Photo/Illutration A recruiter of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. interviews a student online on June 1 in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. (Ryoko Takahashi)

More than 70 percent of graduating students secured job offers before the official recruiting season started on June 1, according to a survey that shows government-led guidelines on hiring have largely been ignored.

The guidelines are intended to allow university students to focus more on their studies by preventing companies from starting their recruitment drives too early.

The “rules” state that businesses can offer information seminars for third-year students in March and grant interviews for fourth-year students in June.

However, many companies start hiring much earlier than that to secure the best students.

As of May 15, 72.1 percent of students who will graduate in 2024 had already received a job offer, according to a Recruit Co. survey.

The figure is 6.7 percentage points higher than the ratio for the same period the previous year, suggesting that more recruiters are getting a head-start.

The labor market is getting tighter, with the jobs-to-applicants ratio recovering to levels before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

There were 1.71 jobs available per job-hunting student due to graduate in 2024, up from 1.58 in the previous year, according to a survey released in April by Recruit Works Institute.

The figure was 1.88 in 2019 and 1.83 in 2020.

Smaller companies are part of the trend. Job openings in businesses with fewer than 300 employees increased by 11.6 percent compared with the previous year.