Interview with Japanese Company

Today i had an interview with a Japanese Company for a position as a Technical Engineer. The company is a manufacturer of ball bearings for machinery, and has customers from across the world. The reason they are hiring is mainly because of the lack of English proficiency among the current engineers, therefore they are looking for international students who could represent them for the international meetings with the clients.

Which is the reason why I thought I stand a fairly good chance of getting the interview (and job!) when I sent my resume. Even though I have zero experience in Mechanical Engineering, being an Electronic Engineering student, and now a Masters in Microelectronics. I must say my interests also lie very very far from being a technical engineer, my sights has always been set on biomimetics and nanotechnology since I was about 16 to 17 years old. (Do you think it silly of me to give up my one dream just to have the chance to chase my other dream of living in a different country?)

Anyways back to the main topic. The interview is scheduled to be at 11am Japan Standard time, and I was waiting in the library study room at 10:30am (JST), when it occurred to me that the room is not soundproofed! Not that I care whether people hear the contents of what I say, but rather the fact that I am affecting the people in the adjacent cubicles and that I will be asked to leave mid-interview. So I had to request for another type of room, and the whole thing lasted until 11:10am (10 minutes late!!). 

I don’t know if it affects their impression of me, or they were really kind and patient people. So when both sides went online, I saw that there is a Japanese girl (around 25-ish) who is from the HR department, and a Korean guy (29) who was the one who came to recruit students here in my university. It was rather funny. I think it is also because they are both inexperienced in doing interviews, the guy was only there in the company for about 2 years! All in all, the experience was completely different from the interview I had when I applied for an internship position in the company I am working in now. 

Probably because of the cultural difference, between Japan and other Asian countries, and also between Japan and USA. For my internship interview, the first interviewer is a Mainland Chinese who had her education in Caltech University, and the next interviewer is an American who happened to be in this company doing some projects. Probably also because the two of them are rather experienced in their field, and also in the art of interviewing. They are both managers or above, and also because they are not so reserved in their manner of speaking and asking questions. The ease of conversation is a stark contrast between the previous one and this. Especially with the American guy!

The interview with him lasted slightly more than an hour, but for the whole part he only asked three questions that are related to the job. The rest of the time we were talking about something else, for example, how he liked it in Singapore, how did his family like the life in Singapore, if he prefers Singapore or the US, how I like the life in Germany, what are my plans for the future, what were his plans when he was my age, what happened to those plans, the choices we make, etc. etc. Or maybe that is part of the interviewing technique, I don’t know.

But for this one, they asked the usual questions:

Why did I want to apply for this company (because I want to go to Japan!),

why did I apply for a Mechanical Engineering job when I am a major in Microelectronics (I don’t know, because I really want to go to Japan!),

why do you want to work in a Japanese company (because I have heard about the working etiquette of Japanese people, how they work in teams to create something that is more than what they can achieve as individuals, how they put aside individual needs and wants for the well being of the whole community — see Fukushima incident),

what did I mean when I say I love sampling foods in my resume ( I like to order strange foods on the menu),

what do I mean when I said I like meeting and talking to new people (couchsurfing! I like meeting people from all over the world, talk to them, listen to their ideas and thinking, and see how different people who grew up from different backgrounds can be so different yet the same!),

and lastly what are my strengths and weaknesses 😉 

I was very nervous, they were very nervous.  So instead of the interviewer trying to put the interviewee at ease, I thought I might try to put them at ease. By asking them about Japan, how he liked Japan so far, how she likes growing up in Japan, places in Japan, how locals interact with foreigners over there, why did he apply for a job in Japan (Ha!), and because his major is also not mechanical engineering, I tried to make him answer it himself how a person who is not of that major is able to work in that company (you know, to make him see for himself that if he can do it, why can’t I?)

The interview lasted for about 40 minutes, as opposed to the internship interview which lasted over 2 hours (1 hour for each interviewer). I don’t know what are my chances. I did ask them. I asked this question in both interviews because, well, I really want to know! The American was laughing when I asked him this question, he said I am not supposed to ask such a question! It is the same as asking the interviewee if she is single or married (inappropriate!). But since I am a beginner in this, he forgives me (*laughs some more*) as it reminds of him the silly questions he asked when he was young.

Although I am already told not to ask, I couldn’t help my curiosity! And I also read that Japanese and Americans function differently in this, so I thought why not? And they didn’t see it as inappropriate (I hope), as they answered quite naturally. They told me they received 150 resumes, and they picked 10% for the first interview (So they assured me that since I am of the 10% obviously they think I am suitable already, so not to worry), and for this interview they couldn’t say yet as they need to discuss further (pfff, probably to avoid answering!), and that I need only wait for two weeks to know the result. 

So I thought, oh well, my patience can last me two weeks, so I didn’t press further. It’s probably inappropriate and rude to press further anyway. 

And that concludes the interview. I thanked them, and they thanked me. And said our goodbyes.


my interview look!

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