The Tokyo Recruitment Industry

By  Gregory Thomas  Aug 16, 2019 + Edited by D.L. Barr

This article is a part of our series on finding a job in Tokyo and Japan.


Why write this article?

Over the last several years, I've been working at a leading firm within the Healthcare Executive Search space, and I have seen firsthand the challenges and difficulties for people of both Japanese & foreign citizenship to effectively change their job and advance their career. 

Among my circle of friends and acquaintances, I am often known as the recruiter guy. It often bemuses me to see how little my friends actually know about the process. I watched them struggle to navigate the many agencies, over-populated recruiting market, and the challenges in finding the best recruiter to suit their needs. 

On a chance discussion with Tyson Batino, the founder of Tokyo BFF, I decided to share my knowledge and insight with the intent of providing some guidance and support before you make the next step to your career.

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

Tokyo is full of recruiters

In simple terms, a recruiter's job in Japan is to help clients (companies and corporations) find top talent for their organization's employment needs. Although recruiters are often great resources for understanding the career market and industry masters in their chosen field, their ultimate goal is to help the right talent hire on with their clients. After all, the customer is always right, and never more so than when they're the ones paying the bills. 

If you search on LinkedIn within recruiters in Tokyo, you'll find over 15,000 agents who are working either in-house, within a major international or Japanese firm, at a specialist boutique firm, or even on their own. Within my own industry of healthcare, there are over 100 recruitment firms alone. 

In 2017, over 4.395 Billion USD went to pay recruiting fees to agencies, with over seven million private sector job posting, across both paid and free agency services. These numbers are only on the rise as the battle for hiring top talent heats up.

Tokyo Recruitment Industry - Man holding Question mark

The recruiting market is changing ... slowly

Only in the last five to ten years have companies begun shifting to developing mid-career internal recruitment practices and finding ways to limit their reliance on external recruiters.

Despite their best efforts, many are overwhelmed with large headcount needs, underdeveloped databases of candidates, and must still work with external recruiting firms to fulfill the huge demand of their organizations. 

It's important to understand the role of a recruiter and how they work to ensure you get the right results and, more importantly, the career of your dreams.

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

Japan's industry of recruiting arose from the traditional work culture of "lifetime employment." These agencies help companies grab top talent from their competitors in a society where there's no other way for businesses to directly approach candidates. Unlike many countries, Japanese people don't actively change jobs; they expect stability from entry to retirement, thus having a strong loyalty to their firms and career direction. 

As you might expect, the job-hunting season for new graduates is one of the most stressful times in a young person's life. They're actively approaching thirty to forty companies at once in order to secure future employment. With lifetime employment in mind, it's imperative to find the right company for the future. 

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


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