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Job search for new hires not a 'sellers' market' when it comes to major firms

University students head to interviews in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on the day the ban on job candidate screening for companies belonging to the Japan Business Federation was lifted on June 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

The ban on screening new graduate candidates for spring 2018 hires was lifted on June 1 for member companies of the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren. However, while the job market this year has been called a "sellers' market" for students, the hiring situation for major companies has hardly changed.

    While the majority of companies are eager to hire due to labor shortages, the big firms belonging to the Keidanren beginning their screening this month are extremely popular among candidates, and the number of applicants will likely outnumber the openings. Like previous years, the competition for spots at Japan's largest companies looks to be as fierce as ever.

    A 22-year-old fourth year student at Yokohama City University already received two job offers from non-Keidanren Information Technology (IT) firms in April, but has applied to 30 other communications, finance, and media companies. Her university career center emphasized that this year "is even more of a sellers' market than last year," but having received two job offers even before the major company which is her "first choice" begin their selection, she revealed she is relieved to be keeping in step with her peers.

    With recent issues surrounding the suicide of an overworked new hire at advertising giant Dentsu Inc., students are also taking more interest in the working environment of companies. "I want to balance both my work and my private life," said the Yokohama student. "At the same time, I want to join a company where I'll be satisfied even if I have to work overtime now and then." Next on her lineup are back-to-back interviews with a local bank and a broadcasting company. "My parents told me to 'work at a company with a name we recognize.' From now on my real job hunting begins."

    The schedule book of a female university student in the middle of job searching is shown in Yokohama's Nishi Ward on May 30, 2017. On June 21, she has a meeting with a company from which she has already received a job offer, but is eying applications to her main choice companies which opened on June 1. (Mainichi)

    According to employment information agent Recruit Career Co., the percentage of students who have already received job offers for next spring stands at 35.1 percent as of May 1, 10.1 percent higher than the same time last year. This reflects the trend for companies to move up their selection process to secure the best candidates. To make sure that those they offer jobs to do not decline the offer in the meantime, some companies organize parties with prospective hires and current employees. The female student from Yokohama said the companies from which she received offers have requested that she submit a written pledge to join the company.

    On the other hand, when the job opening-to-application ratio is broken down by company size, firms with less than 300 employees have 6.45 times more openings than candidates, while companies with over 5,000 employees have only 0.39 times the number of openings to candidates, making for a rather large gap. Students' aspirations to work at a major company are strong, but the reality is that the number of openings at large companies has not changed despite labor shortages in the job market. While it may be a "sellers' market" in some areas, the selection criteria for applicants to major companies are said to have remained unchanged.

    "I want students to choose companies that match their skills and personality," advised Takao Yoshimoto, chief editor of major job listing information company Mynavi Corp. "Even if you can't keep up with the fast-paced job search process, companies' interest in new recruits is strong. Summer and autumn hiring will open doors."

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