Publicity September 2011

Firms Moving Fast to Grab Top Talent

In preparing our July–September Quarterly Report, we found that employers in Japan have been reacting to the major shortage of candidates by speeding up recruitment and making offers of employment to suitable candidates more quickly than in the past, to avoid losing talented applicants to a competitor.

Firms are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges Japan will face over the coming years as its population ages and the talent pool shrinks. Add to this the increased demand for bilingual candidates, in response to the globalisation of Japanese firms, and the candidate market becomes even tighter.

As a result, good candidates are being interviewed by a number of firms and receiving multiple offers, making it a candidate-driven market for specialist positions.

Christine Wright

In addition, the pool of career changers is growing. Many of these candidates, not believers in the job-for-life paradigm, are looking for a role in another organisation mid-career.

The motives vary and include the desire for career progression and work–life balance, but the primary motivation is rarely financial gain.

Employers are interested in career changers, since their previous experience means they require minimal training before they can contribute to an organisation.

Capturing these career changers and retaining top talent are among the critical issues for employers that we are researching, in order to present our clients with additional practical solutions.

Based on our initial exploration of career changers, we believe that one the most critical issues employers need to address is their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP conveys what it’s really like to work for your firm by stating what you stand for and explaining the experience of working at your firm. It allows you to attract like-minded candidates who will easily fit in at your firm and with the way you do business.

Another factor in the change that Japan’s workforce is experiencing is the transfer of resources to Kansai. A survey we conducted earlier this year shows that, following the earthquake, one in four firms (28.5%) were expanding their personnel base across Japan rather than concentrating it in Tokyo.

This is reflected in our own activities: between February and July, we experienced an 80% increase in the number of jobs registered with Hays in Kansai, and a 70% increase in the number of candidates looking for a new job.

Reflecting the growing likelihood that employees will make a career change, and employers will gain some advantage in competing for sought-after candidates, Japanese firms are accelerating their recruitment processes—even as the interview process remains drawn-out.

The new trend can be seen in many sectors. In banking and the pharmaceutical industry, for example, despite the preference for candidates with relevant experience, ideally with a competitor, applicants who may not have exactly the experience sought are still being snapped up quickly.

This means that, the longer prospective applicants take to apply for a position, the less likely they are to get an interview. Employers, meanwhile, should move quickly regarding good candidates, as they will be interviewed by other firms, too.

We have noted a slightly different trend in the IT industry, however. Employers are taking longer to fill positions and many are turning away candidates who have only technical skills, preferring more rounded individuals who also have soft skills. But such people can be hard to find.

The importance of soft skills is not restricted to the IT industry, and should not be underestimated by job seekers. They should be promoted in resumés and interviews, and opportunities should be found to enhance them. Interpersonal, leadership, organisational and language skills are highly valued soft skills that are often overlooked by job applicants, who tend to focus on their technical skills. Yet employers typically seek candidates with hard and soft skills.

See the Hays Quarterly Report at: