Friday, December 14, 2012

5 Reasons Why Its Difficult To Recruit Talent In Japan

Japan remains one of the most difficult countries to source, find and attract talent.  According to a report by Global Talent Strategy, over 81% of hiring managers and employers are having difficulty finding talent for their companies.  Here are 5 reasons why.

1.  Not a Culture of Cold Calling and Direct Marketing

Japan, is not a culture of direct communication.  Decisions take time, group consensus is valued over individual contributions.  Conformity is the rule rather than the norm.

Deals are done through personal networks and referrals.  Having someone call you directly on the phone about a job or any other opportunity is still not as accepted as going through a personal reference or friend.  Thus, the rejection rates for direct marketing or cold calling are higher than in America or Europe, making approaching and convincing candidates much harder.  Face-to-face meetings are preferred, which I personally prefer to establish rapport, however this can lead to a longer sales cycle for closing candidates.

2.  Lack of Talent Coming up the Ranks  

There is a dwindling talent pool of qualified bilingual professionals due to a declining birth rate, less than adequate English education, and preference to remain in the status quo vs. exploring outside their comfort zones.

Japanese go through a fairly rigorous English Language curriculum, in fact, I would say their writing and reading skills are okay, however, when it comes to practical daily or business conversation, there is almost no exposure, and, the language practice they do receive is most often from a Native Japanese English Teacher who has not even gone abroad to study or speak English.

Given the above situation, one can imagine that there is simply less “fish” in the water to meet the demand of Multinationals Firms in Japan for their staffing needs, and its only going to get worse.

3.  Japanese Prefer their Own

Japan`s influx of talented foreign workers who possess high Japanese fluency has been increasing steadily since 2005.  There is a smattering of such talent in Japan, but, still very under represented in the workforce.  Though not stated on paper, there is an overwhelming preference for Japanese Nationals who can speak okay English.  Why you ask?  Because they are selling typically to Japanese companies who prefer a Japanese face and someone who understands the nuances of the culture.  This cuts down on the available limited talent pool.

4.  They Don`t Use Business Social Networking Sites to Search for Jobs

Japanese do not use Social Networking Sites to actively search for jobs.  Linkedin has anemic growth rates in Japan and they`ve been struggling to increase their user base here.  Facebook has a strong following and some recruitment and technology companies like have their own Facebook Page in Japanese where the passively encourage candidates to apply through skillful Inbound Marketing tactics for Japanese Recruitment Activities but as a whole it is not an effective place to search for candidates.

5.  The Wife has the Final Word

The wife wields the most influence with regards to financial matters and decisions affecting the family.  In Japan, men will typically give checkbook yielding authority to the wife.  The wife is responsible for setting the budget for expenses, entertainment, children`s tuition, etc.  Its no wonder that women hold such a high position when determining if that new job is a right fit for the family.

This can yield potential roadblocks to companies that are not household names.  Startups, VC`s, non-recognizable companies take a lot of explaining to convince the wife its a good move.  Sometime this ends up in no deal, making the whole process of interviewing a complete waste of time.

These are some reasons I`ve experienced with over 10+ years of recruiting in Japan and Asia and why it will continue to be difficult to recruit in the Japanese Market.  Watch for my next upcoming article when I go inside to interview some Internal Corporate recruiters who share their views on the Asia Recruitment scene.

Howard Ichiro Lim is based in Tokyo and San Francisco and brings more than ten years of Asia executive search and business strategy consulting experience.  He is renowned for recruiting top talent in Japan and Asia for a broad range of multinational companies and industries.   Howard established Incredible Consulting Group in 2008 to meet the demand of foreign companies needing help and advice for strategic consulting issues like, market entry, sales, partnership development and finding talented individuals to support their growing operations.
He is bilingual in Japanese and English and speaks conversational Mandarin.  You can email Howard at or access his Linkedin profile here.

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