All About Japan’s “OB Houmon”: a How-to Guide for International Students Job-Hunting in Kyoto
Begin getting your OB visit appointment with an email
Most contact with OB is typically made via email. But for many international students, this may be the first time you’ve ever sent a business email in Japanese—yikes! What should you write for the subject line, or the introductory part of the email?
We’ve created a template for you to use for just such a purpose. Beneath the Japanese, we’ve included a simple translation, for you to reference with phrases you don’t understand. The email exchange itself, of course, will be in Japanese, though!
Subject Line: A Request for an OB Visit: xx University, Kyoto Taro
Name of Recipient
My apologies for the sudden email. I wanted to contact you to ask about conducting an OB visit. My name is xx, and I am a student at xx University.
I received your contact information from xx, my upperclassman in the international student group.
I’m currently in the middle of job hunting, gathering information about various companies and industries. Amongst those I’ve looked at, I’m very interested in your company.
I’m emailing you today to ask about the opportunity to speak with you.
Would you be available to do so for about thirty minutes on any of the following dates?
– (Month, Date) 9:00 a. m. – 5:00 p.m.
– (Month, Date) 9:00 a. m. – 5:00 p.m.
– (Month, Date) 5:00 a. m. – 9:00 p.m.
If none of these dates work for your schedule, please let me know, and I can suggest alternative times.
I’m sorry to bother you during your busy schedule, but I very much looking forward to hearing from you.
【School Name】xx University xxDepartment xxSection
【Your phone number】000-000-0000
Points to Note
・Include your full name, school name, and the reason you’re contacting the person in the subject line.
・Be careful to write out the company’s official name in full, including things like “Inc,” or kabushikigaisha (株式会社)
・Be sure to explain the means by which you received this person’s contact information. You don’t want to leave them feeling worried, wondering how someone they haven’t met before knows their information—briefly explain the details.
・It’s ok for you, the student, to suggest the date for your meeting! It can make the scheduling process easier if you suggest some date, or dates, first.
・Explain in your email why you want to have an OB visit. Use specifics, like that you’d like the alumnus to look at your résumé or entry sheet so that they’ll be better able to prepare for the meeting.
Example: On the day of our meeting, if at possible, I was hoping to ask your advice regarding my entry sheet.
・When writing your name in the signature portion of the email, it’s probably helpful to the recipient to write it both in your native language and in katakana, so that they’ll know how to pronounce it. Because there are variations in the spelling of names, and the order of first and last name, it might also be helpful to make clear the order of your first and last name, too.
What kind of questions should I ask during an OB visit?
Made your OB appointment? Before you actually make your visit, make sure you decide what you’re planning to ask. You’ll probably feel more confident with some bullet points or memos to take with you to the meeting. Study Kyoto has put together a list of questions to help students think of questions to ask during their OB visits.
To begin with, don’t forget to bring the passion!
I’m sure there are lots of things you’re burning to ask, but first of all, be sure to show that you’re seriously thinking about working at this company: you’re trying to make a good impression.
Asking about job types
Japan’s job placement system may seem like a very foreign thing to many international students.
In many other countries, it’s common to hire employees based on specialty, or job type. Still, there aren’t any downsides to making clear that there’s a particular job type you’re aiming for.
Do make clear that you will remain positive and work hard no matter what job type you’re assigned, but by all means make clear your passion for your desired position, too. Ask your OB whether he was asked about his desired job type during his interviews, and how job type was determined after he entered the company. You should be able to better prepare that way.
Since you’re searching for a job in Japan, even with a major in Japanese, you should be able to take part in international business projects: a particular plus for international students, aside from job type. Make good use of this opportunity!
Asking about your OB’s self-PR or “shibou douki”
Because your OB was actually hired by the company, his “self-PR” and “shibou douki” (reason for wanting to enter the company, typically written on entry sheets when applying for employment) should be things that the company is looking for. Because everyone’s experiences are different, you won’t be able to use your OB’s answers as they are, of course, but they should help you in thinking about your own.
Get advice on your résumé, entry sheet, “shibou douki,” and self-PR
Obviously, preparing all of these during your OB visiting period is quite a lot of work. But that’s also exactly why it should set you apart from other students: show your dedication! At this point in time, you don’t need to have everything perfectly finished. Ask for advice, and edit and improve what you have.
Ask your OB about what kind of industry research he did
Your OB may know of some effective methods that students don’t know about. Ask, and find out!
Ask about day-to-day work, and the job’s merits
This kind of question is going to be the most helpful in determining whether this job is for you or not. It will also give you fuel for your interview, as you should be able to come out with stronger statements, like “I heard xx from my OB, and that made me feel like I wanted to do the same,” or, “After hearing about what the job is like day-to-day, I thought that xx about me is perfectly suited for the job.”
Manners on the day of your OB visit
Do working people in Japanese society all have perfectly polished manners?? In reality, maybe not so much. However, be sure to pay attention to the following points.
Excepting cases in which you’ve received special instructions from a company about dress, wear a suit. Be careful not to wear something with stains or wrinkles. Bring a business bag to carry with your suit.
Things to bring along
Bring something to write with, and a notebook (also bring your résumé and entry sheet if you’re asking for corrections)
Make sure to arrive at the latest fifteen minutes before your appointment, so as not to make your OB wait.
What if they pay for me?
Many OB visits happen at cafes close to a company. If your OB pays for your meal, be absolutely sure to thank them for it. It’s also not a good idea to expect this, however: do make clear your willingness to pay by taking your wallet out of your bag, etc. when the check comes.
The secrets of communicating
OB visits are an opportunity to ask questions, and to get a second opinion on your employment application documents. You may feel pretty nervous, but you are there to get your OB’s advice.
“This may be kind of forward of me, but may I ask you for some advice on my entry sheet, please?”
“I hope it’s not rude of me to ask, but if possible, could you tell me more about xx?”
Just be sure to ask politely!
When making requests, use “cushion words” to soften your phrasing. (“Cushion words” are often used in Japanese when making requests, refusing, making objections or contrary opinions. For more, please see the URL below (Website is Japanese only): http://www.dairylife.info/office_manner/kotobatsukai_business_cushion.html）
So even if you might think, “Is it ok to ask something like this?” take advantage of the opportunity and try asking.
Once you’ve finished your OB visit, make sure to send a thank you email afterwards. We’ve included another template, with a simple English translation below.
Thank You Email Template
Email subject line: 【Thank you for the OB Visit】 xx University (Your Name
Thank you for your time.
This is xx from xx University.
I wanted to thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me today.
Thank you, additionally, for kindly treating me to coffee, too.
After hearing what you had to say, I think I’ll be able to improve my self-PR.
Thank you so much for your invaluable advice.
Hearing what your day-to-day work was also very helpful to me.
I absolutely plan to submit my application to work at your company.
I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Tips for sending a thank you email
・When should I send one by?
At the latest, a thank you email should be sent by the morning of after your OB visit.
・It’s best not to make your email too long, so stick to the main points you’d like to thank your OB for: things you learned the most from.
・If you were treated to food or drink, be sure to thank your OB.
Using what you’ve learned at an OB visit
You’ve done it: you’ve gone out of your way and done an OB visit. So don’t let it go to waste! Write down the things you thought and felt during the meetings, and make note of things you think might help you later in an interview so that you can look back on them later.
You may be nervous meeting someone from a company where you’d like to work, but you’ve got this. Be confident. Study Kyoto is rooting for you!