Job fair finds slim pickings

More bilingual students come calling but fewer employers turn out

by Antoni Slodkowski

A two-day job fair in Tokyo for bilingual Japanese and foreign students is seeing a sharp drop in participating employers this year amid the nation’s worst postwar recession, the organizer said Tuesday.

The number of companies fell from 184 last year to 89, according to DISCO Inc., the organizer of Tokyo Summer Career Forum.

Around 4,000 young job seekers are expected to attend the event running through Wednesday at Tokyo Big Sight in the Odaiba district, up from 3,395 last summer.

With fewer companies and more students, competition for jobs is intense.

“Due to the difficult economic situation, firms are not as eagerly looking to employ new workers as in previous years,” a DISCO employee said.

The job fair takes place twice a year, drawing companies looking for both Japanese and foreign students who have studied aboard for at least a year and are fluent in both English and Japanese.

According to a questionnaire by DISCO, 57.6 percent of participating companies said they have hired Japanese students who went abroad because they were attracted by their language skills and 42.4 percent said they have hired such students to diversify their workforce.

“We are a global company and that is why we are looking for people with global outlook, fluent in English and Japanese and great communications skills,” a recruiter at the forum said.

Many international students came to the event Tuesday looking for a job in Japan. Inan Uyar from Turkey, who plans to finish a master’s program at Waseda University next year, said competition is tough in the financial sector, where he is on the hunt.

“I just had my interview with the Royal Bank of Scotland. The questions weren’t that hard, but I couldn’t guess what’s on the interviewer’s mind,” he said.

Misato Imai, 22, a student at Hokkaido University of Education, traveled from Sapporo to attend the fair.

She stressed that English-language skills alone no longer suffice to win a good job. Experience living abroad and flexibility in adapting to different cultures are more important in hunting for a job at a global company, she said.

“I’m applying for different kinds of positions. My father is a farmer and I thought I would like to try my chances at Norinchukin Bank,” she said, referring to the lender run by a national association of agricultural cooperatives.

The job fairs, which started in 1999, have mainly been for students fluent both in Japanese and English. But some companies say Chinese-language skills are now more important than ever for young job seekers.

“We are expanding our company in China and need people who can help us grow bigger in that new emerging market,” one recruiter said.