Executive Search in Japan: Finding hidden executive talent

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Stanton Chase Tokyo has just released a publication on Kindle (Amazon) titled “Executive Search in Japan”. It will help our clients located outside of Japan understand that hiring capable English speaking executives is a lot more difficult endeavor in Japan than it is in the Western world, and that engaging a credible executive search firm like us on retained base is the most effective way to overcome the difficulty.

Asked about the purpose of the publication, this is what Katsura Kei Izumi, Director of Stanton Chase Tokyo, has told us: “This publication is intended to explain why the executive search on retained base is the only effective way to secure capable executive and professional talents for your local entity in Japan. Therefore, the expected readers are those who are in the decision making positions for your entity  in Japan.

The candidates we handle include those in the high level executive positions such as general managers and division managers as well as some of the middle management people.  Recently increasingly more of the highly skills professionals are also becoming our target candidates. I shall call all of those as “executives” in this publication.

If you are in an executive position yourself, you must have had various experiences with executive search firms in your home country. You yourself might have been head-hunted by an executive search firm, or you might have used executive search firms to fill the key positions in your company. So, you naturally think that you already have enough knowledge about the merit of the executive search. That notion is the entrance to the pit-hole you easily fall into when it comes to the search in Japan.

Japan appears as one of the advanced economic societies to your eyes. It has attained a remarkable recovery from the ashes of the last world war. Its GDP has fallen behind China but is still ranked the third in the world. There are many globally known big names such as Toyota, Honda, Sony, Toshiba, Fujitsu, NEC, Nintendo, Softbank, etc. Therefore, you may conclude that all the business practice in the Western countries must also apply to the country of Japan. Wrong. The employment practice in Japan is still half a century behind those of the Western world. In fact it contains so much residue of the feudalistic society beyond your imagination.

Due to the strong flavor of feudalistic society in the employment practice, the mentality of the Japanese workers as a whole is also remaining half a century behind the Western world. The economic recovery they believe they have achieved as a team has given them a mirage that their business practice including the employment system must be excellent. Yes, it was truly excellent while Japanese economy kept climbing up. Once the economy stepped into the stagnation period after the bubble burst, however, it has become the hazard to the flexibility needed for change.

The outdated system and the mentality are making it extremely difficult for a foreign company to hire a capable executive talent in Japan. You will find the details in this publication, but let me point out the single most detrimental fact here. The most capable managerial and professional talents are not visible because they are hidden behind the doors of the major companies, and they have never thought of changing their employer. To make it worse, 95 percent of them cannot speak English if you are lucky enough to locate them.

You need a trained team of researchers and consultants to see through the doors and locate the potential candidates as well as evaluating and persuading the viable ones among them. You also need an absolute devotion of the team to the search project. This kind of expertise and allocation of dedicated time can be obtained only by the mutual commitment between the client and the search firm. Retainer is the token for the mutual commitment.

Are you beginning to understand why the executive search on retained base is the most viable solution?”

The full publication is available as a Kindle edition on Amazon

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