Another interview yesterday! And the common hurdle.

In my waning days in Japan, I still am doing interviews and meeting whoever I can. Yesterday, I got some face time with a principal of a business support firm that I consider to be top-notch. He gave me some good ideas and a sense of how to approach coming back, if that’s what I end up doing.

In a nutshell, this is what has made landing so difficult in Tokyo in the past. My English skills—blog goofs and non-edits aside–are very good. My accounting skills are very good. I am a CPA, backed with experience in the corporate world, usually in roles where I have had to be one to make sure it all happens. In other cases, where I have been the one called in to put out fires.

The hurdle is in that third box, where my Japanese skills aren’t native and, realistically, never will be. Since I am a native New Jerseyite.

However, my native competition here has a different portfolio. Their Japanese skills are really good. Their English (at least spoken) is better than my Japanese. Yes, for sure. Though, I’m not so sure about the reading and writing, and I’m not so sure about nuance. I think complex sentences trip people up here, and that they’re really only getting “general sense” understanding of directives coming from overseas. So there are a lot of question marks about that English language ability.

In the second box: the accounting skills. As I’ve posted before, a lot of “CPAs” running around Tokyo are . . not. They are usually people who are at some stage along the way. But they aren’t CPAs.

My count has been 2 out of 3 are not. They say they are, but they aren’t.

Maybe they passed the tests (all four parts).

Maybe they passed some of the tests.

Maybe they have some of the tests and some of the work experience.

Maybe they actually have a license, or a California or Delaware certificate. This means they can’t audit, they can just call themselves CPA, with the proviso that it’s a certificate. (Usually, they forget to add that last part.) Usually these people have a lot of stateside experience, or are a different Asian background, like Chinese or Korean.

The thing is, this weaker-but-conversational English and questionable-accounting-background candidate will get in before I will. Once they’re in, and the skills gap surfaces, well, then it’s a bit too late. But the hiring firm doesn’t care about that beforehand. They are usually doing this over the telephone from another continent. They just say, “ooh, good. We got somebody.”

Then, when the person is short of what they need, it’s kind of the hirer’s mistake more than those who did the misrepresenting beforehand. So the telephone manager deals with the awkward problem as best they can.

[more later]

[Update: I have to put a wrap on this topic for now. A point I want to add, though, is that there are a handful of accountants around Tokyo who have all the three bars: great English skills, great Japanese skills, and great accounting ones. But they are almost always well taken care of (this means good money and good work environment), and so ordinarily aren’t on the market for long. The recruiters don’t know them, because they don’t have need to deal with recruiters.]

8 thoughts on “Another interview yesterday! And the common hurdle.

  1. — My accounting skills are very good. I am a CPA, backed with experience in the corporate world, usually in roles where I have had to be one to make sure it all happens. In other cases, where I have been the one called in to put out fires.—-

    —-The thing is, this weaker-but-conversational English and questionable-accounting-background candidate will get in before I will.—-

    So why in God’s name are you mucking around in Japan? You’ve been here long enough to know the score besides why the hell would you want to work for a J-company anyway?

  2. Probably because sometimes, just sometimes? It’s not only about getting the cushy job. I’ve been in Japan a bit over 8 years now. I have gotten a much clearer idea of “the score” to understand that I am potentially playing dice with my future, based on any number of factors (the insolvency of the pension system, the general undercurrent of subtle prejudice in the work environment, the demographic decline, etc.). But when it’s all said and done, I LIKE it here. I have friends (and family now) here. And sometimes you don’t want to have to leave a place you’ve grown attached to if you can help it. (NB: I am not trying to put words into Hoofin’s mouth! I just suspect that maybe he, at least in part, feels similarly. Although of course I could be COMPLETELY wrong.)

    1. I think most people who are from abroad, and who spend an intermediate amount of time here (4 years plus), feel the same feelings this way. I had reached an age, and social situation, where quality of life issues mattered. In the early days, Japan was very stimulating. In the later ones, I have met a lot of really nice people and made friends.

      The downside is that the runners of Japan are, how shall I say it, less noble a cut of people? So it is very difficult to make it. They aren’t there individually offing people’s careers and their visas. But they set up the rules so that, as Zig says, you are rolling the dice with each passing year. I had actually made the same point at a JAT get-together this weekend. The odds are set for you by how the system is structured, and you only roll a non-matching set of dice only so many times (or whatever the odds are).

      The sad thing is that as the people “bumped off the island” increase in number back home, it’s only going to mean worse things for the generation coming up, the kids. That’s the saddest part, because they seem to be the ones who have it the most together as people. (The a**holes and neurotics are in the older generations.) With China’s inexorable rise, inevitably Americans are going to ask, “what’s in it for us?” in the Japan-America relationship. And it can’t just be the presence in Japan of a handful of lordship expat families at the big companies with “International” in the name. Let them foot the military bill, not us. It can’t be the one-sided trade relations. That’s the scary thing. This is all 15 or 20 years off, but I see it coming. Look who’s going to be stuck dealing with it.

  3. For the record, I would like to state that I was not at said “JAT get-together”. If you made similar points using a similar metaphor (um, dice), this is purely coincidental.

    Quite true on those running the system, and you’ve put it quite a bit more politely than I would like to. For myself, while the long-term odds are against me, I am hopeful for two reasons. 1: There is always a chance (however vanishingly small) that the state of affairs will change. 2: I just changed jobs and my new position is a good opportunity that I can, after having stayed with the position for a number of years (my intended minimum is 10), use as a springboard to a decent position stateside if I ever need to return (read, should things really go down the crapper here in Japan).

    As for the future generations, I will agree that it is sad, but unfortunately it is, I believe, nothing new. In general, as a species, as our societies develop, we seem to make greater and greater progress in screwing over our unborn progeny just so we can squeeze out a little more for ourselves. But maybe I’m a cynic.

    1. Zig, I know it was not you at the JAT. It’s coincidence.

      I try to look at the whole picture about Japan, which is why I can’t strongly condemn the people with power in this country who screw us. I am not even sure it’s really them, as much as their American expat and stateside enablers.

      But the younger generation is the one that gets it in this country. That was the case in the late Edo era, in the early Showa days, and even post-bubble.

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