The Dark Side of LeanTPS Benchmarking

The Secret Lives of Toyota Term Employees, Episode 2

By Jon Miller Published on September 6th, 2007

How to Pass the Term Employee Job Interview at Toyota
The website “The New – Ask the Term Laborer Porsche” (新・期間工ポルシェに訊け) offers a fascinating glimpse into the secret lives of Toyota term employees by giving tips and information to people who are thinking about going to work on contract for Toyota.
The website (Why Porsche? Unknown) describes what type of work to expect, what type of uniform you will wear, information about unemployment insurance, how to become a regular Toyota employee, as well as photos and descriptions of the various dormitories that Toyota provides for term employees. There are explanations of key terms you may hear working on the Toyota shop floor such as GL (Group Leader = foreman) QC Circles, soi-kufu (suggestion system), etc.
There is also news on the recent 100,000 yen bonus for signing up as a term employee (about $1000), and where to go to sign up for this in different regions of Japan. At first glance, this website appears to help both Toyota (by directing term employees to it) and the job seeker (by making it easier to go to work for Toyota). However, things become politely subversive with the outlines of strategy for how to pass the term employee job interview at Toyota:
“To be frank, the strategy is to behave normally, and you will pass the interview. All of the term employee bloggers say this. However, there is that 1 in 10,000 chance you’ll fail. There are key points particular to term employment but they are simple, so try them out. They will get you past the interview 100%.”
Translated and paraphrased from website above except where in quotes:
What to wear
The advice is to avoid suit and tie, as this will make you stand out and look odd in the interview hall. “Rough” or work-ready clothing is better than dressed up. Brown (dyed) hair is OK. The interviewers are not HR people but blue collar folks, typically Group Leaders who you will be working for, so go “working class”.
What to say
It is best to say that you want the job because the pay is good. Avoid saying your goal is to become a regular employee. This will hurt your chances, since people who start term employment with the “big dream” of becoming regular employees often become disillusioned and have poor attendance or quit in the middle of their term.
When to go
Choose 9AM or 930AM. You can’t reserve a time for an interview, so show that you are motivated by being there the first thing in the morning. In order to be there early, you will need to know ahead of time, rather than read the ad in the Sunday paper and walk in. This will show that you did your research or that you learned of the interview date from an acquaintance. This will show that you are motivated.
There is a section of The New – Ask the Term Employee Porsche website dedicated to the interview questions typically asked by Toyota, and what to say to be hired (translated and paraphrased from website above):
The interview questions
There is a pattern to the questions the interviewers will ask you. They will ask you to repeat your name and address, to make sure you are not lying (just as loan sharks do). They will ask persistently whether you have debts. Of course, you must answer “No.” (People have answered “Yes” and failed the interview.)

“Frankly, they do not check your work history or financial history. You can believe me, I lied about all of that. What you cannot lie about is your work experience at Toyota Motors. If you have worked for Toyota, they have a record of it.”
If you were a poor employee, they will know and you will fail the interview. You must submit your name and your social security number so there is no fooling them.
“Have you previously worked for Toyota?” If you have worked diligently as a term employee before, answer “Yes” but if you quit before fulfilling your term, take a chance and say “No” (no guarantees here). The rule here is that Toyota will not hire anyone who has previously left mid-contract. If you have no previous experience at Toyota, say “No” as this is not a disadvantage.
“How strong is your grip?” You should answer 30kg – 40kg. A stronger grip is not better as this increases your chance of being assigned to extremely strenuous jobs like using an impact wrench. Answer 30kg or greater and you will pass.
“What are your hobbies?” This is where you want to appear athletic. There is a definite athletic feel to Toyota’s gemba and it is full of former national level athletes and people from the Self Defense Force.
For questions such as “Are you prepared for hard work?” and “Some dormitories are better than others. Will you agree not to complain?” The advice is to just answer “Yes”.
“Do you have any tattoos?” Answer “No”.
You will also be asked to demonstrate clenching and opening your fist repeatedly. Here they are checking for “spring finger” which is a type of inflammation of the tendon, a repetitive stress injury caused by the use of impact wrenches. If you have “spring finger” there is a great chance of failing the interview.
The message comes across loud and clear that Toyota is hiring term employees for muscle, not mind:
“Just keep in mind that this interview is a physical examination and you will pass.”
Another section of The New – Ask the Term Employee Porsche website give tips on completing the written application.
What to write on your application

“There is no doubt. They want to know about your physical condition. Not education, not work experience or anything. Make no mistake.”

The advice is to write down that you go to the gym, have always been a swimmer, and otherwise indicate that you are in good physical shape.
“The interviewers speak with many people each day, so it is best to leave a documented record of your athletic interests.”
Reason for applying
Avoid writing “to become a regular employee” and emphasize that you are interest in earning money. They are not hiring for ambition, but simple, strong people who can do as they are told and maintain excellent attendance.
“A person I know told the interviewer that their motivation for applying was ‘To be assigned to a factory where I could work on the Lexus’ and this is a great answer. You will be sent to the Tahara Plant. Half of all term employees are sent there. This is the body plant so the work is hard. That is why this is the correct answer to give.”
The Term Employee Porsche site advices that after you have been accepted, when you are about to be assigned to your workplace, the Group Leader will ask you “Is your goal to become a regular employee?” and this is when you should clearly answer “Yes.”
Now that we know what it takes to be hired as a term employee at Toyota factories in Japan, we will continue exploring the secret lives of these term employees, in episode 3: Welcome to Tahara Prison.

  1. Venkatesh

    September 8, 2007 - 10:08 am

    Looks like ‘honesty is the best policy’.

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