According to JETRO, more than 1,500 Japanese companies were operating in Germany as of 2017 – even in a country where many multinational companies are based, the number of Japanese companies present stands out.

Interestingly, even though Japanese companies have offices located all over Europe, there are many cases where they follow a Japanese HR system rather than a European one.

Therefore, if applicants would be expecting the exact same job searching system as in Europe, seeking employment at Japanese companies in Germany could lead them into unexpected pitfalls. In this article, we will describe both job-seeking strategies for people looking for employment at Japanese companies in Germany, and important steps of the interview process at these companies.

Recruitment styles of Japanese companies in Germany

Among multinational Japanese companies, a number have been operating in Germany for many years. There are instances where some have already established localized styles of HR systems, while others are maintaining a firmly rooted Japanese style.

According to the (within the sociology field) well-known Institutional Theory, multinational corporations’ systems are strongly influenced by local laws and commercial practices, and will eventually have a tendency to naturally start to resemble those of local corporations (Dimaggio and Powell, 1983).

On the other hand, multinational companies’ HR systems and customs, etc., have been cultivated over a long period of time in the home country as well, and it may take time for the company to integrate into the local market. Additionally, companies may also lose their strong points once integrated (Kostova, 1999).

As a matter of fact, the degree to which Japanese multinational companies are actually influenced by local customs and how much they retain the home country’s customs is determined by various factors such as the size of the company, line of business, etc. One cannot say that as a rule, the longer the existence of the branch office, the more localized the HR system should be.

Generally speaking, many Japanese companies in Germany have adopted a kind of “hybrid recruitment system,” which introduces German culture while also retaining Japanese elements.

Application methods

When applying for a job at a Japanese company in Germany, there are two main forms of application.

  1. Applying as a local hire on the web
  2. Use a recruiter like our company

Many big Japanese multinational companies advertise their job openings in both English and German on the web, and their own websites have links with recruitment information. Even so, these recruitment pages are oftentimes run by German HR departments and they thus target people already leading a life in Germany.

Among those positions, some may require Japanese language skills and/or previous work experience in Japan. Yet it is necessary to note that many expect applications from mere locals.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On the other hand, when people go through a recruiter like our company, the applicants can receive information about vacancies directly from Japanese managers and HR. They can therefore apply to positions directly in which they can make the best use out of their Japanese background.

Resumes may be requested to be written in English (or possibly in both Japanese and English), in order to render both the Japanese and German parties able to understand. The requested language depends upon who is involved in the interview and HR processes.

Schedule up to the interview and transportation costs

The timeline before and up to the interview at a Japanese company is no different from that of any other German company. When using a recruiter like us, once the applicant’s information is received, we introduce the applicant to suitable positions. About a week after this (the earliest), we can then present an interview offer.

However, if the timing and career background do not match the present job vacancies, it may take months – sometimes nearly half a year – before an eventual interview. Recruiters should be used as a means to an end, thus applicants’ self-help efforts such as gathering information by themselves, and systematically acquiring qualifications up until when they start to work, are essential.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

An important aspect to consider for applicants that are searching for a job at a Japanese company in Germany is how to settle potential transportation reimbursement. For the average German company, applicants’ travel expenses to the interview location become the company’s responsibility.

However, similar to the job hunting system in Japan, some Japanese multinational companies also have a culture of letting applicants bear the transportation costs. Whether or not the transportation cost is covered differs depending on company and position – in other words, transportation is reimbursed on a case-by-case basis.

When people apply through Career Management, we basically carry out the transportation cost negotiations. We arrange so the applicant’s cost burden is reduced, and create an environment where the interviewee can focus on the interview process.

Our company’s procedure for interviews

When an applicant is interviewing with a Japanese company in Germany through us the process is roughly the same as for a German company.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

However, since interview etiquette and manners differ greatly depending on whether the interviewer is Japanese or German, the interviewee needs to be mentally prepared for dealing with either (even at Japanese companies in Germany you may have a one-on-one interview with a German interviewer).

For example, when the interviewer is German (as summarized in the last article), an applicant would need to shake hands with them, and tell them their name as is generally done in a German greeting.

On the other hand, when the interviewer is Japanese, a handshake and western-style greeting would not be ideal. Instead, bowing and greeting the person in question with a “Honjitsu wa yoroshiku onegai itashimasu” (Thank you for your time today) would be better.

In either case, it is recommended for applicants to remove outer garment upon entering the building, in order to prepare for Japanese-styled interview etiquette.

Also, related to and speaking of attires, when interviewing for a Japanese company in Germany, the most appropriate option would be the black suit and tie.

Important points of the interview (such as etiquette)

Important aspects of interviews when the interviewer is German will be touched upon in a different article. This time, we will introduce how to behave during an interview with a Japanese interviewer from a Japanese company in Germany.

Basically, the interview manners described below make out what is called “interview etiquette” in Japan. More concretely, we will cover what kind of points would be advisable to pay attention to.

Knock and entering

It is generally said that the most acceptable number of knocks is three. Also, the interviewee should wait until the person in charge says “douzo” (“come in”).

If the applicant voices a cheerful “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (it’s nice to meet you) as they are entering the room, a good first impression would be made. Additionally, the applicant should either put their bag and coat and such under their chair, or, if it is unclear where those items should go, it is considered polite to ask “Kochirani okasete itadaitemo yoroshideshoka?” (Where may I put these down).


Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

The applicant will be able to sit first after the person in charge has said: “douzo”(please sit).

If the interviewer is already seated and the interviewee is instructed where to sit there is no problem, however, if the person in charge arrives afterward, or, it is unclear where one should sit, the “lower” seat (a.k.a, the seating on the side by the door) is considered to be the most appropriate.

If the interviewee is awaiting the interviewer in the room in advance, it is polite to stand up and promptly greet the interviewer as he/she enters the room.

Served drink

An important point to keep in mind when interviewing with a Japanese company in Germany is the drinks served.

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Basically, one cannot drink unconditionally as the drinks are served but must first wait until the interviewer says “douzo” (please). Once this is uttered, one should take one or two small sips.

On the contrary, to not drink anything at all like the person in charge has said “douzo”, or to leave leftovers of the drink, are also considered to be rude actions. Instead, ideally, applicants would drink a little when told to do so and then estimate during the interview how much and when to drink, in order to finish the glass before the interview’s end.


If applicants want to take notes during the interview regarding the company history, the position in question, etc., they should make sure to ask the interviewer for permission before doing so: “memo wo tottemo yoroshi desho ka?”