Black unfashionable “recruit suits” have come to be regarded as a kind of uniform for job-hunting in Japan, where they are also symbols of a national culture that places emphasis on uniformity.

But Akita International University’s unique idea of encouraging students to be a little more creative with their clothing may shake up Japan’s notorious “shukatsu” (job-hunting) system.

Since it was established in 2004, AIU has gained attention for its liberal arts curricula, which sends all undergraduate students overseas on exchange programs.

Along the way, the school has gained a high reputation in the corporate world — all of AIU’s 2013 graduates found jobs at major Japanese companies or enrolled in prestigious academic institutions overseas.

“The recruit suit has totally become a uniform merely for job hunting . . . it cannot be used for any other purpose after students graduate,” said Toshiaki Mikuriya, the head of AIU’s career development center and an advocate of the project.

“For students living in rural areas, wearing recruit suits while making a long trip to Tokyo during the hot summer months for interviews doesn’t make any sense.”

Job hunting in Japan is known for its notoriously inefficient customs, represented by what is called the “shinsotsu ikkatsu saiyo” system, or simultaneous recruiting of new graduates. All university students begin the search at the same time, and the men are encouraged to wear these ubiquitous black suits together with a white shirt and necktie, while the girls must wear smart ensembles that include either black pants or black skirts together with a jacket and white blouse.

During their interviews, they repeat examples of cliches written in job-hunting textbooks in the belief that they won’t land a job at a reputable company if they don’t.

In general, most companies have welcomed the university’s movement as long as aspiring employees dress appropriately for interviews. “No company thought the custom was reasonable,” Mikuriya said.

“It’s not merely trying to follow Western culture. . . . What I hope is students become more independent and are able to make their own responsible choices as they become a member of society,” he said. “Choosing the clothing for job hunting is a starting point” for their journey in life.

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