How to work for a foreign company? Explanation of the differences from Japanese companies, who is suited for the job, qualifications and educational background!


  • Industry Information

“I want to work in a global environment.”

“I want to work in a global environment.”

“I want to further my career in a performance-based company.”

If you are thinking like this, why don't you consider working for a foreign-affiliated company?

In this article, we will explain the characteristics of foreign-affiliated companies, the characteristics of people who can play an active role, and the advantages and disadvantages of working for a foreign-affiliated company.

We hope you will find it useful as you aim for a career change to a foreign-affiliated company.

Types of Foreign Companies

Although foreign-affiliated companies have a global image, there is actually no clear definition of a foreign-affiliated company.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) defines a foreign-affiliated company as one in which foreign investors own more than one-third of the shares or equity.

Foreign-affiliated companies can be classified into three types.


  • Japanese branch offices of foreign companies
  • Companies jointly established by a foreign company and a Japanese company
  • Companies acquired by foreign companies


The following is an explanation of the characteristics of each type.


Japanese Branch of Foreign Company

Generally speaking, the Japanese branch of an overseas company is probably the most commonly associated with the image of a "foreign-affiliated company.

Since they are wholly owned by foreign capital and are subsidiaries of foreign companies, they are subject to the management policies of the foreign headquarters.

Especially if the company has just been established, there are many foreign employees and they communicate directly with the head office in English, so there are quite a few opportunities to use English.


Examples of applicable companies


  • McDonald's Corporation
  • Google, LLC
  • Microsoft Japan

Companies jointly established by an overseas company and a Japanese company

A company established by joint investment by an overseas company and a Japanese company.

This is the case when a foreign company seeking Japanese land and labor and a Japanese company seeking name recognition and technology join forces.

The culture of the company is easily influenced by the culture of the country in which the larger investment is made, so even though it is a foreign company, its corporate culture may be the same as that of a Japanese company.


Examples of applicable companies


  • Fuji Xerox
  • Sumitomo 3M
  • DMG Mori Seiki

Companies acquired by foreign companies

Japanese companies acquired by foreign companies through M&A are also classified as foreign-affiliated companies.

In some cases, management control is transferred overseas and the culture of the company changes drastically, while in other cases, the company continues to be led by the Japanese management due to its strategy in the Japanese market.


Examples of applicable companies


  • Sharp Corporation
  • Seiyu
  • Toshiba Lifestyle

4 Characteristics of Foreign Affiliated Companies How are they different from Japanese companies?

There are four general characteristics of foreign-affiliated companies.


  • Immediate competence is required
  • Few transfers involving a change in job title
  • Salaries are based on merit
  • Relationships are dry


I will explain them one by one.


1. immediate ability is required

Jobs at foreign-affiliated companies are "job type-specific," and the emphasis is on whether or not the candidate can make use of specialized knowledge and experience to become an immediate asset to the company.

While Japanese-affiliated firms hire employees en masse as "career-track employees" and train them internally on the premise of lifetime employment, foreign-affiliated firms are not characterized in this way.

2. Few transfers involving a change in job type

At Japanese-affiliated companies, mid-career hires are often transferred to completely different positions at the company's request, often destroying the career plan that the individual had envisioned.

On the other hand, foreign-affiliated companies, which hire by job type, generally do not transfer employees to different positions. Japanese-affiliated companies transfer their employees to develop generalists who will be active in the company for a long time, but foreign-affiliated companies do not have the concept of long-term training, so you will have to create your own career.

Even if you want to change your job title after joining a foreign company and request a transfer, your request will not be granted and you will have to change jobs again.

3. Salary is based on merit

Unlike Japanese companies, which have a seniority-based salary system, foreign-affiliated companies have a merit-based salary system.

Regardless of age or length of employment, if you produce results, your salary will increase significantly.

Promotions are also based on merit, and it is common in foreign-affiliated companies to have a boss in his/her 20s who is younger than the boss.

4. Dry human relations

Compared to Japanese companies, foreign-affiliated companies tend to have dry relationships with their employees.

Many people value their family and private life, and there are no drinking parties or other social gatherings outside of work hours.

Some companies have a "team building" program, which is a social activity during working hours with a budget provided by the company.

Who is suited to work for a foreign-affiliated company?

Here are three characteristics of people who are suited to work for a foreign-affiliated company.


  • Undeterred by unexpected changes
  • Not afraid of English
  • Able to clearly express their opinions and results


I will explain them in the following order.

1. Undeterred by unexpected changes

The ideal candidate is someone who can respond flexibly to unexpected changes and proceed with work efficiently.

In foreign-affiliated companies, there is a sense of speed in decision-making.

In addition, especially when the management is led by the overseas headquarters, instructions are given to the Japanese branch offices after they are finalized, so it is not uncommon to feel as if a major change has suddenly fallen upon you.

2. No resistance to English

Surprisingly few companies have English as an official language, but you will certainly have more opportunities to use English than in Japanese companies.

If you are good at English, it will be an advantage when working for a foreign company.

If you are not comfortable with English, it will be a tough environment because you will most likely have to use English on a daily basis, such as when your boss is a foreigner who cannot speak Japanese or when communicating with the head office in English.

There are people who are very good at their jobs but cannot be promoted solely because of their lack of English ability.

3. Be able to clearly assert your opinions and accomplishments

People who can clearly assert their own achievements are suited to work for a foreign company.

In addition to a performance-based salary system, many foreign-capital companies have a system in which evaluations from colleagues and subordinates are also reflected, such as 360°evaluation.

It is important to insist on the amount of statements and achievements you make on a regular basis.

If you are quiet, you may be buried and not be evaluated fairly.

What are the advantages of working for a foreign company?


  • Higher salary level
  • Diversity is promoted
  • Many opportunities to experience different cultures
  • Easy to achieve work-life balance


We will explain in detail.


1.Higher Salaries

Foreign-affiliated companies tend to offer higher salaries than Japanese-affiliated companies.

It is easy to obtain satisfactory remuneration because you can get a raise by achieving results and claiming those results.

2. Promoting diversity

Many companies thoroughly promote diversity, allowing equal opportunities regardless of age, gender, or nationality.

In many Japanese companies in older industries, there may still be unreasonable customs such as higher salaries for seniors who are not good at their jobs, or women doing secretarial or chore work.

At a foreign-affiliated company, you will not feel unnecessary stress because you are given equal opportunities to play an active role.

3. Many opportunities to experience different cultures

Because of the large percentage of non-Japanese employees, daily life at a foreign-affiliated company is full of cross-cultural exchanges.

Many employees who have worked abroad for a long time are on the staff, and you will be stimulated by them.

Some experiences are only possible at foreign-affiliated companies, such as Halloween and Christmas parties at Western companies, and moon cakes distributed during the Mid-Autumn Festival at Chinese companies.

4. Easy to achieve work-life balance

At foreign-affiliated companies, where individual roles are clearly defined, it is easy to switch on and off to achieve a balanced work style.

Because of the emphasis on efficiency, there is no atmosphere in which employees are not allowed to leave on time.

There is no socializing outside of work hours, which is ideal for those who are not particularly fond of drinking.

The high rate of paid work is also an attractive feature.

Four disadvantages of working for a foreign company

Although foreign companies have a glamorous image, there are some disadvantages.


  • Benefits cannot be expected.
  • Relatively unstable employment
  • It is easy to be swayed by the speed of the work
  • Surprisingly few opportunities for overseas assignments


The following are points to keep in mind when working for a foreign-affiliated company.

1. Benefits cannot be expected

One of the characteristics of Japanese-affiliated companies is that they offer generous benefits such as housing allowances and retirement allowances.

The reason for this is that it is assumed that you will work for one company for a long time, but this assumption does not apply to foreign-affiliated companies.

For this reason, foreign-affiliated companies rarely offer benefits.

It can be said that the salary is high because there are no benefits.

2. Relatively unstable employment

Although the performance-based system is an advantage of foreign-affiliated companies, depending on the evaluation, there may be a reduction in salary.

If you fail to achieve results for a long period of time, you may be fired in the worst case scenario.

In some companies, the contract for a position may be for several years, and if you do not achieve a certain level of results within the contract period, your contract will be terminated.

In the case of foreign companies that have expanded into Japan, there is also the risk that if their performance deteriorates, they may withdraw from Japan and lose their jobs.

3. It is easy to be swept up in the speedy pace of business

You are often swept away by unexpected changes, such as policy changes and organizational changes.

In addition to the speed of decision-making, the reason for this is that decisions made at the overseas headquarters come down to you without informing you of the process.

Since the Japanese branch office is physically distant from the overseas headquarters and has no discretionary authority, it will often feel as if it is being pushed around.

The experience of responding flexibly to unexpected situations is a factor that you will surely be able to utilize later in your career, which can be a plus from a long-term perspective.

4. Opportunities for overseas assignments are surprisingly rare.

Although foreign-affiliated companies have a strong international image, there are surprisingly few opportunities for overseas postings or overseas business trips when foreign companies expand into Japan.

Although there are far more opportunities to interact with foreigners while in Japan compared to Japanese companies, as long as you are working at a base created by a foreign company to specialize in its business in Japan, there are few opportunities for you to go abroad yourself.

If you want opportunities to work overseas, it is realistic to transfer to the head office or a branch office in another country.

Five qualifications that will help you find a job at a foreign company

Foreign-affiliated companies, which emphasize practical skills, tend to place less importance on qualifications than Japanese companies.

However, this does not mean that qualifications are meaningless.

When you are in doubt about which of two candidates with the same qualifications to hire, qualifications can be a determining factor.

The following five qualifications are likely to be advantageous when seeking employment at a foreign company.


  • TOEIC score of 800 or above (standard)
  • USCPA (U.S. Certified Public Accountant)
  • PE (Professional Engineer)
  • United Nations English Proficiency Test
  • MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist)


Let's take a look at the details.

1. TOEIC score of 800 or above (standard)

A TOEIC score of 800 or above is the standard required to change jobs at a foreign company.

It is said that a score of 800 points is the line where you will have no trouble in daily life and business.

Many foreign-capital companies conduct interviews in English, so even if you have a TOEIC score of 800 or above, if you cannot speak, there is a high possibility that you will be rejected.

Although practical conversational skills are a prerequisite, it is advisable to have a score of 800 or above, as it will be looked at only as a reference during the document screening process.

2. USCPA (U.S. Certified Public Accountant)

The United States Certified Public Accountant (USCPA) is a highly recognized international certification.

It is a U.S. certified public accountant credential recognized by each state. It is a credential that is particularly valued by foreign companies because it allows you to prove your knowledge of English and international accounting and taxation.

It is expected to be used in a wide range of fields, including not only the financial industry, but also audit firms, consulting firms, corporate accounting departments, and management teams.

It is possible to take the exam in Japan, but since the exam is conducted entirely in English, a certain level of language proficiency is required.

3.PE (Professional Engineer)

The PE (Professional Engineer) certification is recommended for those who wish to work as international engineers.

It is an official certification for engineers established by the states of the United States and has a history of more than 100 years.

It is a certification that is recognized not only in the United States but also internationally.

In many states in the U.S., the Professional Engineer certification is required for technical consultation, technical services, contracts, and submission of blueprints and specifications in the private sector, and is practically a business exclusive certification.

If you want to work as an engineer in the U.S., it is considered essential to acquire this certification.

4. United Nations English Proficiency Test

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization of Japan (UNESCO) sponsors the United Nations English Proficiency Test (EIKEN), which has a unique character different from other common English language examinations such as TOEIC and EIKEN.

The test is based on the United Nations principles of "international cooperation" and "international understanding," and requires not only mere language skills but also knowledge of current affairs and environmental issues.

Listening comprehension is highly important, and essay questions require the ability to express one's own opinions logically.

There are six levels, from Level E to Special A. Interviews for Level A and above involve discussions on difficult topics such as economics and culture.

The importance of this level is recognized by major foreign companies, and having a level B or above is easily evaluated.


5. MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist)

MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) is an international certification that certifies skills in handling Microsoft software such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

It is useful regardless of the type of job, such as accounting or clerical work.

The pass rate is approximately 80% for the general level (Associate Specialist) and 60% for the advanced level (Expert), making it a low-difficulty exam, but it proves that the candidate has basic skills.

Officially recognized by Microsoft, the certification is internationally recognized and accepted by foreign companies.

Does the university you attended affect your chances of getting a job at a foreign company?

Does my educational background have an impact on my job search or career change at a foreign company?

It is undeniable that many people, especially at foreign-affiliated consulting firms, major financial institutions, and foreign-affiliated banks, come from some of the best universities in Japan.

In reality, academic background itself is not the most important factor, but people with higher education tend to be hired more often as a result of selecting people who have the ability to respond flexibly and those who scored high on the SPI exam.

Although it is easy to be affected when you are a new graduate or a second new graduate, it does not matter what your educational background is as long as you can deliver results.

Easily influenced when newly graduated or when changing jobs as a second graduate.

Being highly educated is an indicator that a person may have high potential ability for the job, and that he/she may have the ability to think logically.

In foreign-affiliated companies, work experience, which indicates that the candidate can be an immediate asset, is valued above all else, but only in the case of a new graduate with no work experience or a new graduate with only a few years of work experience, educational background is likely to have an impact because there are few criteria for judging the candidate.

Academic background is irrelevant if you produce results

Foreign-affiliated companies look for immediate results that can be achieved immediately, so practical skills are more important than academic background for mid-career hires past new graduates or recent graduates.

In recent years, diversity and inclusiveness have been incorporated into the company's values, and therefore the diversity of experiences and perspectives that individual candidates bring to the table is more important than academic background alone.

It is important to understand a company's hiring policies and culture and to highlight your strengths.

Let's move forward with your job search for the right foreign company!

Foreign-affiliated companies use a performance-based system, and employees are evaluated regardless of their age, gender, or nationality.

If you want to work in a flat corporate culture with a sense of fulfillment, this is the perfect environment for you.

The abilities and qualities required are different from those of Japanese companies, such as the need to assert one's own achievements, so it is necessary to confirm whether this is the right fit for you.

The information in this article is not necessarily applicable to all foreign-affiliated companies, so you need to determine whether a foreign-affiliated company has the environment you are looking for.

A recruitment agent that specializes in foreign-affiliated companies will be familiar with information on individual companies.

By using a recruitment agent as well, you will be able to effectively conduct your job search.

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