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Recruiting and hiring talent in Japan is similar to the hiring process in the United States. Job sites and databases, employment agencies, and university career centers all play a part in the process of sourcing talent. Additionally, Japan’s recruitment regulations are very detailed on the expectations of employers in ensuring that candidates are evaluated fairly and objectively to prevent discrimination.

Recruiting Methods

Printed Media

This method is still very popular in Japan. One can attract potential talents through an advertisement in such major newspapers as Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shimbun), and the English-language The Japan Times. There are also industry-specific and job-transferring magazines that could help you find the right people.

However, buying advertisement space in these newspapers is very expensive, and still gives no guarantee of a high response rate. This is a common situation in Japan, where candidates quite often choose to cooperate with employment agencies and will not be contacting employers directly.

Recruitment Agencies

It is probably the most efficient way of hiring in Japan. Many candidates do not approach employers directly, but rather cooperate with the agencies that could match them with the companies. This method is especially recommended for those who are hiring in Japan for the first time.

Due to cultural differences and the specifics of the Japanese labor market, it might be difficult to find and then attract people that would be a good match for your vacancy. There are two advantages to using the recruitment agency. On the one hand, they have much better hold of the above-mentioned issues and can provide you with a better selection of matching candidates. On the other hand, they can also take care of your company’s branding for potential employees. Many candidates in Japan prefer to join well-established companies with a strong brand and stay there for a lifetime. Thus, a recruitment agency can brand your company on your behalf due to a better understanding of what the employees might be looking for in a company.

The Internet

Talent recruitment websites where employers advertise and candidates apply is probably the most common way to hunt for jobs and talents in many European countries as well as in the United States. However, in Japan, the situation is very different. For example, LinkedIn is far less popular and is used by as little as 1 million users (less than 1% of the total country population).

The reason behind it is a general risk-aversive behavior that is very common among Japanese people. As the result, many candidates do not want to post their personal details or contacts online. Quite often they opt for anonymous services or services that allow the use of nicknames. For example, YouTube or Twitter.

Still, there are many places where you can find talents. Such internet job hunting portals as, for example, Gaijin Pot, Daijob, or En-Japan allow posting jobs and screen candidates through their public profiles and CVs. Candidates can also actively apply for job postings, which sometimes create an inflow of applicants who are active in their search but are not necessarily a good fit for your position.

If you are looking for non-management positions, you can also cooperate with temporary employment agencies, employment offices at the universities, or an unemployment office called Hello Work.

Your Network

Last but not least, In Japan, relationship-building is one of the key instruments of doing business. If you are able to foster trustful communication and cooperation with your partners and clients, you can use your network to ask around for referrals of the candidates that will fit your vacancy requirements.

Working with the Employment Agencies

While employment agencies are a very popular choice, there are several things one needs to know when cooperating with such agencies. Due to a great variety of agencies, it might be difficult to choose which one is right for you. Here are three things that will help you to estimate whether this particular agency might bring the right candidates for you.

Agency’s license

Under the Employment Security Law, all employment agencies, hiring agencies, recruitment agencies, search firms, and headhunters must obtain a government Fee-Charging Employment Placement Business license. Operating without a license in the recruitment industry is illegal. The license has to be valid at the time of concluding an agreement.

Pricing

Recruitment agencies are usually charging success fees of about 20-40% of the candidates’ first-year-salary, including all candidates’ bonuses and other extra-payments. The average fee rate is around 30-35%, but can also go above 40% as well. Some of such agencies might also be charging a retainer regardless of success, or in addition to it. Aiming for those success fees recruitment agencies try to present several candidates for the vacancy hoping that one of the talents will get hired. However, sometimes quantity might beat quality due to the insufficient screening of the applicants.

The Pool of Candidates

Agencies claim to have tens of thousands of CV in their databases. Although not often, sometimes such databases are filled with candidates who are not interested in employment anymore or have retired. The value of the pool is determined by the number of active candidates who are interested in employment or relocation.

Depending on your requirements, you might also face such limitation as to the level of English language skills among candidates or other qualifications. When it comes to English, only 1-2% of Japanese candidates are scoring over 900 points at TOEIC test, which is generally a suitable level to do business without facing major difficulties. Although, TOEIC 600-750 can also be an acceptable level in a variety of working situations.

As for the licenses, if you do not have a very specific list of certificates that you trust and would like to see, you might be presented with a variety of qualification certificates that are easy to get but that are not necessarily reflecting candidate’s real abilities. Thus, be sure to choose agencies that will not try to up-sell non-matching candidates in large amounts in order to get the success fees and retainers.

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Legislation on Recruitment

The principle of “freedom of contract” applies to the hiring or talent, which allows employers to choose what kind of talent to hire and how many; however, there are restrictions.

  • Equal Employment Opportunities Act requires employers to offer job opportunities regardless of gender, leading to gender-neutral job postings.
  • Employment Measures Act requires employers to offer job opportunities regardless of age and generally prohibited from specifying an age limit on job postings.
  • As a rule, employment requirements should be limited to aptitude and ability to perform a job, and personal identifiers (i.e. nationality, family, personal beliefs, etc.) should not influence the hiring process.

Indication of Working Conditions

Job postings on recruitment sites or with employment agencies may outline the following working conditions for each job:

The amendment of the Employment Security Act went into effect January 1st, 2018. Under this amendment, employers must indicate if working conditions of labor contracts are different from the conditions indicated in the initial job-offering. Any differences should be displayed in a document where jobseekers can compare the differences or highlighted in the original document upon conclusion of a labor contract.

Also, the following work conditions must be indicated in writing:

  • Probation period
  • Name of the person that offered the job
  • Notification of recruitment for dispatching undertakings.

Summary

Japan offers a wide variety of recruitment methods from traditional job postings in the newspapers and magazines to the cooperation with the recruitment agencies. The recruitment process and working conditions should ensure equality for all genders and age categories regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc. The working conditions should be indicated in the work contract and the rules of employment.

Japanese recruitment Regulations FAQ

In what language should I write my job posts?

Ultimately, there are no regulations or limitations considering this matter. Everything depends on a target pool of candidates, corporate language, clients, etc. But it is good to remember that if you are hunting for Japanese talents it might be better to post in Japanese. Even if you would like to hire somebody with English language skills the screening might still be done by recruiters who do not speak English.

What are the regulations on the handling of the employees' personal information?

Employees’ personal information and its protection are regulated by the Act on the Protection of the Personal Information (APPI).

Shortly speaking, the employers can obtain and share only such information that the employee agrees to disclose, including their criminal record, provided that the data protection means are at place and comply with the requirements set by the laws. Still, in practice employer can ask to submit certain types of information with one’s CV. In such case, when the person submits a CV, it is considered that that person gave the concent to pass this information to the employer.

However, the employer cannot ask for such data as race, ethnicity, personal opinions or religious views, as well as the history of the union membership neither in a CV, nor in any other situations.

I would like to assign a job specifically to a man/woman. Can I do that?

Generally speaking, no. There are very few exceptions to this rule in accordance with ministry ordinances based on the Employment Measure Law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Be sure to consult these laws and/or professionals in the area who understand the application of these laws before advertising or promoting certain positions and jobs as suitable to a specific gender.

I want to assign the job to people of a specific age group. Can I do that?

The rules are the same as for the gender policies. Thus, no, unless you can justify such a choice by finding the appropriate purport in the ministry ordinances based on the Employment Measure Law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Be sure to consult these laws and/or professionals in the area who understand the application of these laws before advertising or promoting certain positions and jobs as suitable to a specific age category.

What if I need to let go of or downsize some of my workforce?

The rules on dismissing, downsizing or laying-off one’s workforce are very strict and are in many situations standing on the employee’s side. Thus, it is necessary to clarify all the details about these issues and the associated conditions and procedures in the working contracts and in the agreement with the recruitment agency in case you choose to cooperate with one. More details about the dismissal of the employees can be found in our guide here.

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