All About Japan’s “OB Houmon”: a How-to Guide for International Students Job-Hunting in Kyoto
Have you ever done OB houmon? For a lot of you, you may be hearing this word for the first time when you start your job search in Japan. We’ll help you by explaining just what these OB houmon, or “OB visits” are, their purpose, and of course, how to do them yourself!
What are OB visits?
To begin at the beginning, many non-Japanese students may find themselves wondering, “What is an OB, anyway?” You may have guessed it, but “OB” is a kind of wasei-eigo, or Japanese word originating in English: it’s an abbreviation for “Old Boy” (“OG” is used as an abbreviation for “Old Girl” when the person in question is a woman). OBs and OGs are simply alumni of your university who graduated before you.
An “OB visit” is a visit to speak with such an alumni who works in an industry you’d like to work in yourself—what are often called “informational interviews” in the West.
So…why would I do an “OB visit” anyway?
Some students may be wondering why they have to bother with a one-on-one interview. Aren’t company info sessions (setsumeikai) enough?
Go deeper than the information at setsumeikai, and learn about the day-to-day work of an individual
An OB visit is a chance to have a one-on-one conversation, with just you, and your sempai. OB visits typically last from between 30 minutes to an hour at the longest, but you’ll be able to speak for much longer than you would at a setsumeikai with an employee at your company of choice. Find out more about what actually goes on at the company, and what working there is really like, which will also allow you to write in much more specific terms about why you want to work at this company when you apply.
It may help your chances during the screening process
From the outside, OB visits may seem to have nothing to do with many company’s actual hiring processes, but the “OB” of some companies do in fact share their impressions of the students they’ve spoken with within the company. If you have the opportunity to do an OB visit yourself, please use it as a chance to display your passion for the company before the actual interview. It’s also an excellent opportunity to get a little more used to speaking with non-students in the working world in Japan.
You may be told about the screening process, or given advice about your résumé
This will depend on the company’s policy, but there are cases in which an OB or OG will offer advice to the student they’re speaking with. The exact screening process may vary from year to year, but it should nonetheless be helpful to ask your OB or OG about any aptitude tests (like SPI) that they had to take, how many interviews they had, what sorts of questions they were asked in their interviews, and so forth.
Will I get to hear employee’s honest opinions in an OB visit?
During an OB visit, an alumni will be speaking with you directly, as opposed to a large group of people. Because of this, you should be able to hear their opinions with relative frankness.
However, to the OB you’re speaking to, this OB visit is a part of their regular work.
Because of this, rather than using the interview as a chance to completely determine whether or not this is a company at which it’s easy to work or not, it’s probably most in your advantage to use it as an opportunity to gather information that will help you strengthen your case as a prospective employee throughout the screening process.
How to do an OB visit
Now that we know why people do OB visits, well…how exactly does one go about doing one? Study Kyoto will lay it all out!
The OB Visiting Season
The peak season for OB visits lasts from March to April for third year university students. If you can, try to make plans for your visit about one month before this busy period. It should be easier to make an appointment if you do so in advance.
How can I get an OB’s contact information?
・At a career center
If you are a university student, you should have access to your school’s career center, where you should be able to see a registry of OB and OG. Because the majority of the students registered here will be Japanese, your conversation will likely have to be conducted in Japanese. Some school websites will even make this registry available online.
・ From an upperclassman
Upperclassmen you may know from your graduate seminar, dorm, or school clubs can be one of your biggest saving graces. Try actively asking around if your upperclassmen friends—or their friends!—have gotten positions at a company you’re interested in. It can also be a good idea to ask one of your professors to introduce you to someone.
・International Student Groups
Another option is to ask for an introduction to an OB through another international student from your country. Even if you aren’t from the same school, as someone from the same country, they should be able to give some good support.
・Apps & Websites for OB Visits
The internet has become an indispensable tool for job hunting in Japan. When using an app or a website for your OB search, you should be able to find an alumni, even if they graduated from a different school than yours—give one a try!
Visit OB: https://vis-its.com/
・Get an OB introduction from a company in Kyoto
Kyoto is full of cutting-edge technology companies, and companies with international projects. The following organizations work hard to offer opportunities to international students looking for OB introductions and office visits. Check them out!
①Study Kyoto’s Job Hunting Information Site for International Students
This website offers information on job-hunting-related events in Kyoto, aimed at international students. There are also many opportunities to hear directly from companies themselves.
Holding casual exchange events between international students and OB/OG, as well as with company representatives.
③Kyoto Job Park