Establishment of CGP Japan Office

In January 2020, Matt Nicholls and Alex Zoboli, both with track records of growing businesses successfully in Japan, established CGP Japan office (named "Cornerstone Recruitment Japan") together. Bringing over 25 years of combined working experience in executive search and many years of living experience in Japan, Matt and Alex had a strong entrepreneurial spirit to start their own business. It was a great fit and powerful combination for CGP, Matt and Alex to meet and decide to launch a business together, with both sides holding the same vision.

They were particularly ambitious during the launch phase, opting to build their team from scratch to cover all disciplines. Three months later, CGP Japan office had set up an IT team, Back Office team, Sales & Marketing team, Consumer and FMCG team, Healthcare & Life Science Team and Industrial team, composing of top consultants in the market, with more sectors to be explored over the next few months.

Unexpected Outbreak of the Virus

Matt could never have expected a "black swan event" to affect the whole business landscape since the beginning of 2020. It was clear that the macroeconomic environment had a major impact on businesses, especially MNCs who were quick to announce global hiring freezes. However, Matt thinks Japan has been less affected than other countries, and local business has not been affected significantly in Japan, especially those small to medium size businesses.

According to Matt, the epidemic has definitely affected the company’s revenue, as 30% of cases have been related to affected MNCs. However, he expects a slight revenue increase this month, because local companies or companies that operate autonomously in Japan have not been affected, and there is a large demand for growth in some specific industries due to the epidemic.

The most interesting phenomenon Matt has mentioned was the "Black or White" hiring trend. Companies either hiring aggressively offering the same salary levels, or not hiring at all.

Popular Online Interview

The traditional Japanese working environment has made it hard for talents to change a job without leaving a trace, and the epidemic and remote working has made it possible. Traditionally, talents in Japan never pick up their phone during business hours, as it’s very difficult for them to leave their seats and they work really long hours. In fact, Matt and his team used to speak to candidates late at night till 10 regularly. With a lot of company working remotely, they can speak to talents easily.

The companies are surprisingly quite open to online interviews. Even though it’s difficult for talents to make a decision to join a company until they’ve been to the office, the first couple of interviews over the video are quite easy to arrange, which is a positive start.

Through group interviews, companies can have two or three decisions to make on the same video call, so the numbers of interviews take to gain an offer are also slightly shortened.

Overall Japanese Economy Situation

The epidemic has created opportunities for some industries in Japan. Medium size IT businesses really operate strongly, there’s a high demand for IT professionals everywhere. With everybody remote working, Japanese companies are working at their IT infrastructure, Matt and team are putting more focus on people have this kind of skills, the IT sector has been a really big demand. E-commerce and Healthcare sectors are soaring during this period.

However, the recruitment trend has been affected by Coronavirus. Normally when the economic downturn is the rising term of contract recruitment and temporary recruitment. The epidemic has caused a large number of temporary employers been dismissed.

Opportunities and Challenges

Japan isn’t a modernized country in terms of work style, the idea of flexible working is quite new, it’s a very office-based culture and quite traditional in many ways, even in simple approval sessions, it’s very rare for an individual to have your autonomy to make decisions, many layers of approvals within in Japanese companies, the working environment is tough. Japan is also very paper-based, they stamp everything, posting, and faxing still, that makes it even more difficult to work remotely.

Matt considers it a great opportunity for talents in Japan. They can do a video interview from home without worrying about leaving their seats for a long time. It’s rarely a wonderful time to speak to the company to see what’s out and explore the market.