Reality and Keys Non-Japanese Nationals Should Know to Work for Japanese Companies【Part.1】
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Interview with Mr. Takeuchi, Representative Director of GLOBAL POWER Inc. Operating a Recruitment/Staffing and Career Change Platform for Highly Skilled International Professionals As the term "Diversity and Inclusion: to embrace and enliven the diversity of human resources" has been getting known in Japanese society, the environment, in which international workers can have career options as broad as the Japanese, has begun to be established since the immigration control act was revised in 2019. That is a nice change for people from outside of Japan and a grateful thing for the Japanese.
However, many of those who have worked/are working for Japanese companies seemed to have been/be perplexed by the company's environment and culture.
So, we interviewed Mr. Takeuchi, a representative director of GLOBAL POWER Inc. which is running a recruitment/staffing and career change platform for highly skilled international human resources, NINJA (NEXT IN JAPAN), and asked what non-Japanese workers should do, what they need, and what would it be better for them to know to work for Japanese companies.
This interview article is divided into two parts. Please enjoy to the end.
Kouichi Takeuchi/竹内 幸一
Representative Director of GLOBAL POWER Inc.
Director of the Japan Association for the Employment of Foreign Nationals: JAEFN
Takeuchi was born in 1974 in Tokyo and raised in Gunma. After graduating from the prefectural Tomioka High School of Gunma, he studied abroad at California State University, Sacramento, and then quit. In 1998, he got a job at a foreign-affiliated wine trading company and moved to a major HR company, FULLCAST, in 2003. Two years later, he launched a support project for non-Japanese nationals' employment through intrapreneurship and joined the launch of GLOBAL POWER from the initial stage after the management buyout of the division. In 2010, Takeuchi took the position of a representative director, and in 2016, he was appointed as a director of the Japan Association for the Employment of Foreign Nationals.
He has appeared on many TV programs, such as "Gaia no Yoake (: The Sunrise of Gaia)", "WBS," the NHK Special", etc. His book, "知識ゼロからの外国人雇用 (: Employment of Expats Started with No Knowledge)" was published by幻冬舎(GENTOSHA INC.) in 2020.
ーYour company is running NINJA, a platform for employment/staffing and job hunting/changing specialized for non-Japanese nationals in Japan. What are the differences from other companies?
The differences would be that:
・This is the 19th fiscal year since we started our employment and staffing service specialized for the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services;
・We have a good number of results and know-how;
・The number of our customers is enormous.
ーYour company's service is specialized for highly skilled international human resources. Many expats probably know what they are, but could you explain to us the meaning of highly skilled international human resources?
As for the status of residence, there are 19 types of them for working, and the total is 29 types including the other statuses of residence. One of the 19 is given to the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services (ESHIS), and those whom we call "Highly Skilled International Human Resources" are the people who want to engage or who are wanted in the category of ESHIS.
To be more specific, there is a status for "highly skilled professionals" among the 19 types, which is like an upper version of ESHIS. This status is given to those who have a certain number of points accumulated from an educational background, what kind of job the applicant is engaged in, annual income, etc.
The biggest difference of acquiring the residence status for "highly skilled professionals" compared to the ones for working is that:
・It can be a shortcut to permanent residency;
・The individual qualified as a highly skilled professional can bring over parents.
With statuses of residence for working other than for highly skilled professionals, it is possible to bring a wife and child/children, but not parents.
NINJA has registered members of highly skilled professionals, who are categorized as highly skilled human resources. In short, those whom we call highly skilled international human resources are the people who can acquire a residency status for ESHIS and get a job within the fields.
ーWhat made your company specialize in service for highly skilled international human resources?
Like I said, the status of residence for working is given based on the type of job, and the company to refer to also varies depending on the job type.
Some employment companies in Japan are strong in the office work field for what we call white-collar workers while other companies are strong for blue-collar. Residence statuses for blue-collar workers consist of the ones for technical intern trainees and specified skilled workers (1&2), and the companies and the job types in the field for them are totally different from the field of ESHIS which our company specializes in.
Like the Japanese employment companies for the Japanese, there is not a company strong for both white-collar and blue-collar, I believe.
What we think is crucial is to specialize, and we started to challenge the field of ESHIS because the market of international human resources for blue-collar jobs has been a red ocean. Now, this is the 19th year since then.
ーFrom your point of view by offering job information through NINJA, is there anything non-Japanese professionals should learn or be required to work as one of the highly skilled international human resources in Japan?
Firstly, what is expected to be learned is definitely Japanese skills in order to get a job in Japan. I think all the non-Japanese people in Japan must be feeling the same way about that. Everybody who is seriously looking for a job in Japan should make efforts to enhance their Japanese skills as much as possible.
Now, how much they should learn is to try hard enough to pass at least the N2 level of JLPT or to reach a level close to that. Passing the N2 level is not necessary but it's better if the applicant improves his/her Japanese skills close to the level.
The reason is that the official language in Japanese companies is Japanese, and not only the language but also the Japanese way of communication has a huge impact. It is difficult to communicate in a Japanese way without learning Japanese. To work for Japanese companies, applicants need to understand how Japanese people communicate, what kind of language they use, what they want to convey, and what they are instructing. Considering all those things, reaching around the N2 level is essential. Expat job seekers should keep in mind that this is the least needed level
Of course, the required level of Japanese skills varies based on the field the applicant wants to work in. As for blue-collar jobs, the N4 level is the standard criteria for the specified skilled workers.
For the job seekers in the field of ESHIS, in which our GLOBAL POWER is engaged, there is not a lot, but a few posts are open to the applicants even with not-so-high Japanese skills, such as the N3/N4 level, if their native language is English or their English language skills are at the level of native English speakers.
Those "a few posts" are broadly categorized into two job types.
The first one is for ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) and English teaching jobs for native English speakers. The residence status of "Instructor" and of "ESHIS" is given to ALTs and teachers of private English schools respectively.
The second one is for jobs in the IT field. If the applicant is a native English speaker or has English skills close to that, along with skills of IT professionals such as programming skills, Japanese fluency is not strongly demanded compared to other job types.
The number of jobs that require only English skills is increasing very slowly compared to that of 5 or 10 years ago. However, the reality is there are few companies whose official language is English and where Japanese skills are not essential. It would be just one out of 100, which means, the N2 or higher level is needed to challenge the other 99 companies. Therefore, non-Japanese job seekers want to understand the numbers, and as I keep saying this, trying their best to improve their Japanese skills is required.
There are a lot more things that applicants need to do to work for Japanese companies, but one of the important things among those would be professional skills. I think workers should accumulate skills, experiences, and knowledge based on what they want to do, what they want to be in the future, and how they want to work. And the common standard is to brush up on the skills for communicating with Japanese people, which does not mean that non-Japanese workers need to be like Japanese, but means to know about Japanese people and understand what they say.
In the Japanese communication style, if someone keeps throwing straight punches at a Japanese person, he/she is likely to make enemies, and be hated and misunderstood, meanwhile non-Japanese often seem to have no idea what Japanese people are saying.
Those who are living in Japan and have the N1/N2 level of Japanese skills would know about this, but what I want to say is that the Japanese people use a euphemistic speech style extremely often when they communicate. This means that getting the real meaning of what Japanese people say is very difficult, so it is essential to acquire communication skills, in other words, learning Japanese euphemistic expressions is required to understand the meaning behind the words as well as being able to use such expressions to some extent.
If you learn the Japanese indirect way of speech style hard and tell the interviewer, "I think I am kind of good at understanding euphemistic speeches and communicating with Japanese people by using them," your chance of getting the job will greatly increase.