The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Proper staffing is key to success in any field. When it comes to hiring, getting the right people on your team is critical. RGF, the number-one bilingual recruiter in Tokyo, has the local experience needed to connect companies with the best candidates. Leaders from two of its specialist teams—Yuichi Kawashima and Simon Elsom—discuss the current changes in their areas of focus.

Within the healthcare sector, which positions do RGF specialize in?
Kawashima: We deal with a wide range of roles across the healthcare sector. Key areas are currently clinical development and medical affairs, but we also place medical doctors in pharmacovigilance. It’s a particularly buoyant sector at the moment, and our candidates are receiving multiple offers—which is a nice problem to have!

On which areas do you focus?
Elsom: We specialize in bilingual candidates across a broad spectrum of HR disciplines, including both operational and strategic positions at all levels—from staff to management. These include specialists in payroll, compensation and benefits, talent acquisition (recruitment), talent management, and learning and development. We also work with HR generalists, HR business partners, managers, and directors.

How do you source candidates?
Kawashima: We use a variety of sources. An important focus is generating unique candidates for our clients in order to differentiate us from competitors. We actively headhunt in order to identify and build relationships with high-performing candidates that are only “passive movers.” We also get a high number of candidate referrals, which is reflective of our professional approach and the trust that we build. And, as part of the Recruit Group, we have access to the largest database of candidates in Japan.

What’s your philosophy working with this sector?
Kawashima: I take a long-term approach with my candidates. I’m passionate about listening to their career goals and trying to play my part in turning these goals into reality. I take great pride in being able to introduce my candidates to some of the best opportunities in the healthcare sector.

What trends have you seen recently?
Elsom: As with many sectors, this is a very candidate-short market with a significant increase in demand for bilingual candidates.

In recent years, there has been a substantial shift in HR practices in Japan as companies move away from traditional lifetime employment and seniority-based pay and promotion schemes. As a result, candidates with experience in both traditional Japanese organizations and global companies are in high demand. The complexity of Japan’s regulatory and legislative environment—as it relates to employment—also means true bilingual ability is required for most positions.

The war for talent in all areas is fierce, and the key issues for our clients are the recruitment, development, and retention of the top talent in the market. These are all central HR initiatives and have fueled the demand for HR professionals.

How do you recruit HR under such circumstances?
Elsom: The team has over 20 years of experience in both internal HR positions as well as recruitment consulting in the HR sector in Japan. Team members have both professional experience and academic backgrounds in HR, and also hold memberships in professional organizations. This gives us a firm understanding of the HR profession as well as credibility with our clients and candidates. We understand their needs and the market demands, and actively network within Japan’s HR community. Through direct headhunting, as well as the vast infrastructure of Recruit, we have unrivaled access to the market’s top talent, which includes Japanese nationals who have lived and worked overseas and are looking to return to Japan.


The war for talent in all areas is fierce, and the key issues for our clients are the recruitment, development, and retention of the top talent in the market.