Japan Hiring Challenges
Japan is one the most difficult countries in the world to hire top talent, this surprises many foreign companies since Japan has a population of 123,074,016 (October 2023) and boasts the largest and most diverse economy in Asia and is second only to the U.S. on the world's economic stage.
Here’s a Few Reasons Why:
Shortage of Bilingual Professionals: According to the EF English Proficiency Index, Japan ranks quite low at 80th place among the 111 surveyed countries: https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-data/h01509/
Candidate Driven Market: I’ve been recruiting for over 17 years, in recent years, every time I have a strong professional in the interview process, the candidate has at least 2-3 other opportunities. Experienced search consultants are effective with dealing with this.
Job For Life Mentality: Employees typically join immediately after graduating university, so there is deep loyalty. Additionally Traditional Japanese company have a long-term vision regarding profitability. On the flip side, many foreign companies are impatient and apply pressure with quarterly profitability.
Japanese Are Culturally Resistant to Change: Japanese are culturally resistant to change of any kind, so changing jobs is often very difficult, even if there are obvious benefits, including increased compensation. This often extends to family members who may influence their decision to change their job / career.
LinkedIn Low Adaptation Rate: Japan has the lowest adaptation of LinkedIn globally. LinkedIn globally is utilized for business development and networking, however in Japan firms view this as job board, many professionals are either “not allowed to post a profile on LinkedIn or fear they will lose their job as a result of this: https://www.consulting-japan.com/strategic-consulting-japan-articles/why-linkedin-is-not-effective-in-japan
Common Hiring Mistakes:
To compound the problem, companies often make mistakes with hiring professionals resulting in frustration with the Japan market and, or early termination, which in turn affects their reputation with employees and clients.
Small Companies Hiring from Large Firms: professionals that work at large firms do not have the same level of accountability, work is often done in teams.
Hiring Based on English Level: sometimes the best English speaker is not the best performer, keep in mind, Japanese do NOT need English to execute business in Japan.
Poor Interview Methodology: top performers everywhere in the world have a success pattern, in my experience this is almost never explored. Traditional interview questions in Japan are not effective, unless the candidate has lots of interview experience and/or coaching.
Slow Execution: Strong candidates often have multiple offers, so candidates can be lost due to interview delays and offer letter delays.
Source Candidates with a Reputable Executive Search Firm: Partner with a search firm that is engaged with your business. Typical Contingent Search firms only offer a 3-month warranty, this is literally an on-boarding term.
Screen Candidates Effectively: Don’t expect Japanese to “tell me about yourself”. I'm certified by the Lou Adler Group and have been using Performance-based Hiring Methodology since 2006 to screen all my candidates: https://www.consulting-japan.com/about/performance-based-hiring
Streamline The Interview Process: Coordinate multiple interviews, confirm the candidate’s closing compensation with your agent, alert HR to start the process before it’s absolutely required, be prepared to use appropriate measures if the offer cannot be executed in a competitive situation.
Utilize an Experienced Consultant: Dealing with multiple offers and counteroffers requires an experienced search consultant who thoroughly screens candidates, listens and knows what they are seeking with their long-term career, builds a relationship and can close them when an agreeable offer is extended.
Do Thorough Background Checks: Background / reference checks are typically rubber stamped; no agency is going to lose their 35% OTE fee because of this. Additionally, the Japan Privacy Law limits background checks. Strategic Consulting Japan G.K. has developed an effective / proprietary methodology and does 3rd Party background / reference checks as a service: https://www.consulting-japan.com/our-services/our-services
Hiring Based on Resume Not Motivation: I’ve seen lots of incredible resumes of professionals that have been completely ineffective after joining their new firm. Always keep in mind, the most important skill is the motivation to do the job. Additionally, is the size and culture of the company appropriate for the professional? Are they emotionally prepared for the business challenge ahead of them? (hopefully this has been honestly conveyed to them throughout the interview process, I often hear it hasn’t, creating demotivation).
Structured Interview Process: Be prepared so that each interviewer does NOT ask the same questions, I placed a CFO several years ago, 9 interviewers asked the exact same questions, the candidate became frustrated and this could be felt by the final interview, luckily I carefully documented each interview and sent these notes to HR so they could understand the professionals interview behaviour / frustration / interview burnout and could proceed with the hire. I subsequently trained their staff with effective interviewing strategies.
Finally, “Hire Smart or Manage Tough”, and no one can manage tough enough, Red Scott
Are you struggling with hiring top talent in Japan? Have you made disappointing hires recently or in the past? This article may help you understand why and offer some solutions. Please feel free to contact me for a free consult for your critical or confidential hiring needs.