Long a spring tradition in Japan, companies routinely hire after graduation in March, with ranks of the newly employed marching off to offices in April.
However, in a change from tradition, a growing number of companies that do not yet have much overseas business are moving toward hiring new recruits in the autumn.
In the past, companies such as electrical equipment manufacturers that do a lot of business abroad hired graduates of foreign universities or students who studied abroad in the autumn to match the end of the school year there.
But with some Japanese universities, including the University of Tokyo, now considering starting their school years in the fall, even companies such as restaurant chains and information technology companies that are more oriented toward the domestic market are moving toward autumn hiring of new recruits.
One company that plans to expand its hiring schedule is Kourakuen Corp., an operator of a ramen shop chain headquartered in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. From next year, the company plans to give prospective hires the choice of entering the company in April or October. Many college students now interviewing with Kourakuen are asking about next year's planned change.
Because of the shrinking domestic population, Kourakuen is planning to open more stores abroad. Plans call for opening the first overseas outlet in Thailand in June. The company is considering hiring students, both Japanese and foreign, who are now studying at foreign universities to be in charge of those foreign outlets.
Other companies are also thinking about broadening their hiring patterns.
A survey of 100 major companies conducted by The Asahi Shimbun in February found that 27 had already set up a system of hiring new recruits at some time other than spring, while another 15 were considering making such a move.
There are some problems with dividing new hiring into spring and autumn. Additional expenses will be needed for the training sessions that have to be held twice a year. There are also concerns that the sense of bonding with a cohort who entered the company at the same time will weaken.
Despite such disadvantages, companies do not want to give up hiring in the fall.
"We want to move ahead of other companies in hiring outstanding students who graduate in autumn," said an official with Ricoh Co.
Such companies feel those new hires will be valuable employees in overseas operations where competition is fierce.
Other companies want to show that they are in the forefront of moves by universities to start their school year in autumn and eventually have graduation in the fall as well.
"It will be a form of public relations if we were the first to provide an opportunity for new hires in autumn," said Toshio Haneda, a Kourakuen official in charge of the hiring department.
If more companies hire new recruits in autumn, that will make it easier for college students to study abroad. Some companies have also begun giving the tests for new hires from the autumn of the senior year in college.
That will give students a wider range of choices, as some will be able to concentrate on their studies until the summer of their senior year while others could do volunteer work before entering a company in the fall.
However, there are also dangers involved.
Hiroyuki Kuwabara, who heads the career research group at Disco Inc., which provides information to job seekers, said, "It will be dangerous to have students think, 'I can wait until autumn if I fail to get a job in spring.' "
A reason for that possible danger is that companies that hire in autumn are looking for different types of people than those who begin working in spring. Companies that hire in the autumn are looking for students who have studied abroad or those who switch priorities from finding a job as a civil servant.
Companies also hire many fewer new recruits in autumn.
There are also concerns that with greater opportunities for seeking jobs at major firms, fewer college students will even think about looking for jobs at small businesses.
The spread of hiring in autumn also is a sign that more companies want workers who do not need much training, indicating such companies have lost the leeway to groom new recruits into loyal company employees.
(This article was written by Hisashi Naito and Sawa Okabayashi.)
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