The interview process was interesting. Was met at the train station by the Gaijin I would be replacing. She stayed with me pretty much the whole time, and translated a lot for us. I did get to practice my Japanese some, but really most of the interview was in English or translated.
First 30 minutes was with a person from their Human Resources. They wanted to know my Visa status, my health, and my age. They also paid me back for the train fare. Didn't really ask too many questions, and gave me a quick overview of the parent company.
Next was with the head of the department (the person who would be deciding whether to hire me or not). He asked a few questions and spent some time talking about how the products would be real winners and the history of the products. Much of it was open for me to ask questions.
During this meeting, we had the traditional tea brought in by a young woman. I had forgotten about this aspect of Japanese business meetings, as it has been a few years since I last was working in Asia Definitely adds a bit of class to the meetings, but is also a bit sexist from an American point of view.
He didn't ask that many questions of me. Marital status, brief description of my last position or two (answered with 1 or two sentences each), age, health, visa status, where I currently live, what school I went to, and why I was studying Japanese was about it. A few other key people came in from time to time to talk about the product lines more. About half the questions asked would have been illegal in America.
Within an hour or hour and a half, they made me an offer. Wasn't a direct, American-style, come out and say do you want a job type offer, but I asked directly for clarification on whether it was an offer, and they said it was.
With 5 people in the room, we started talking salary. Definitely not something I was used to (especially because I would be paid more than at least 2 of the people there), but seems to be quite normal in Japan. I shortly found out why - pay is not based on experience or what you can bring to the company, but mostly on age with small variances for your position's level, marital status, and kids (you get paid more for having kids!). Starting offer seems to be decent by Japanese standards. A long term downside to this pay is that the pay is set for as long as I am at the company (it increases every year as I age, and some more if I get promoted up levels or find a wife and have a family). And the job is secure - no matter whether I work or not, I will follow the same pay scale (and won't get fired).
After this, we had a quick tour of the facilities and then went out for a nice dinner. We talked some about the differences in the hiring process between Japan and America. My resume was very non-Japanese. A Japanese resume would list info on family, health, age, school you went to, and include a picture of me, but have little or no information on your past companies (most Japanese do not have past companies to talk about). They often hire people from the same University as the hiring manager, and the hiring manager will talk to professors there to find out about the candidate. Health is important because they are hiring you for life and will be there for you no matter how sick you may get. One of them said that even if you end up in jail, the company will be there to bail you out. But they asked little (basically nothing) about my employment history, didn't ask for references, etc.
I was not prepared to make a decision there (and was rather surprised that they would make an offer so quickly). I did ask for the offer in writing, including things which most Japanese would already know about (health insurance, moving costs, transport costs, house allowances, etc.), but that I haven't a clue on. We shall see what I decide.
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