs was 80.3 per cent as of December last year, signaling a recovery to a level around the collapse of Lehman Brothers, according to the labour ministry and others. Companies have been more actively engaged in hiring new graduates.

DISCO Inc., a Tokyo-based company offering job-hunting information, surveyed companies nationwide from January to February and received answers from 1,236 companies.

Regarding their prospects of recruiting university students in spring 2016, about 29 per cent of the respondents said the number of new hires would likely be higher than that in spring 2015, exceeding the percentage of companies that said they planned to lower the number by about 7 per cent. About half of the respondents said their hiring figures were unlikely to change.

Companies have been working hard to boost recruitment.

Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., which owns subsidiary Asahi Breweries Ltd., assigned 50 of its employees in Tokyo to recruitment duties last year. But this year, 200 employees based in offices across the nation are taking on the same task of finding new employees. The firm has been conducting factory tours and holding individual consultation sessions for students since December last year.

At apparel company Link Theory Japan Co., a subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., those who are set to join the company this spring will explain the business and their job duties to current students at their alma maters.

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