Nov 7 2017 Why 'job-hopper’ CVs scare Japanese companies (and how to embrace this)

When job-hunting in Japan, you may encounter a glass ceiling if you have a history of switching jobs frequently. If your CV is speckled with multiple job shifts, why are companies wary and how can you use this to your advantage?

  • Understand the value of long-term commitment in Japanese companies.
  • Research a company as thoroughly as they research you.
  • Shape your CV to show continuous experience vs. singular employment.


As a recruitment company, we see all the behind-the-scenes details of why companies hire and reject candidates. Hiring is an always a huge investment in the company’s future that can have a significant impact on their team dynamics and business’ sustainability. In Japan, many companies will often avoid candidates who have changed jobs frequently, even if they meet all of the requirements. Known as ‘job-hoppers’, some companies will explicitly make this a requirement by detailing a maximum number of career changes permitted for applicants.

So, how much of a deal-breaker is it to be a ‘job hopper’ in Japan? Whether you’re a new grad or an experienced candidate, this article will help break down key reasons to understand the logic behind companies’ wariness and how to win their trust.

Japanese companies value long-term commitment. In fact, it is common to have lifelong contracts in a company and rare to be fired.

In many countries, changing jobs several times is commonplace. In Japan, however, people do not necessarily look for job or career. but they look for the company that can take care of them. This ‘lifelong’ mentality amongst Japanese workers is directly linked to the long-term commitment employees have when hiring as it is notoriously difficult to fire or make employees redundant.
This deep commitment is, in fact, engrained in the very word for job-hunting in Japan. If we break down the meaning of the traditional job-hunting system known as “Shushoku – the word “Shusha” means that you will ‘belong’ to the company. As a result of this job security, the career path of an employee and the consequent relationship with the company is largely paternalistic and top-down.
For Japanese companies, long-term employees or lifelong committed employees is seen as a critical factor in ensuring rapid growth. For the majority of companies, the dynamics are very similar to that of a family. With many traditional companies hiring employees directly from the university as fresh graduates, they do so with the understanding that they will be ‘responsible’ for a person’s entire professional and personal development as an adult until retirement age.
Although there have been some changes in belief across the younger generations, the value of long-term commitment has been the critical part of Japanese employers’ mind when deciding to hire a candidate. In some traditional, established companies will exclusively hire students with no work experience because there is a belief that there will be greater retention and stability. Candidates with a resume with multiple changes can, influence companies to reject them however talented or skillful they are.

Research companies as carefully as they screen you before applying

If you’re just about to graduate or if your myriad of experiences may give an impression of being a ‘job-hopper’, you should start with one question: how motivated you are to growing your career in Japan? Do an internal audit of the pros and the cons of living and working in Japan, and consider whether working for the company you’re considering to work for falls into pro or con. If the job is a means to an end, it’s not going to end well for you or the company – picking a company you’d like to apply for should be based on the question ‘Do I see myself working here in 5 or even 10yrs time?’. If it’s yes, go for it. If it’s a no, best not to rush in.
The screening process of candidates for companies is rigorous. Return the favor and carefully check their corporate profile, the leadership, its employees and see if the work aligns with your values and work ethic. In other countries, financial compensation can be the deciding factor in applying for, or deciding to take a job offer. In Japan, the non-monetary benefits are just as important – what transferable skills can you expect to develop? Is there a clear career path? Try to look beyond company size, prestige and salary – you’ll be surprised at the options that open up.

In Japan, three is the magic number

In Japan, there is a famous proverb, called “Ishino ue ni mo 3 nen” which literally means “Sit on a stone for 3 years”. The takeaway from this is not to find a nearby stone, but rather to understand that “Perseverance will win in the end”. With this in mind, having at least 3yrs of continuous work experience in a company implies a sense of success or achievement for a company.

That said, there are certain industries that are exempt from this general expectation. For professionals in the IT for, example, the global skill shortage has made it commonplace for multiple jobs across various companies. For freelancers, so long as they have a strong portfolio and clear record of your achievements.

For larger more established companies, this 3yrs standard is a hard rule. However, for SMEs and certain ventures, there is a greater openness to candidates who have had less than 3yrs experience in a company. The key here is to show the impact of your work during that time and how it can be transferred to benefit their company’s strategic development. In fact, being able to communicate your strengths in the context of having an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ is appealing for some companies that prefer companies who are interested in starting his/her own company in the future.

Each company will have varying views on the pros and cons of candidates who have different terms at companies. If you have a resume that reads like a ‘job-hopper’, try to focus on the impact your work had during that time and how your continuous experience has built a specific skill set that is transferable to their company. Above all, expressing your motivation and commitment to the company you are applying for is critical – what makes you interested in being with this company for possibly more than 3yrs over your past companies?

For new graduates, having at least one company where you have 3yrs experience definitely helps. Try to find work that will bring good returns on the skills, network, and knowledge that you can build – these are not always tied in with a strong salary but it’s worth considering.

We hope that the above advice will help you think about how you are going to design your career in Japan. Career choices about how you spend your time as a professional and how you present your experience is something Japanese companies pay close attention to.

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