An Insider’s Perspective on Hiring in Japan

Recently, Morunda has been contacted by a number of companies looking to enter the Japanese market. Recruiting isn’t always straightforward for new entrants into Japan, and while the decisions involved are certainly not easy, they present challenges that must be carefully considered. Having a solid strategy is a must!

5 Challenges of Recruiting in Japan

  1. Start early. Recruiting in Japan takes time, and although 30 days’ notice is common business practice for candidates who are resigning, it often takes 60 days to start at a new company.
  1. Be a good fisherperson. Don’t make an offer to the candidate that you’ve fallen in love with too quickly. Reel candidates in slowly to keep them interested and excited, but don’t move too quickly, or they may get nervous and swim away. I was speaking recently to a pharmaceutical executive who said he had recently been offered a country manager role but decided not to proceed because the offer came too quickly and gave him the impression that the company was desperate. On reflection, the candidate said that if the company had taken its time and paced out the meetings, he probably would have accepted the offer.


  1. It takes a village to recruit your star.Japanese and Western employees see the decision-making process differently. From a Western perspective, decisions are made by individuals. The paradigm here is that the individuals have the power to choose. More choice equals more freedom, and we are masters of our destiny. From the Japanese perspective, choice takes on a different meaning.

In Japan, the stakeholders in a candidate’s decisions come from all areas of their lives. Receiving consensus from their group is important, and the group’s role is to protect the individual from making an error in judgment.

  1. Bilingual candidates are limited in supply.Recruiting English and Japanese bilingual talent in Japan is similar to recruiting Spanish and English bilingual talent in the United States. Great bilingual candidates are out there, but their number is finite.
  1. You may be flying blind. Usually, companies have an informal internal reference checking system when hiring candidates. For the first hire, you may not have that luxury. Do your own reference checks or pay a third party. Asking a search firm to do reference checks may be like having the fox guard the henhouse.

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