Staffing and recruitment in Japan is probably one of the main challenges a company can go through when entering the Japanese market for a variety of reasons.
Limited Talent Pool:
Generally, Japan has a narrow talent pool of bilingual professionals which can be attributed to an inadequate English language education system, a low birth rate and some cultural traits.
According to the Japanese government, only half a million employees work for foreign corporations, compared to 42.5 million workers in large and mid-small corporations.
Non-Japanese companies looking to make their first hire need to recognise that the recruitment ecosystem in Japan is different from that in most other developed countries.
Japan has a healthy economy with a booming employment market. The hubris generated by the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 and the Rugby World Cup in 2019, coupled with a weak yen are bringing new companies into the market at an accelerated pace.
These dynamics along with certain migration restrictions are causing a supply and demand situation whereby the job opportunities are on the increase but the size of the workforce remains constant.
This makes talented people hard to come-by and recruiters’ fees expensive. In fact, the market’s standard recruitment agency fee in Japan is 30 to 35% of On-Target Earning (OTE) compared with 20 to 25% in most of the northern hemisphere.
The image of the Japanese as a nation of entrepreneurial go-getters is 30 to 40 years out of date. The people in the labour market today are the children of the entrepreneurial generation that rebuilt Japan after the Second World War, and created the “Japanese miracle”.
Safety, reliability, dependability, work-life balance and a good corporate brand name are very high on their list of priorities when selecting an employer.
Salary is of course very important, and must be highly competitive, but spurious promises of meteoric growth and market domination cut very little ice, unless your company has a blue-chip global presence already, and demonstrably deep pockets.
Main Considerations for Hiring Japanese People
Making sense of the increasing demand over a narrow talent pool in Japan is only half the battle for new companies entering the market. The second half is winning the candidates over.
Sourcing talent in Japan is not as easy as posting a job advert and then accepting applications. Job adverts have exceptionally low response rates in Japan, especially if they are not translated to Japanese.
Hiring companies need to put in a great deal of thought and effort into their recruiting process to attract candidates.
Japan has a very rigid career structure. Most people will apply for a job only when they leave school or university, and remain in that job until retirement, which has created a culture of lifelong employment. Most people would work for one or two companies only throughout their career.
The Japanese are inherently risk-averse and need to be thoroughly convinced that your offer and the opportunity to work for you are worth making the switch from an established corporation to a new start-up company that may not exist in two years’ time.
In addition to that, there is a stigma associated with being disloyal, and dishonest to the employer. Individual ambition is discouraged and people are expected to be extremely loyal to the company they work for.
These cultural specifics imply that foreign employers need to up their game considerably, enough to attract and keep talent.
How to Source Japanese Talent
a. The Network Power:
The Japanese value building relationships and fostering trust which constitutes a great value asset.
As a result, companies have the choice to tap into the potential of their networks and ask for referrals.
b. Recruitment Agencies:
We recommend that companies looking to make their first hires to work with Japan based recruitment agencies.
Recruitment consultants have a better understanding of the cultural differences in Japan and methods to attract and engage suitable talent.
It’s worth noting here that in Japan, work places correlate with social status. As such an employer with a stronger brand will likely attract more talent.
Recruitment consultants can help you bring out your unique selling points and advantages to encourage suitable candidates to make the switch.
It is advisable to spend the time and budget building your company’s brand. For some creative inspiration check out Deloitte New Zealand’s Into Deloitte’ graduate recruitment video series, showcasing life at Deloitte for new graduate hires.
c. The Internet:
The Japanese cherish their privacy and are not fans of putting their details out there on the internet.
LinkedIn for example has only 1 million users in Japan which represents less than 1% of the total population.
In contrast, social networks such as Twitter and YouTube have seen more success because they offer anonymity and allow users to sign-up with usernames rather than a real name. This cultural trait makes it difficult to find candidates’ details on the internet and as a result we wouldn’t recommend online talent sourcing.
Interviewing Japanese Candidates
It is worth keeping in mind certain cultural traits when interviewing Japanese candidates: modesty and honesty.
Japanese candidates would generally under promise and over deliver. If they think they can do 10 out 10, they will always say they can do five.
You’ll have to really probe deep and pull the good things out of people. You shouldn’t ask a Japanese candidate about their weaknesses in an interview because you’ll hear answers like ‘I’m bad with numbers’ or ‘I’m lazy…’ etc.
Japanese candidates would struggle to upsell themselves. Instead, ask about actual work scenarios and thought processes to determine a candidate’s level of skill.