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The challenge of finding candidate gold in Japan

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Seeking to expand into Japan, an Australian data analytics company was being pulled from all sides to enter this new market. Building on their tremendous success in Asia Pacific, it was an opportunity to serve their multinational customers with a similar presence in Japan. Clients were demanding it. But there was just one problem. How to find a Country Manager to run the Japanese operation?

Despite limited local connections, they met several candidates. Yet, no one was the right fit. They were looking for a star, someone who could take the lead on business development. Someone who could speak English fluently and understand their technology. Someone who would open doors, leverage the right connections, and close new deals in one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical markets.

Yet after three months, they were no closer to finding their star executive.

Seeking a sustainable solution. 

I received the SOS email as I was on my way out the door, flying off for my winter vacation. I could see immediately that the client needed help, and their previous agency wasn’t meeting their needs. It was bad. To keep the new Japanese operation running, the client was forced to fly an account executive back-and-forth from Sydney. A band-aid solution that just wasn’t sustainable. The opportunity they’d initially identified was rapidly slipping through their fingers, and they needed our help.

Once I landed, I called the VP of HR and the firm’s CEO from my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As they brought me up to speed, the lack of progress shocked me. The CEO ran through the candidates they’d met, and I knew they’d never find the right person with this approach. None of the candidates were suitable. None they’d interviewed would have even made it to my longlist. I remember shaking my head as I listened carefully to my new Aussie friend, and he asked me, “where do we go from here?”

We’ve got this. 

With a plan already forming, I told him to relax. We’d done this before, and I knew exactly who he was looking for. He informed me that he’d be next in Japan in just two months, and I was confident we could deliver. Two months gave us enough time to search, screen, and do an initial round of HR interviews with the VP, before the CEO landed in Tokyo. With a smile, I told him: “We’ve got this.”

And we certainly did. The leader we found has proven to be the star they needed, and today, business is booming. Despite the Covid-19 challenges this year, they’ve hired an additional three team members, and 2021 has never looked brighter. It’s a night and day change from where they were before they called us, and we’re now their exclusive recruitment firm in Japan. Asking for a few short comments on what it was like working with our team, the client was more than happy to reply…

Client feedback.

“I feel that you and the team have done a great job of refining your knowledge of the profile of the candidate we are after. And with this in mind, I think it would be safe to assume I will want to meet with anyone you are currently representing. Without exception, all of the candidates you have represented have been very strong. We are an organisation with extremely high expectations, and while some candidates may not quite meet the specific competencies we are looking for, I genuinely feel that all of them have been worth meeting – regardless of whether they have progressed or not.”

It’s another successful outcome for one of our clients. If you’re facing a similar challenge with your executive recruitment, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today. We’d love to help you too. Simply email

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