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Hear from our tech recruitment director on how he elevates expertise of IT professionals in Japan

Team members in Japan discussing work

Entrepreneurship is one of the skills that SThree develops in its people. Tommy Haviland, Director of the Digital Division at Computer Futures and Huxley, joined SThree in 2015 as an Associate Recruitment Consultant with no prior recruitment experience. He started his career in tech recruitment where one of his first tasks included the creation and development of our Adtech (advertising technology) recruitment desk. From there he would go on to grow his team into one of the biggest and most successful divisions in the company.

We recently sat down with Tommy to find out more about his success story – how he has elevated the expertise of not only tech professionals in Japan but also his team’s expertise in recruitment.



How did your entrepreneurship journey get started?

“When I first joined Computer Futures, we mainly recruited within the Enterprise IT space where our clients were mostly companies that develop and sold B2B software or networking solutions. However, the division head at that time also had some ideas of expanding the business into consumer technologies space – one of the major reasons I was drawn to a role recruiting at SThree.

As part of my development, I decided to start up the Adtech recruitment desk despite it being a new market at that time. I could tell it was a growing market, and advertising had just started to shift from mass targeting to personalized ads, creating huge potential for digital ad platforms to enter the Japan market and thrive. I also knew the market personally from my experience in Ad sales prior to SThree.

Realizing I could use my past experience, my passion to develop and expand the Adtech recruitment desk started to grow. As Adtech was relatively new, many Adtech companies in Japan were also therefore new. This meant that I was working very closely with senior business leaders including country managers. My experience and knowledge of the Adtech market certainly helped to boost my credibility and manage their expectations when partnering with them, and consulting about which talents to invest in.”



How did you elevate your expertise within Adtech recruitment?

“In addition to my experience within Adtech, I visited as many industry events as possible to keep up with the newest platforms and trends. It allowed me to educate myself and understanding of my customers challenges and goals, while also building out my network of professionals in the industry. SThree not only allowed me to focus on a niche market where I could nurture my expertise, they also supported my participation and time in those events that allowed me to become a recruitment expert in Adtech very quickly. Within two years, I was already a key recruitment partner for over 20 different companies, and helping them source Adtech professionals in Japan.”



How did you continue to elevate your expertise as a tech recruitment specialist after becoming a manager?

“After I became a manager, my focus started to progress beyond Adtech. As part of my continuous development, the next step was looking into other recruitment markets we could develop and build on. This is how we started developing into EC (e-commerce) online travel, and digital media platforms. We decided on these sectors because the required skill sets and experience for candidates are similar across all platforms. This makes it easier for us to map out the talent in the market and gives the team opportunities to collaborate and work closely together. With the right strategy, we were able to share information that could help us find the right candidates for our clients more easily.

Thereafter, my next challenge was to tap into the growing fintech market – a fast growing segment of the Japan tech sector, with very little penetration by other recruitment firms. This time however, I was in a completely new field, and had to learn about the financial services industry, a different segment compared to advertising, media, and EC. This challenge was exciting, and allowed me to stretch my recruitment skills, while also building a whole new network of professionals and learning about the industry through them. This kind of entrepreneurial opportunity is one of the key attractions for me and my continued career at SThree.”



What changes have you witnessed in the tech recruitment market over the last few years?

“One of the obvious trends I see in tech recruitment is the increasing demand for candidates. In Japan, there has always been a shortage of candidates across all markets within tech. But in the recent years, this gap between supply and demand has grown as more foreign companies and start-ups enter and establish a presence in Japan. Many of our clients struggle to hire the right talent to help them grow their businesses, now more than ever.

With the limited candidate pool, it’s not easy to find experienced or relevant skilled professionals – especially for those in high-demand positions including software developers and experienced sales and marketing professionals within our focus segments. This is why we are extremely passionate about building a professional community where these group of individuals can share their knowledge and learn from each other to upskill themselves and add new value. In this way, we are able to grow this candidate pool.

By leveraging our sound business strategy and market knowledge, we’ve been able to assist both start-ups and large companies across the Japan market. While we worked mainly with foreign capital clients before, we are now supporting equally as many Japanese tech companies as our teams become more diverse and experienced.”



What do you think is the most rewarding and challenging part of recruitment?

“The most rewarding part of recruitment is the positive impact you have on the customers you’ve helped. For our clients, it’s the sense of accomplishment you feel once you’ve helped in recruiting the right talent for their business needs. This is particularly true for consumer-focused businesses as you witness first-hand their increased brand awareness as they grow, improvement in products, and larger customer base. The same applies to candidates you’ve helped in finding them a better career opportunity which enables them to receive better compensation, life-work balance and more.

As to challenges, while they mainly lie in the overall shortage of candidates as mentioned previously, there is an added challenge of passivity of candidates in Japan. The job market in other countries is much more fluid compared to Japan, and people here are very cautious about their career move for multiple reasons – image of job hoppiness / stability, desire to move only for something they are passionate about, sense of responsibility to current employers, and many other factors. As a result, even if they are not completely happy with their current job, and there’s a better opportunity presented to them, professionals often tend to be hesitant in changing jobs.”



What skillsets and mindsets are important to energise progress in recruitment?

“This is not only true for recruitment, but I believe being open to new information and proactively learning is key to being successful. I’ve elevated my expertise in the tech recruitment market by mainly attending as many industry events as I could, doing my research, and speaking to as many professionals as possible to learn something new, keep up with the trends, and build a network of talent that trusts in my advice and abilities. By understanding the trends and markets I recruit for, you can comprehend and probe on the underlying needs of your clients and candidates before they even realize those needs.

Another important mindset is to maintain a sense of urgency. If you don’t take any action very quickly the opportunity is often gone. Even 24 hours can make the difference between finding the right candidate for your customers and being beaten to the punch. This is particularly true in tech recruitment as the market itself and the needs of our customers are rapidly changing.

Finally, recruitment is all about relationship building. To do that, you cannot be passive and wait for someone to reach out. You need to proactively identify key stakeholders, communicate with them, and show them the value you can bring. By doing so, you stand out and prove yourself as a trusted talent partner and career consultant.



What is your goal in the coming years?

In line with SThree’s goal – to be the #1 STEM talent provider in the best STEM markets - my goal is to have the best tech recruitment team in Japan.

It’s not just about finding our clients the talent they need. It’s about being the go-to recruiter for all their talent-related needs. This requires working closely with them at multiple layers – from talent acquisition teams to hiring managers or decision makers at the local, regional, or global level. Whether it’s finding them the right talent, understanding what their needs are and advising them on their talent strategy, or mapping out the market for them, it’s about delivering the best talent solutions as a business partner.

It’s the same for candidates. When IT professionals consider a career change or a new job opportunity, we want them to think of us immediately. We want them to visit our website and talk to our team about what options they have, and how to take then next step in their career path. There is huge potential for us to continue growing our team and our business and I’m very excited about that.

Join our growing team to become a STEM recruitment specialist


At SThree, there’s no limit on how you can develop yourself and progress your career. Our best-in-industry training programmes, personalised support from our L&D team, and our career development programme called Velocity will give you a clear understanding of where you stand and how your performance brings you to the next step of your career. Most importantly, you get an opportunity to make an impact in the tech industry by elevating the right expertise and energising progress.

Are you ready to join our rapidly growing team and become a STEM recruitment specialist?

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Registered address:
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Ginza 4-12-15, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, Japan

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