These past two years have led us to make many changes in our lifestyle and working habits. Work-from-home became the new normal, and then it went to back in office, after that hybrid...where are we now? The job market went through many changes with recruiters and their agencies changing their approaches as well. Email and LinkedIn inboxes full of messages and voicemails full of agents' missed calls. Does this sound like your situation?
As we see Japan take steps to open up the economy and allow individual tourism, the job market will most likely have a big increase in activity. Now that we have experienced all these different styles of working with a recruiter it is good to think which agents you want to work with and the relationship you want to have with them moving forward.
Criteria for a good recruiter
This starts from the first contact. How many times have you received a message from an agent with the general introduction and "Are you looking for a new job?" or the ever worse connection request with no message at all. A good agent should be doing their research and establish a connection.
Throughout this year I have had many people tell me they do not want to meet because they have met with agents who did not introduce jobs or just disappeared after the meeting; it is an unfortunate situation. A good agent should not be going into a meeting empty-handed. Maybe they did have a job or candidate, but throughout the conversation they realized it does not match what you are looking for. If that is the case, they owe it to you to mention it or you might walk away from the meeting thinking "well that was a waste of 20 minutes". Maybe you will not want to do initial meetings with recruiters anymore because of this so a good agent should listen, respect that, and match the relationship style that works for you.
Just last week I was speaking with an accounting and finance professional online who did not want to meet because they had met too many agents who did not present any jobs. I quickly reassured them that I will not do this and told them I have 4 roles to discuss. I shared the job descriptions for 2 and mentioned that I would like to speak about the other two because I know the hiring manager and company well so I can share more background than is on the job description. The meeting happened; no time wasted and now interviews are being scheduled.
During the actual meeting –in person, video, phone call– is the agent actually listening or just checking to hear something that might give them a chance to sell you a job or candidate?
Keep an eye out for the type of questions an agent asks. Check if they are digging in deeper to something you mentioned, showing empathy towards your situation, and most importantly, repeating back key points to you.
Sometimes it really is the case that the agent might not have an ideal job or candidate for you; that does not mean you should be left to walk away empty-handed. Agents should be speaking with dozens of people each week so they are getting a good lay of the land and can provide insights on the market. They can talk about very salaries, industries, and other trends they see in the market. An agent should be providing clarity in support of your career path.
Providing clarity also means an agent being clear about what happens after the meeting and is honest. Make sure an agent tells you who they will contact, when they will follow up with you, etc.
Since we have many companies that offer different working styles, I have recently met with many candidates who are living outside of Tokyo and would like to stay in those areas. It is easy for an agent to say they will contact you if a role comes up and then disappear. As part of providing clarity I always tell them the truth; it is hard to find a role if you are living far outside of Tokyo. I mention the companies that are closest to them, the reasons why companies want somebody closer, and some of the roles I thought would be good before learning about the location issue so that they know there are options. I have had some who reconsider and others who prefer to stay and keep in contact about the market.
The list can go on and on about how you can get the best service from a recruiter, but these two points are the most important to consider when looking at agents to work with. It is an aggressive market with agents sending hundreds of messages or calling through all resources available. Your attention and time is precious; be sure to share it with agents who respect it.