Headhunter in Japan

Both during his bachelor’s and his master’s in Japanese Studies, Jeroen Strijbosch spent a lot of time in Japan. “I wound up with my current job through my network. I’m a recruiter, a headhunter with The Ingenium Group, in Tokyo, Japan. Our clients are growing international corporations in Japan, who due to this growth are looking for talented bilingual staff, usually at management level, but also for mid-level people. You have to actively search for talented people; they’re often not looking for work themselves.”

The talents that Jeroen looks for are often not so easy to find.  Jeroen: “That’s because of the many requirements that are set, as well as due to the fact that the people with these talents aren’t usually looking for work. And that’s just the time when headhunters or recruiters can be useful, by tracking down potential candidates and presenting them to a company.”


The hunt for the right candidates

“I’m an associate in The Ingenium Group. That means that I actively search for candidates who meet the requirements of the search task given to us by our clients. I do market research and try to find the right candidates for the given job openings at the different companies. I use different routes to draw up a list of names and then I contact the relevant individuals. When a potential candidate is interested, I conduct a short screening interview. If I think the person meets the requirements and qualifications specified, I refer him to the consultant who I form a team with. The consultant manages the contact with our clients, schedules the job interviews, advises both the candidate and the client and searches for new assignments in the meantime.”

Thinking academically

“I am looking for staff who speak both English and Japanese, so, a great deal of my work is done in Japanese. My master’s in Japanese Studies comes in very handy there. In my line of work it’s very important to be able to think analytically and critically, to use good argumentation and to be able to interpret correctly, considering that I work at senior management level practically every day. Actually, these are all study skills that I use on a daily basis.”

Western ideals

“Although my firm is officially listed as a Japanese company, our management philosophy is based on Western ideals: effectiveness, freedom and promotion based on performance. Work days are no longer than they need to be, and there’s a tremendous focus on maintaining a healthy balance between work and private life. We have a training session every Wednesday morning to keep everyone up-to-date on relevant strategies and techniques. This is also the time when we present any problems we have to our co-workers so we can look for solutions together. Although I do have to add that I have the advantage of working for a company that’s relatively small. We’ve got about twenty staff members, which makes for a working culture that is open and free.”

The right background

“During my time as a student I spent as much in Japan as I could. I wanted to master the language and culture. I feel like a kind of “cultural chameleon”; I’m good at adapting to other customs and rules. I spent a total of two years in Japan: one year during my bachelor’s and another during my master’s. I was also chair of my study association. There I learned how to really work on a team, to communicate well, to see the big picture and to organise practical matters with painstaking precision. My student job as a waiter taught me how to deal with stress, and I also spent some time doing tele-sales, which gave me the necessary sales experience. But in many cases, it’s not so much what you’ve done that’s important, but being able to explain why the experiences you’ve had are relevant for the position you’re applying for.”

Building up a network

“I found my current job through my network. Someone in this line of work helped me out and got me in touch with other recruiters. Having a network is really incredibly important. It opens doors that would have otherwise remained shut. So try to be active as a student. Show your face in activities and try to strike up conversations with more senior students. Does your study association organise activities aimed at the job market? Then attend those and actively ask questions. It’s also important that you are able to explain what your skills are, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. If you have a job interview, try to turn it into a dialogue. The company has something to offer you, but you have something to offer them. After all, the company is interested in you. So be open and active, and ask questions.”

Tips from the career adviser

Are you interested in working abroad? If so, follow Jeroen’s tips. Venture across the border for longer periods of time while you are still a student. You can do that by doing an internship or participating in a study abroad programme. This sort of experience shows that you are flexible and enterprising, because it’s clear that you can live and work in different places. At the same time, it can provide you with an international network. That can certainly come in handy if you want to work abroad after you graduate.

You might never have considered pursuing a career as a headhunter, but, as Jeroen explains, he acquired the necessary skills for this line of work during his time as a student. There are many more different kinds of jobs that you might not immediately think of. Make a list of your skills and consider whether they match the profile being asked for. You’ll discover you can do a lot more jobs than you thought!


More information

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Last Modified: 15-12-2014