The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Despite Japan’s continued low unemployment rate, finding qualified labor is still a challenge across all industries. Up to 71 percent of employers are facing this issue, according to RGF’s Talent in Asia 2019 Report. This is even more of an issue in the healthcare industry, where 76.8 percent of employers consider talent shortages to be more of a concern than low hiring budgets or company culture mismatch. For a deeper look at current trends and the future of the industry, The ACCJ Journal spoke with Jonathan Naylor, senior manager at RGF Professional Recruitment Japan (RGF PR).

RGF PR has two teams for the healthcare industry that seek candidates for commercial, clinical, and technical positions. As one of the largest bilingual recruiter companies in Tokyo, RGF PR is responsible for staffing clinical research associates and employees at pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as at healthcare-related vendors. Recently, the industry has seen a rising demand for medical science liaisons (MSLs), whose role is to maintain peer-to-peer relationships between physicians and medical and pharmaceutical companies. This is a trend brought about by a strong need for healthcare organizations to improve and strengthen their rapport with doctors, Naylor explained, adding that, in the past, this responsibility was more with medical representatives (MRs).

“Now, MSLs can help build confidence in products directly with the doctors—especially if they possess a science back­ground. Consequentially, we are seeing less and less MR hiring and more hiring in medical affairs, as well as vendors providing online MR services and healthcare relationship management services.”

As with other industries in Japan, healthcare is experiencing a shortage of candidates—particularly for technical positions where certain qualifications are needed, such as a pharmacist or an MD, Naylor said. There are a limited number of people in Japan who have such qualifications. Those candidates know this, and they are in no rush to take a position to which they’re not completely committed. “There are so many openings right now for each applicant that a job seeker can easily dismiss a client that takes too long or isn’t flexible with times and dates,” said Naylor. “They know there are lots of options.”

He also pointed out that healthcare is a global industry. “So many non-sales positions require English, which further limits the candidate pool. Salaries are high in the industry, so attracting an MD who speaks English from a high-paying role is a difficult task for competitors.” Another concern for potential candidates is that mergers and acquisitions are common and it is important for companies to ensure job security.

Naylor said that it is up to companies to provide a great inter­view experience if they want the best talent. “An interview that is not one-sided, but more of a two-way interaction, can leave the candidate with a good impression of the company and make them feel they can really fit in.”

Companies that also give poten­tial employees a look at the “real” office will have much better success attracting top talent. “The idea of just sitting in a meeting room for an hour answering questions is a very outdated method of interviewing people, especially younger people,” Naylor explained.

When it comes to what candidates are expecting from the interview process, he pointed out that many are looking for global connections. This could mean being able to interact with the head office, taking business trips abroad, or even making global transfers. “People want to know what they will do in both the short term and the long term. If our clients can give the candidate some indication that a chance to work overseas is possible, they will have a very good chance of attracting and retaining them long term.”

In the end, what RGF PR believes is one of the most impor­tant steps in the hiring process is arranging a casual meeting between candidate and company that gives them a better impression. “Meeting people face-to-face and explaining a client’s product and vision helps to represent themselves properly so that candidates can completely understand the opportunity we’re presenting.”