Keidanren [Japan Business Federation] Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara announced at a press conference held on Sept. 12 that the 2017 job interview season (for college students looking to join the workforce in the spring of 2018) will open on June 1 in 2017. To prevent confusion among students and employers, the business lobby group decided not to make changes for the third year in a row. But many of non-Keidanren member firms are making job offers to students while they are still in their junior year. Standard rules [among member firms] regarding job hunting schedules are becoming a mere formality.
The opening of recruitment fairs held by individual companies for the 2017 job-hunting season will be set on March 1, the same as this year.
“The feedback was quite positive (on the schedule for the 2016 recruitment season),” said Sakakibara, explaining that this is the reason why next year’s schedule remains unchanged from this year’s.
In the 2015 recruitment season (for employment in 2016), Keidanren made a drastic change to the opening of recruitment fairs and job interviews from “December in 2014 through April 2015” to “March through August” [in 2015] to prioritize “academic work.”
Last year, the recruitment ban was lifted in August. Complaints erupted among students who had to don business suits and make the rounds of companies in the sweltering heat. Smaller businesses also expressed their discontent, as they faced difficulty securing personnel. Amid growing criticism, Keidanren had little choice but to move up the recruitment schedule two months for the 2016 season. A survey that it conducted also shows that 70% of its member firms favored opening the recruitment season in June rather than in August.
Meanwhile, non-Keidanren member companies are not required to observe the guidelines and are moving up their recruitment calendars on their own to secure the best candidates.
In the summer and winter of 2015, Rakuten, for example, held internship programs for “career-track” jobs except engineers targeting college students graduating in March 2017. It had already started making job offers to prospective students in November 2015 when they were in their junior year.
CyberAgent also conducted internship programs mainly for juniors in the summer and winter of 2015. Of about 800 participants, talented students have already received job offers after undergoing multiple interviews. Those who are graduating in 2017 and have received job offers via internship programs make up 60% of the 150 that the company plans to hire.
Not all companies are following the Keidanren guidelines despite their membership. SoftBank, for example, conducts year-round recruitment. It is also said that there are companies among Keidanren members that issue de facto job offers prior to June.
The reason for such moves is the intense competition among employers over new hires. According to Recruit Works Institute, the job offer ratio among students joining the workforce in spring 2017 will hit an all-time high of 1.74 for the first time in eight years. With personnel shortages becoming serious, employers are ramping up their recruitment efforts and vying with each other to lure high-level candidates ahead of their rivals.
Keidanren has yet to decide on the recruitment schedule for the 2018 season. Member firms are already calling for moving up the start of the job interview period from June to April.
Meanwhile, discontent is growing among universities. At Waseda University, its Career Center was inundated with requests for advice on how to fill out application forms for internship programs from students at the end of last year. This was because companies looking to advance their recruitment schedules held internship programs one after another from January to February this year. “Students should have been using period for personal analysis and research on the companies they want to work for, but they had to spend more time filling out application forms,” said a Career Center official.
Sakakibara emphasized, “We will maintain our recruitment guidelines in some form.” But in reality, the guidelines are becoming a “benchmark [for companies] to jump the gun,” said a person in charge of hiring at a leading manufacturer. However, if year-round recruitment is allowed, the job-hunting calendar will move up even more. Anxiety is growing at universities that this may affect students’ academic work. The prospects for the recruitment guidelines remain murky because there is right or wrong answer .