How To Make A Career Switch From English Teaching to Recruitment in Japan

About 5 months ago, I ended a three-year period as an English teacher in the countryside of Japan. Before my contract ended, I had secured a job at a small recruiting firm in Tokyo. I successfully completed my teaching contract, resigned on a good note and relocated to Tokyo to start a new chapter of my life. The career switch was not easy, but it was worth it. I wanted to share with others how I made this change in hopes that it will be easier for them. So this article is an attempt at a comprehensive guide on how to make a career switch from English teaching to recruiting in Japan. 

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Be Sure to Have Your Reasons Clear When You Switch From English Teaching to Recruiting in Japan

If you are a foreigner living in Japan, it could be easy to view employment or career changes lightly if your time in Japan is limited by your visa. On top of that, English teachers are a dime a dozen and it’s not hard to move from one English teaching job to the next. But recruiting jobs can be a bit harder to secure without prior experience and the application process from job search to employment offer can be long.

Further, recruitment is a more stressful job than teaching English in my opinion. At the heart of it, it’s a sales job where KPIs (key performance indicators) are measured. You could potentially be let go from a company if you’re not reaching performance targets, but it’s very difficult to be fired from an English teaching job (even if your teaching is not up to snuff). I believe almost anyone can become good at recruitment given the time and training, but if you feel sales isn’t your thing, recruitment may not be right for you.

Anyone can become good at recruitment given the time and training, but if you feel sales isn’t your thing, recruitment may not be right for you.

I say all of this to say that you need to have some grit and determination to move into from English teaching to the recruitment world. It’s the business world where money talks and things happen quickly. From the lengthy application process to securing a recruiting job, and from seeing that job through until you begin to reap the benefits of your hard work could be a long time. Some recruiters will tell you it takes around three years to really begin seeing the fruits of your labor. If you don’t have or want to dedicate that amount of time to the new job, staying in education might be best for you.

Further, recruiting is not a 9-5 job. Sometimes you have to work overtime or meet with clients at unconventional hours if they can’t meet during work hours. Ask yourself why you really want to move into recruitment and if those reasons are enough to sustain and motivate you for a while. If you can make it past the probationary period of 3-6 months in a recruiting position, you will really be able to gauge if recruiting is suitable for you and if you can stay for the next few years.


What is Recruitment and How is It Different From English Teaching?

Recruiters can also be called consultants, recruiting consultants, talent acquisition specialists, or a combination of any of these words. As I mentioned earlier, recruiting is a sales job when it really comes down to it. On one side of the transaction, you have the client (employer), and on the other side you have the candidate (a potential employee). A recruiter stands as the middleman or matchmaker, and they try to place candidates with clients.

What’s interesting about recruiting as compared to other types of sales jobs is that you actually have to sell bi-directionally—you’re trying to make the job opportunity and the client company look good to the candidate while trying to make the candidate look good to the client. The recruitment process goes something like this: you find candidates on sites like LinkedIn or in your company’s database and reach out to try and set up a meeting. You meet with the candidate to learn about them, then decide to officially introduce positions you have that you think to suit them. Try to persuade them to apply (“sell” the job).

Recruitment companies are paid a service fee by clients when they make a placement with them. So essentially, big corporations are paying for job-hunting and professional services for candidates.

If they’re interested, you then “introduce” them to the client by sending their resume over. The client will then let you know whether or not they’re interested in interviewing the candidate, and this is where the real fun starts. You arrange a date and time for the first interview, and you see your candidate through to wherever they make it in the application process. This could be a final offer, or not even to the second interview.

Candidates do not have to pay anything for recruitment services. Recruitment companies are paid a service fee by clients when they make a placement with them. So essentially, big corporations are paying for job-hunting and professional services for candidates.

Recruitment differs from English teaching in a lot of ways. English teaching is not a “business” job, and it’s not sales-related. KPIs (key performance indicators) and quarterly revenue targets are openly measured and discussed in recruitment whereas they are not a thing in the teaching world.

The constant stress of hitting monetary or numerical “targets” doesn’t exist in English teaching and could make for a difficult environment for those who can’t work well under pressure in recruitment. In recruitment, you’re meeting with a lot of new people on a weekly and monthly basis. You may have your own portfolio of candidates and clients to manage. One wrongly worded email or ill-timed phone call can cause a deal to fall through. 

Recruitment requires more organization, attention to detail, time management and social adeptness than English teaching. But it’s also these very aspects that make recruitment exciting for a lot of people. 

So in my opinion, recruitment requires more organization, attention to detail, time management and social adeptness than English teaching. But it’s also these very aspects that make recruitment exciting for a lot of people. 

Finally, one last difference is the money-earning potential. In English teaching, your base salary is usually all you receive. But some companies do offer a bonus, which is great. In recruitment, you are paid a base salary generally not too much higher than that of English teachers, but you make a commission for every placement you make. This commission money can really add up and make you thousands of dollars more in addition to your yearly salary. 


What’s the Process of Applying for Recruitment Jobs in Japan?

First, you must find jobs to apply for. Job boards like Gaijin Pots are a good place to start (check out bilingual job boards in Japan we recommend) and where I found my first recruiting job. If you happen to know anyone in recruiting, pick their brains about the application process, which companies are good to work for, and even if their company is hiring! They may be in a position to introduce your resume to HR directly and put in a good word for you.

Even if you don’t know anyone in recruiting, begin telling others that you are looking to move into that, post about it on your social media, try to find information online, and eventually, you might form a connection with someone who can help you.

If you don’t happen to have anyone to talk to about recruiting, that’s okay and not at all necessary for you to secure a position. 

Once you have found a job on a job board, try to research the company to see what you can find. This could help you determine if the environment and culture are right for you. Hopefully, you find a company that’s good for you on your first try. 

If you lack options because you can’t find many job postings, just apply to what you can and see what happens. I have learned that if you’re determined to do recruitment, it might be worth it to just secure a job somewhere and then use that experience as a stepping stone to a better company later on. It’s easier to find more recruiting positions once you’re actually in recruitment because you start to make connections rather quickly and you can sell your experience In interviews.

The Interview Process for Recruitment in Japan

Once you’ve submitted your application to a few positions, hopefully, you get invited to interview. You may have to do three interviews in total, but every company has its own process. Further, most of the process will be conducted online as business started being conducted virtually during the pandemic.

However, you may be asked to visit the company’s office for one of your interviews. Definitely go if you can, as it’s good for the client to see you and beneficial for you to also see the work environment and feel the atmosphere. 

Assuming you successfully navigate all of the interviews, you will be made an offer and given about a week to accept or decline it. If you don’t make it to the final offer stage with one company, keep your head up and keep applying! Overcoming rejection is a huge part of the recruitment and arguably life in general. Don’t give up.

Example Interview Questions and Answers:

Q: Why are you interested in recruiting?

Answer 1: There’s a lot of growth potential in the recruitment industry as countries have opened back up and companies are hiring. In particular, now that tourists are allowed to re-enter Japan, many of them are skilled professionals looking for good jobs. I would love to help people successfully switch careers or land their dream job.

Answer 2: I’m a hungry individual who is motivated to make more money to create a better life for myself.

Answer 3: I’m interested in having a career in HR or Talent Acquisition in the future, and I feel recruitment is a great place to start.

Q: Why do you think you’d be good at recruiting?

Answer: I am intrinsically motivated and good at overcoming rejection. I understand that a lot of the job of recruiting is overcoming “no’s”, being creative, persuasive and honest. I have those qualities.

Q: Describe yourself in a few words.

Answer: (Develop your own answer).

Q: Do you like sales or the idea of it?

Answer: Yes…(develop your own answer).

Other interview tips:

  • Always have a success story and a failure story in your back pocket.
  • Always have some questions to ask the interviewer(s) to show you are invested in the job, company and application process. Here are some examples:
    • What’s the onboarding or training process like for new hires?
    • What are some concrete expectations you have for new employees within their first 3-6 months?
    • Are there any team-building events or activities organized by the company?
    • How do you show you value your employees, their well-being and good performance?

General Tips for Applying for New Jobs in Japan

Use sites like and Reddit to find useful information about a company, industry or position and even interview tips!

2. Use Glassdoor to find reviews from current and past employees. This could help you determine if the company is right for you. But beware — if a company has a lot of 5-star reviews, they may be pushing current employees to write them (or they might actually be a great company, you just have to discern as best as possible).

3. Use LinkedIn to find people who work at that company. If you’re not too afraid, you could even message them to ask about the company and work environment. In my experience, people don’t mind being approached this way as long as you’re polite. 

4. Find YouTube videos about interview questions (especially in Japanese) and have your answers prepared/well-organized, but not necessarily rehearsed if that makes sense.

5. In interviews with Japanese companies, one of the most important things they’re checking for is how long you’ll be able to work for the company. They don’t want a “job-hopper”. Therefore, if you’re applying for a job you really want or need in Japan, emphasize that you intend to be in Japan and stay with the company for a while. If you’re asked about how your family feels about you living abroad (assuming you’re not married and don’t have children), say your family is happy and proud that you are successfully navigating life in a foreign country.

Conclusion on Career Switch from English Teaching to Recruiting

Making a career switch is never easy, but it’s achievable with determination and preparation. English teaching and recruitment are completely different worlds, but each is exciting and rewarding in its own way. Hopefully, this article provides insight and information to help you decide if recruiting is right for you, how to begin applying and how to do well in your interviews. It takes courage to work in a new industry, but the skills you gain, the connections you foster, and the money you make can be very satisfying and push you to grow in new ways. No matter what you choose, best of luck!

Recruiters are one of the jobs that require less Japanese language skills. However, if you want to learn Japanese to communicate with your clients, take a look at the practical courses offered at Coto Academy.  

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