Mar 22, 2016

Interviews in Japan

Doing interviews in Japan is a big part of my job.

We often read articles on interviews in Japan from the candidate point of view.
I will share with you what you can expect if you are in the position of interviewing candidates for a position in a gaishikei

The process of interviews in Japan: 

The budget: 
First of all you will need a budget to recruit your candidate. 
You generally submit your budget each year to your headquarter for approval (it includes budget for sales, gross margin, the opex or operating expenses, means the money you will use, ...etc)
You will also detail the positions you will need to fill. 
Either a replacement (if someone left your company, in my case I am lucky as everyone is still on board) or new positions (which will have to be justified by additional sales if you recruit a sales person, or to be justified by some other reason, i.e. increase of orders in a case of an administration person, or because of some regulatory issues in the case of a regulatory affairs person or technical support person). 
The preparation: 
You have few different methods to find the right candidate: 
1) You can ask your employees to introduce someone. (they will get some money for it). 
It works sometimes, but it is risky because it involves some conflict (if the person introduced does not perform well enough, the employee who introduced him/her might feel he/she lost face, ...) 
2) You can use large recruiting sites like Recruit. You put some advertisement for the position and interested candidates will apply for it. 
It can be a economical way to find the right candidate (it might cost you less than 1 Million Yen or 10K USD roughly) but you will get really a lot of resume. 
If you have a human resources person to do the screening it's OK, but if you are alone to recruit (like in my case) you will not have the time to go through hundreds of resume (sometimes peoples who are totally out of your industry, with nothing matching your requirements, and who just applied "just to try") 
3) You can use headhunters (more on headhunters in Japan in this post) 
It's not cheap. In general they will charge you 30% to 35% of the first year salary (including bonus). 
But they will do the screening by themselves and will bring you few good candidates to interview. 
90% of the employees I recruited in the past few years came from this channel.

The interview process itself:
When you got the resume (ask for both Japanese resume if you can read it and English one, as sometimes information in the Japanese resume is more dense), and selected the candidates to interview, you can move to the interview phase.
One important point. If you want to keep such interviews confidential, ask the headhunters to call you only on your mobile phone and not on the company dial-in.
Why keeping such process confidential?
In case of a strategic move (i.e. creating a Joint Venture where you will need additional staff) or just because you do not want your competition or distributors to understand your next moves, you will have to keep this process confidential.
Another reason is also not to have the employees worried. If they get many calls from recruiting agencies, they might imagine that someone will be axed and might worry for their job.
So do it alone or with your human resources person if you have one.

What comes next?
•The interview: building in advance a scenario is important.
•How many interviews before to select the right candidate?
•When and how to involve the headquarter?
•Which kind of profiles you might meet during the interview phase?
•How to secure the right candidate and motivate him/her to join your company?
If you want to read more about interviews in Japan, drop me a line and I will post more on this topic.
Some other posts to read about this subject:



20 years experience in Japan. running http://directionjapan.com
French citizen in his forties living in Japan and almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan.


  • DaveJpn

    on Mar 31

    I wonder what the stance is of gaishikei on CVs or resumes. I mean (in my limited experience) it seems that the approach to these in Japan is very different from other countries. Here they seem to be very simple, standard format, and even hand-written! I had written resume/CV would never be acceptable where I come from, where these documents have to look clear, neat but at the same time have something original/unique about them to make them stand out. In a gaishikei what's the 'standard' approach? What's acceptable/no acceptable? Is it different depending on whether or not the applicant is from Japan or another country?

  • DirectionJapan

    on Apr 10

    Hello and thank you for your comments. In large gaishikei, and if you recruit new graduates from University you might get those standard Japanese type resume (you can find those forms even in convenience stores). Now if it is mid-career recruitment, most resume/CV I got were coming from recruiting agencies and were in their own standard format. For Japanese candidates I always got in general both the English and the Japanese resume/CV. So, if the person finally recruiting you in a gaishikei is a foreigner, the approach to have something clear/neat but with something unique/original is the right one.