The Tokyo Recruitment Industry

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.

Tokyo Recruitment Industry - Man working

Why write this article?

During the last 4-5 years I have been working in a leading firm within the Healthcare Executive Search space and I have seen first hand the challenges and difficulty it maybe for people of both Japanese & Foreign candidacy to effectively change their job and level up in their career. 

Furthermore, I am often known as the recruiter guy in many of my circle of friends and it often bemused me about how little my friends also knew about this process and also saw them struggle in navigating the many agencies, overally populated recruiting market and its challenges in working out exactly how to find the best recruiter to suit their needs. 

On a chance discussion, with Tyson the Founder of Tokyo BFF I decided to share my knowledge and insight to hopefully provide some guidance, support for your next encounter with that random recruiter call or before you make the next step to your career! 

For those looking for more deeper advice, BFF Tokyo also created an article on Finding the Perfect Tokyo Recruiter and Japan as well how to maximize your Tokyo recruiter relationship

Tokyo is full of Recruiters

To explain things simply a recruiter’s job in Japan is to help clients find top talent for their organization’s needs. Although recruiters can be great resources in explaining about the career market and can be industry masters in their chosen field, ultimately the goal is to provide a solution to help the right talent to join their clients. After all the client is always right and even more when they are the ones paying the bills. 

If you search on LinkedIn within recruiters in Tokyo you may find potentially over 15000 possible agents who are working either in-house, within a Major international or Japanese firm, a specialist boutique firm or even on their own. Within my own industry of healthcare there are over 100 firms with the capability to deal with in my space. 

In 2017, there was over 4.395 Billion USD spent on recruiting fees to agencies with over 7 million private sector job posting across both paid and free agency services. These numbers are only on the increase as the battle for hiring top talent is on the increase.

Tokyo Recruitment Industry - Man holding Question mark

Why does every job in Tokyo seem like you need to contact a recruiter?

Due to the traditional work culture of “lifetime employment” the industry of recruiting was born in Japan to help companies grab top talent from their competitors as there was no other way for companies to directly approach them. Unlike many countries, Japanese people did not really actively change jobs due to the expected stability provided from entry to retirement, along with having a strong loyalty to their firms and career direction. 

Comparably, the job-hunting season for new graduates is one of the most stressful times in their lives as they are actively approaching upwards of 30-40 companies at once in order to gain future employment with them. With Lifetime employment in mind, it becomes imperative to find the right company for your future. 

Furthermore, due to the this culture and system, there was generally a lack of demand for mid-career hires and most Japanese companies were not structured or designed to have programs or systems to target and bring on external talent.

The recruiting market is changing...... slowly

It has only been in the last 5-10 years that companies are shifting to developing mid-career internal recruitment practices and finding ways to limit there demand on external recruiters.

Although, despite their best efforts many are often overwhelmed with large headcount needs, underdeveloped database pools of candidates and still often work with external recruiting firms to fulfill the huge demand of their organizations. 

Therefore, it is important to understand the role of a recruiter and how they work to make sure you will achieve the right results and more importantly the career choices of your dreams.

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