Facing fierce competition to attract top university graduates, many Japanese firms are using internship programs as a way to entice students before the official start of the recruiting season, which was recently shifted to March from December.
Students in their junior year aiming for the April 2016 hiring season are now forced to prepare for job-hunting activities in the middle of the academic year ending in March, as in the past.
Many firms plan to organize internship programs, which are not regarded as an official recruitment activity, sometime between November and February 2016, according to Mynavi Corp., a Tokyo-based job information company.
Film studio and kabuki play producer Shochiku Co., a popular target, launched its first-ever internship program in November.
“We are looking to contact students at an earlier stage before we are allowed to start recruitment activity in March because students we want are also sought by trading firms and manufacturers,” Shochiku’s recruitment chief said.
“By offering students the chance to work with us, we can also prevent mismatches,” the official said.
More than 2,000 students applied for the four-day workplace experience program and 12 were selected through interviews, according to the official.
Among those participating in the internships is Marina Kamo, a 20-year-old junior at Meiji University.
“I’m worried because I have little idea about companies’ recruiting strategies this year,” she said. “I try to participate in internship programs at companies I am interested in.”
Satomi Kamikado, 21, a junior at Hokkaido University, said Shochiku is the fourth firm she has interned at.
“This was my second trip to Tokyo in November but I believe there are more benefits than the hours I spent,” Kamikado said.
A top official at a major information technology firm explained that about 40 percent of the students who were offered positions in the previous year took part in its internship program.
“For this year, 80 percent will be those who worked in our office as interns,” the official said.
In July 2013, Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) decided to change its recruiting guidelines for member companies, effective this academic year, after universities voiced concern that students were spending too much time job-hunting at the expense of their studies.
The nation’s top business lobby also asked members to delay the start of their job interviews with seniors until August, instead of April.
But member firms that do not adhere to these guidelines will not be sanctioned.
Against this backdrop, companies have also ramped up visits universities, some schools say.
An official at Nihon University said recruiters have been appearing about 20 percent more often than usual this year, with many looking for well-rounded science majors.
A number of foreign companies, which are not bound by Keidanren’s guidelines, started their official selection process in December as in the past.
A career counselor at a private university in Tokyo expressed concern.
“Since some students think they don’t have to start looking for jobs yet, there will likely be a huge gap in the number of job offers obtained by students, depending on their information gathering abilities.
“Although we want students to concentrate on schoolwork, we at the same time have to tell them to start seeking jobs as in the past so they won’t fall behind and get unfavorable results,” the counselor added.