Mari Shibata:

Every year beginning in early April, thousands of soon-to-be-graduates in Japan make their way around town dressed in black business attire, carrying a briefcase containing only their CVs, hoping to land jobs at the country’s most reputable companies.

This ritual is part of a year-long hiring process in their penultimate year of university: the season of ‘shūshoku katsudō’ (job-hunting activity). It’s known as ‘shūkatsu’ for short, when third-year students drop classes in order to attend career seminars organised by universities. In their last year, they submit job applications and endure a structured selection process to secure a position (called ‘naitei’) by the time they finish their degree.

Shūkatsu is the traditional, predominant recruiting practice across Japan. It is vital not just for employers and university placement numbers, but also for the students whose social status can be elevated by the outcome of their job hunt.

This system was created in 1953 by Keidanren – Japan’s leading business lobby, comprising more than 1,300 major Japanese corporations and 100 group industries. Due to labour shortages during Japan’s post-war period of rapid economic growth, the hunt for college graduates heated up. The shūkatsu system offered lifetime employment to new graduates who, in turn, provided security and status for major Japanese firms.