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Business trends

Japan college seniors face longer, tougher job hunting season

Companies reduce recruiting and take interviews online

Japanese college seniors may face difficulty in securing job offers given the economic slump brought on by the pandemic.

TOKYO -- As Japan's job-hunting season shifts into high gear Monday, college seniors face an employment landscape upended by the coronavirus pandemic, with interviews going online and some hard-hit companies freezing recruitment.

As companies interview thousands of students online, the process is expected to take longer. With many planning to reduce new hires, the tide may be shifting in the job hunter's market that college students have enjoyed in recent years.

In a uniquely Japanese practice, companies will begin interviews for college seniors on the government-set start day of June 1. Those seniors will join the workforce in April after graduating in March.

Tokyo Gas will conduct all interviews online starting Monday. In order to thoroughly assess applicants' personalities via video, the interview will last about 10 minutes longer than in normal years.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance will also exclusively use videoconferencing starting in June, expecting to meet with more than 1,000 applicants online in the first round of screening. "The safety of the students and employees is our top priority," said a spokesperson at the unit of MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings.

Leading trading house Mitsubishi Corp. will vet applicants online before final-round, in-person interviews.

"Many companies are tapping virtual screening before meeting candidates face to face for the final round of interviews," said a counselor at Gakushuin University's career center.

Some businesses are extending recruiting periods. Seeking to offer students more time to apply, electronics behemoth Panasonic plans to wrap up the selection process in September, two months later than usual.

Meanwhile, companies in the travel and leisure industry, which is pummeled by the pandemic, are curbing hiring.

All Nippon Airways parent ANA Holdings has suspended recruitment efforts for fiscal 2021. USJ, operator of the temporarily closed Universal Studios Japan theme park, has also halted recruitment activity. Leading travel agency JTB is reviewing the number of planned new hires.

The trend is spreading to other sectors. Cosmetics company Shiseido will reduce hires for next spring. Department store operators and food companies, many of which have not released specific numbers for new staffers they intend to take on, are also expected to review their hiring plans.

Still, businesses in general appear eager to take on promising students. As of May 1, the percentage of students with job offers stood at 50.2%, just 0.9 percentage point below the 2019 level, according to a survey by employment information provider Disco. The ratio had been trending above last year's levels through April.

"Companies actively reached out to students who had participated in their internship programs since the summer of 2019," said Fusako Takei of Disco.

Some students already have multiple offers but are worried about the grim economic outlook. "I will keep all job offers until October," said a senior at Keio University who already has two offers, including one from a major automaker.

As of Wednesday, 37 businesses had rescinded job offers made to those who graduated from school this year due to the impact of the coronavirus, affecting 80 college graduates, according to the Labor Ministry.

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