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Japan firms turn to online job interviews, info sessions amid coronavirus scare

This image taken in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Feb. 20, 2020, shows an online job interview, which is in growing demand as companies try to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

TOKYO -- A host of companies are turning to online job interviews and company information sessions as they are compelled to cancel face-to-face meetings amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Japan, while students are left disappointed at fewer opportunities to get information directly from corporate recruiters.

Many companies planned to start holding job information sessions on March 1 targeting university students graduating in the spring of 2021. However, the landscape of the job-hunting season is changing this year.

Recruit Career Co., the Tokyo-based operator of the job information website Rikunabi, announced on Feb. 20 that it was canceling joint job fairs for new graduates that had been scheduled to be held in Tokyo and 43 other prefectures from Feb. 22 through late March. The decision came despite the projection that a job fair set for March 1 in the capital would attract approximately 7,000 participants.

Mynavi Corp. in Tokyo currently does not plan to call off a job fair scheduled for March 8 with the participation of some 600 firms, but will "consider the matter carefully in light of government announcements and other factors," according to a public relations official.

Students crowd a job fair held at Makuhari Messe in the city of Chiba's Mihama Ward, east of Tokyo, in this March 1, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. decided to cancel an event for students that it planned to hold in Tokyo on Feb. 22 and 23. Instead, the company will stream online videos introducing the content of jobs at the firm. The insurer also plans to replace a company information session originally scheduled for March or later with online streaming, but has yet to decide what to do with job interviews with students.

Megabanks are also responding to the new coronavirus scare. MUFG Bank Ltd. will abandon a company information session and turn to online streaming of a similar session. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. is looking into canceling a briefing session.

Even information technology giants are at the mercy of the COVID-19 outbreak.

SoftBank Corp. has refrained from holding information sessions set before March and switched to streaming of videos explaining the firm to student applicants. Rakuten Inc. is calling off briefing sessions scheduled for Feb. 25 and later and will give similar sessions online in March.

Many universities and students are voicing concerns over the cancellation of job-related events.

Masayuki Kamiyama, a senior official at Rikkyo University's career center, said, "It's regrettable when we think of students who are job-searching, thinking this is the only year they can do so." Meanwhile, Mitsunori Morita, a senior official at the Tokyo Woman's Christian University's career center, commented, "It's inevitable given the spread of infections. We'd like to let students know about other opportunities such as on-campus briefing sessions."

A 22-year-old, third-year female student at Waseda University who aspires to join an ad agency, noted, "It's too bad that we'll have fewer opportunities to ask questions to corporate recruiters if firms cancel information sessions one after another."

Mercari Inc., the operator of a major flea market app, has basically given its job interviews online since February, and will consider continuing the practice in March and beyond depending on how the coronavirus crisis unfolds.

Basic Inc., a Tokyo-based IT-related firm, has decided to employ online interviews with students regardless of their areas of residence, even though it has heretofore used them mainly to interview students from local regions.

The Tokyo-based web service company Stadium has provided an online job interview system free of charge for a limited period. The firm has been flooded with inquiries, receiving up to 10 requests or more a day from companies in the restaurant, transport or other industries to use the system. While the firm initially provided a one-on-one interview system, it added a group interview system to its service lineup from Feb. 20. "Online interviews allow students to save their time and costs, and the need for wearing masks," said executive officer Ryuichiro Maezawa.

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department, and Koki Mikami, Akiko Kato, Tsuyoshi Goto and Toshiki Miyazaki, Business News Department)

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