Finding the Perfect Recruiter in Tokyo

By  Gregory Thomas Aug 16th 2019

This article is a part of our subsection on recruitment in Japan and an article in our massive guide to jobs in Tokyo.

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For those looking to understand the basics of the Tokyo Recruiting industry  

BFF Tokyo also created an article on and Japan as well how to maximize your Tokyo recruiter relationship

An Honest Reality Check

Changing job is actually a big deal!

No matter how I twist it at the end of the day changing jobs is one of the 5 most important decisions in anyone's life next to marriage, buying a house, moving locations or countries and having kids.

When you think about the magnitude and impact of these decisions, the consequences are huge, and it should not be a decision to be taken lightly.  

Most people do not marry someone after meeting them for the first time. Normally there is a courting/dating process along with involving multiple options and partners before you settle down. Alternatively, most people who apartment and housing real estate agents may see multiple properties before making an application to apply.

Ironically, for some reason the recruiter industry here in Tokyo does not seem to be viewed in the same respect.

I can personally vouch that I have successfully contacted someone from only knowing a phone number, contacting them to get their personal details, never meet face to face and helped them find a job within 3-4 months thus completely changing their life.

To add to this story, I didn’t even have his correct details on contacting him, nor his position or background information. Such an impact to make in someone's life over what was initially a blind cold call. 

How agents and agencies work?

Recruiters need to fill the hiring needs of our clients. Targets are real and achievement and success is measured by hitting and clearing these on a yearly basis in recruitment agencies.
At the end of the day, our job is to lead you the candidate to joining the desired client.

Let's take a look at some traditional business models of recruiting firms in Japan.

Generally speaking there are 3 kinds of firms in Japan 

  • Global retained firms
  • Big named multinational Japanese firms
  • Niche or Boutique firms

Each firm has their own strengths and weaknesses and depending on your needs. 

Global Branded & Japanese Recruitment firms

These recruitment firms generally have the largest number of recruiting staff in their organizations, many of them are global brand-named companies with overseas branches and along with covering a wide variety of functions/industries and levels of positions. Alternatively, they maybe a Japanese firm with a global reputation as well. 

“These firms are characterized as high energy as people tend to work in teams and largely KPI driven systems.

Recruiters are trained in the basics although due to the high activity demands and expectations along with potential internal rotations understanding the finer details of understanding the market may not be as developed.” 

They generally have the largest client network as they have the ability to develop local clients quickly due to global/locally recognizes name along with being able to leverage clients from their global network who are looking or are based in Japan. 

Most of these companies also have Japanese & Bilingual teams and have connections to both multinationals and Japanese companies. In addition, as many of them cover a variety of industries and clientele you maybe able to consider multiple roles within multiple industries. 

Niche or Boutique firms 

These firms are often established by long term Tokyo recruiters who decide to go independent after their time in a larger firm. 

They are often smaller organizations and generally focus only on 1 or 2 industries and more industry specific functions. They tend to have a greater specialization in their chosen industry which often leads to with knowledge and generally have a high understanding of the domestic market conditions & knowledge along with a deep network, connections and experiences.

Recruiters in this space live and die on their networks and knowledge. Most of them work directly with their clients which allow them to develop a very strong deep understanding of their organizational needs and expectations. 

Executive & Retained Search firms

These firms work on what we call a retained basis where one client will pay an upfront fee to engage the search firm to search for the specific needs of the client. 

They often worth with either companies that are looking to hire for senior roles and positions, sensitive searches such as replacements for senior level staff (example a replacement of an underperforming country head), new market entry companies looking to be established in Japan or companies that have specific hiring needs that need a deeper connection to the market. 

Businessman Thinking

What type of firm should I choose?

Honestly speaking, I can not say which firm or model works best and everyone has different needs and expectations to be met for their careers.

In addition, there are of course great recruiters under all systems and due to the interesting nature and quirks of the Tokyo market, I feel that some of the best recruiters worldwide are working within Japan.

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Preparing in advance, making for a smoother process

Before we move into the traits of a good recruiter, let's take one step back as to how you can prepare to deal with meeting multiple recruiters so you can make a decision to work with a specific recruiter/’s who has the skills, network and unique profile to meet your needs. 

Imagine you have decided to change your job finally and are looking at new opportunities. Before making the jump and contact different agencies and firms for support for support, have a think about the following 5 questions.  

  • What career am I in now and what is not satisfactory about it?
  • What would I like to do in the future and in what industry?
  • What is your biggest concerns eg salary, work life balance, no promotion or career progression? 
  • What is your timeline to move?
  • What are you hard conditions and must? Eg expected compensations, allowances, location etc. 
  • Are you prepared to say goodbye? What will you tell your boss should you decide to leave? Are you ok with that? 

By understanding yourself what is the reason for a job change, what kind of position and in what field along with your main conditions/dealmakers and timeline will help you greatly in knowing what you want for your next step.

It will also help the recruiter really understand your needs and help align these expectations for future introduction of roles, interviews and negotiations. They may also be able to support in managing your expectations too based on the market conditions. 

9 times out of 10, the reason why an offer is rejected by a candidate there is a misalignment between one of these expectations. Many times this information is not clearly discussed with between the recruiter, candidate or client and once found out it can be too late to go back or reverse things. 

I have had personal experiences, where some people were very keen to change their job and career and very interested in proceeded with a client at a late stage. They then revealed their timeline was actually about 5-6 months away from when the client wanted them to join. 

Recruiter secrets: Do your homework and get to know the market

Some additional tips could be also to do your own research when you can on google about companies you maybe interested in and approach the recruiter with this.

This not only helps with helping the recruiter understand your interest more but may also help you have a better understanding of the market too! Who knows you man even find a direct route to approach the company too! 

As Rocky once said “If you know what you want they go out and get what you want”. By starting to develop a clear image of your future career it will help you decide what you want to do next and how to get there. 

Of course, you don’t need to have everything decided now and a good recruiter will support you to understand the career opportunities ahead.  

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