Japanese society is world-famous for valuing for harmony within groups, but what aren’t quite as well-known are Japanese companies’ penchant for on-the-job-training and flexible definitions of work responsibilities. Combined, these elements mean that even more so than in other countries, hiring managers in Japan are acutely concerned with whether or not a job applicant is going to mesh well with the existing office atmosphere, and so the topic of conversation in job interviews can often meander away from professional skills and experience.
However, Kumamoto Prefecture’s Department of Labor has let it be known that it wants companies in its jurisdiction to start reining in what it believes are inappropriate questions to ask during a job interview. The governmental body has put out a statement indicating broad topics it feels employers have no business asking about, such as the applicant’s family, housing situation, religion, and political philosophies, as well as a list of example questions that it says interviewers should not ask:
● Where were you born?
● What kind of work do your parents do?
● Are you an only child?
● What kind of car do you drive?
● Are you Buddhist?
● What political party is closest to your way of thinking?
● Do you want to get married one day?
● Which historical figure do you like?
● What do you think of Marxism?
● Are you a member of any groups or organizations?
● Which newspaper do you read?
Some of these, such as directly questioning someone about their political or religious beliefs, seem like obvious attempts to blacklist members of certain demographics. The question about marriage, meanwhile, no doubt was included in the list since speculation that a currently single woman will quit her job after getting married has long been cited as a barrier female candidates face in securing employment.
Some of the other questions, though, such as asking what kind of car a person drives or which historical figures they’re a fan of, are the sort of things that could conceivably come up in everyday, polite conversation (especially considering young Japanese people’s recent booming interest in samurai-period history). However, Kumamoto’s Department of Labor asserts that the answers to such questions may be used to form an image of applicants’ social status or ideology which are unrelated to their ability to meet the job’s performance requirements, and thus unfairly impact their chances of getting hired.
Though it classifies the above questions as inappropriate, the Department of Labor does acknowledge that they might not be being asked with malicious intent, but merely as things that spring up in the interviewer’s mind during the course of the conversation. Because of this, the department encourages hiring managers to prepare a list of questions they will ask applicants ahead of time, rather than going into the interview with only a vague idea of what to talk about and playing things by ear.
The department has also stopped short of designating the above questions as illegal. It has, however, said that violators will receive reprimands, and also that it will be holding a conference in August to further discuss with local companies what are and aren’t appropriate topics during a job interview.
Source: Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
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