Recruitment Trends for 2020/2021: Latest Forecasts you should know

Posted 9 months ago

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We had an interview with Curtis Brown- Associate Director of Advisory Group, who has 10 years of experience recruiting both in Japan and Australia. Please enjoy his deep insightful answers on the recruitment trends for 2020/2021!

Q.    What were recruit trends in 2020?

2020 was a very tough year for the recruitment industry as a whole, both in Japan and outside. It was no surprise that the trend throughout 2020 was of hiring freezes and workforce reductions. This was more apparent with large international MNCs, where often HQ issued a global hiring freeze. Also, given the size of these companies, they were more ready to cope with a reduced workforce. Most hiring continued with SMEs as they struggled to cope with losing key employees. Many of these businesses needed to continue recruiting throughout the pandemic to maintain business continuity. 

Q.At advisory group, we focus on underestimated people like senior professionals, single mothers, working mothers, etc. How were the hiring needs of these candidates?

These candidates were in high demand during 2020. As companies were coming to grips with the concept of remote working (an alien concept for many Japan based businesses) this opened up great opportunities for these workers. Many senior professionals, working mothers, etc. were already comfortable working remotely and/or on reduced hours. Many of these candidates actually preferred this style of working, so as companies needed to reduce hours, shift to a WFH style, then our candidates became highly sought after.

QWhat were the common key skills you see as being important for all disciplines (Accounting/HR/S&M/SCM)?

I could comment that in 2020, two skills become more important for all disciplines.

1) Soft skills - as we moved to remote working and a challenging new normal, a candidate's ability to cope and communicate became crucial for success. Hiring managers started to prioritize candidates with strong soft skills vs. basic technical ability.

2) Generalist skills - the more a candidate could do, the more valuable they became. Within reason. This trend also coincides with the longer term trend of automation and AI, where many very specialized skills are starting to be handled by AI, this then puts more emphasis on a candidate's soft skills and generalist knowledge.


Q.Please tell me your unforgettable placement in 2020

It would have to be my last one of the year, as it was with an exciting new client to me, the process was very quick and simple. But it was the candidate that was special, it was a candidate I had placed many years ago, yet we had remained in touch. When I contacted her about the role, the timing was just perfect, the stars aligned, and she got the job during the last week of December. It was a nice way to end an overall challenging 2020.


Q.Please tell me your forecast about recruiting trends in 2021
Some big recruitment firms might make sweeping generalisations that the market will gradually improve across all sectors, but it really is not as simple as that. I will give three specific forecasts (to avoid writing an essay):

1) Consumer companies that have a strong e-commerce infrastructure AND a quality product will do well and will dominate the consumer market throughout a continued pandemic.

2) 2020 saw candidates hesitating to change jobs due to market uncertainty, this will be less of an issue in 2021. Couple that with more candidates on the market due to early retirement packages. We may finally be able to lose the label of "candidate short market" from the Tokyo market. For the next 12 months, it should be a candidate rich market.

3) Temp hiring will bounce back. As companies start to get on the road to recovery, they will want to hire quickly and hire with reduced risk. Temp staff will become a very attractive option, plus the increased workforce available will mean it will be easier to hire and easier for these candidates to find work.


Q.   What kind of candidates would be needed for each discipline?

1) Accounting: 

FP&A - companies will need to be extra careful with how their finances are managed and forecasted in order to stay in business.

2) HR:

L&D - companies will want to invest in their people, get the most out of a lean workforce. A strong L&D professional will ensure the future success of an organization.

3) Sales and Marketing:

E-commerce - marketing took a hit, but e-commerce became crucial. Japan is still behind when it comes to e-com and so this skill will continue to be highly sought after in 2021.

 Q.  Advisory group also focuses on Haken/temp/contract, please tell me how these hiring needs would be in 2021.

As mentioned in my trends answer, I believe the trend of this type of hiring will increase. Two reasons.

1) Companies will want to have flexible hiring options. Temp is the best choice.

2) More candidates on the market will be open to work temp contracts. WFH, part-time hours, many people have gotten accustomed to this style of work and so not only the volume of temp will increase, but the quality will as well.


I believe we (Japan) will finally reach the level of our counterparts in North America, Europe and Australia where contracting is a genuine and competitive alternative to full-time employment.