60

I have recently been interviewing for a remote position with a company based out of Tokyo, Japan. They are a fairly young start up, with one semi successful product currently out. They seem to be incredibly interested in hiring me. However, there seems to either be some cultural miscommunications or maybe just misunderstandings that I need help with.

They first offered a full time (remote) position to me, but it was substantially below what I could accept. I made this clear (politely) and had to decline. They said that was fine, and if their monetary situation changed they would let me know.

They came back several days later with the right amount of money (nearly double the original amount) but the offer specified it was only for a two month contract. I asked for clarification, and also said this was not long enough for me to consider leaving my stable job for.

This evening, I got another message asking if I would be interested in a part-time position, in conjunction with my full-time engineering job I already have. I have now told them that this won’t work, I need to have both good pay and a stable position to help their company reach its goals and for me to have a sane life. I recommended we have a meeting to better discuss what it is we are both looking for and need.

Is any of this normal? Do Japanese negotiations just look very different than other Western methods?

TL;DR: I’ve been very clear with this company about what I need in a job, but they seem to not be understanding or are dodging things. Am I missing something?

Details: I am an Electrical and Software Engineer located in the United States with a stable job and decent pay. I like this new company, and would be excited to work for them.

Update: I was straightforward with the company and asked them what was the primary motivator behind their negotiations. They replied that their long term funds are unpredictable/limited, and they are trying to push out this big product in the next couple of months (hence the two month contract). After that they will be reassessing their full-time needs and may contact me. Thanks for all the feedback!

  • 118
    Sounds more like standard startup than standard Japanese. They seem to be concerned about cash flow. – Mawg Jul 3 at 6:30
  • 5
    If they are concerned about cash flow, it's a very ethical concern for them to have (which I don't find surprising however I have little knowledge of japanese companies ethics). If they can't be sure they can pay you for more than 2 months, do you really want to take a job up anyway, even if they tell you it's permanent? – djsmiley2k Jul 3 at 19:42
  • 2 months, renewable contract ? – Antzi Jul 4 at 6:36
108

No, it is not a standard practice in Japan.

I think they are just a startup that can't afford to hire you on full-time at the price you are asking, so they are looking for alternatives.

As for the short-term contract, they may have specific tasks in mind they would like you to handle, that they can't handle with their current resources.

The part time offer was also probably geared to you taking over those specific tasks, with you keeping your day job so that your pay is at an acceptable level.

If you don't think you can work without a long-term full-time contract above a certain salary, then say that to them one more time, and if they can't make that offer, it may just be best to part ways.

  • 16
    This sounds like the most reasonable approach. But if I may add one thing. its possible the task they need handled wouldnt be a huge undertaking. Perhaps ask them more about the things they would need completed in those two months. it maybe something you can work on in your free/down time and make a nice little paycheck in the process. – jesse Jul 3 at 15:00
  • 8
    I agree with @jesse, however, check your current contract for anything that may make that part-time illegal to take. For example, the contract might hav a clause stating that you can't work for another company in the same area while employed there. – Ismael Miguel Jul 3 at 16:19
  • Both good points - I have contacted them to clarify (just for curiosity's sake if anything) how many hours of part time they were considering. – ConcernedHobbit Jul 3 at 17:14
  • 3
    Pay is generally lower in Japan as well. I see nothing but a slew of bright-eyed would-be candidates who roll in to the country expecting what they were getting in the US or Europe, only to get laid out when they realize that here, they're too expensive. – Malisbad Jul 3 at 18:42
  • 1
    It's probably also worth bearing in mind that if the company is this worried about cash flow, there's a higher than normal risk of the company going broke. It's easy to forget about it if you've always worked for stable companies. They should compensate you for the risk you're taking, often with stock or some other sort of pay-out if the company does well. – Robin Bennett Jul 4 at 9:55
31

That is all about being a startup, possibly not related to Japan at all.

From the offers, it's pretty clear that they are short on cash for what they are planing to do. Probably an initial funding is running out. So it's not that they do not want to give you a normal full time contract, it's that it increases their risk significantly.

The risk is to run out of money. That may result in a bankruptcy, or in being bought (for little money) by some similar company. Both cases are not a good forecast for a stable job. In the second case chances are that the other company already has someone in your role. An additional red flag is that the current product is "semi successful", as that is probably an euphemism for not successful at all. That would explain being short on money. (My intuition is that they are dying, but still have hope.)

The conclusion is that you can not assume a stable long term job when working for them, completely independent from the contract you get. Even if they offer perfectly what you want, that does not change.

  • 7
    Your second point is definitely worth noting - that even if they were able to offer me a full time position, it still doesn't change that they may have cash flow issues now or in the future. – ConcernedHobbit Jul 3 at 14:24
  • 3
    Call me crazy, but the no way in hell I would ever leave a stable job to go to a startup if the startup wasn't offering equity or a massively massive pay raise. – Shane Jul 3 at 15:48
  • 9
    @Shane That's clearly crazy! There may be good reasons to join a startup. You may be bored in the stable job, and feel that you could go back - after leaving in a friendly way, or can assume you would find a new stable job. The startup may not provide a pay raise. But - provided you fit into the companies culture - you can have a huge influence in how the company grows. You do not longer work in a context defined by somebody who may not be competent, or if he is, he might prefer different approaches than you. You will define the context. But need to learn to be competent yourself. Not boring. – Volker Siegel Jul 3 at 16:04
  • 2
    Ah. I wouldn't work somewhere under an incompetent manager, without any influence, where I was bored and uncreative. I mean, I've had jobs like that, but I was immediately looking for new work. In my mind jobs like that don't count as stable. I've found that medium or large sized companies that aren't specialized in your profession are great for this. Be the one graphic guy or web developer at the widget factory. Maybe I've just been rather lucky. – Shane Jul 3 at 16:30
  • 4
    One reason to go to a start up is if you really believe in their product or what they are doing. Essentially, leaving the stability of your current job for "the greater good" instead of simply "a greater personal good" also makes sense to me. – Shane Jul 3 at 16:32
11

(The following is based on my limited personal experience (I am non-Japanese working in Japan for several years) and on what I gathered from talking to some Japanese friends, reading the Internet, etc. What I say below is true, but not universally true, and quite likely is not applicable to your situation. Still, it may help you to better understand their mentality... then again, their mentality may not be like that.)

In Japan, you get hired fresh out of school/college/university and for the rest of your career. Your initial pay is low, but you get a regular unconditional raise (e. g. regardless of your performance), so after a decade it becomes reasonable, after two decades it may start getting high and keep growing. If you quit (which you wouldn't, because why would you?!) and get a new job, your initial pay is low, but... (see above). That is the tradition, which is now somewhat dead, but it is lingering in many companies (in the depths of their corporate schizophrenia): a new hire = fresh out of school/college/university, and should be paid accordingly. Yes, they are fully aware that you have this many years of relevant experience and whatnot, and at the same time, they kinda aren't. Regardless of the company's size, financial situation, etc. - I suspect, it is rather related to the attitude of the management (how modernized/westernized vs. traditional/japanized they are).

The limited time contracts is a somewhat new thing, getting more popular as the government pushes for more job security for the hired workers, and the companies push for those contracts which make it easier to get rid of you if need be. That's why they are paid better. Most people still prefer permanent contracts for their permanency. So the limited contracts are better paid, to encourage people to choose them. While the government is pushing towards making them essentially equal to permanent contracts (they made a law recently that your contract must be renewed unless the company can provide compelling reasons for being unable to extend it; they made another law that after ~5 years of working for the same company on such contracts you have a right to demand a permanent contract, etc.)

  • No, limited contracts (for dispatch workers) are poorly paid; you don't see so much of the Western idea of a freelancer. Here's figures from 2007; page 27, fig 2-17 shows about half the salary. – Ken Y-N Jul 5 at 4:45
  • @Ken Y-N I don't know much about dispatch workers. I myself was given the choice a couple of times: a renewable 1 year contract or a permanent contract that pays about 30% less (don't remember the exact number, but something like that). With a 1 year contract you get more money right away, with a permanent contract you get more money eventually (move the black line on fig 2-17 up a couple notches, and that will more or less illustrate the tendency). Your mileage may wary. – Headcrab Jul 5 at 5:05
3

There are several kind of employment contracts in Japan. It sounds like the tried to switch you from Seishain (permanent employee) to fixed term contract.

This is actually quite common and doesn't mean the company don't want to keep you in the long run. This kind of contract usually comes with a higher pay due to the lower benefits.

However, others concern raised are very valid, and it doesn't mean that you should accept it: Only accept what you are confortable with.

1

I partially agree to above answers, but I also think it is possibly some sort of probation period contract, so I wrote down my experience FYI in case you really like this job and need careful considerations.

I've worked for a Japanese MNC company before. What they did was providing me a 3-month contract initially, but also clearly stated inside contract that if my performance met their expectation, the contract would be updated into permanent within the probation period. And they actually updated it before the end of my second month.

Even if a candidate is strong, it is still possible that he cannot collaborate with team well. Most Japanese companies are very careful about this, and want to protect the existing loyal employees. Thus maybe they like you, but they are still not willing to take the risk by paying you much more than current ones.

What I suggest is that you carefully check the strength of this company, to make sure whether it is they "are not sure to hire you as permanent" or "cannot hire you as permanent". For a startup, if they cannot guarantee their own survival, how to promise yours?

  • Minor note: You mention above answers - but if your answer gets upvoted to be higher scoring than other answers, then some answers will be below your answer. Better to maybe mention other answers (or other answers so far) – cale_b Jul 4 at 22:28
  • While the probation period is pretty much set to 3 months, I don't know of any companies who would tell pepole they are only signing a 2-3 month contract. They will try to sell it as a full-time contract with a 3 month probation period. – さりげない告白 Jul 5 at 0:42
  • @さりげない告白 Yes you are right, the possibility of what I said is very low. If their purpose is probation, they should clearly state it out. So most likely they only want a short-time/cheap employee to complete a certain task just as you already mentioned (unless this is a junior level startup that doesn't even know probation contract). – W.X. Jul 5 at 3:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.