Christopher Reilly

Managing Director

Career Path to Your Current Position

SThree is my first and only employer in recruitment! I’ve been in the business for 10 years, joining a branch office in my hometown of Manchester originally as a fresh-faced trainee recruitment consultant. I was a pretty handy biller in my early years which opened many doors for me, taking on my first management role in Manchester before scaling my team and becoming responsible for other teams across the UK in the years that followed. I relocated internally to Tokyo in 2016, initially managing our IT brand Computer Futures before assuming responsibility for the entire Japan business earlier this year. In my career I have been extremely fortunate to have consistently worked with great people – it’s really the quality of others, rather than myself, that has lifted me in to my current role, and I continue to feel incredibly grateful to lead a business I love so much.

Years in Recruitment

10 years

Industries Covered/Worked

  • IT
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Executive Search

Specialties / Skills

  • Team building
  • Developing managers
  • knowledge of the IT industry
  • Perm best practice
  • Sales

Achievement/s You`re Most Proud of

As a biller, I didn’t “blank” (i.e. have a no deal month) for over 5 and a half years. It was a UK Perm record at the time which I believe still stands today. As a manager, I have to say that the development of consultants into managers is one of my proudest achievements: we’ve promoted 10 people into their first leadership roles since I joined the Japan business, all of whom are still in the business today.

Company Culture/DNA

We would like to think that our culture is fairly mature and flexible. We typically hire recruiters with experience, which gives us a slightly higher average age (in the 30’s) than much of the industry, and we generally try our best to manage our team members with the trust and autonomy that respects the experience they have. As a business we have a lot of policies around flexible working and no set KPI’s, and prefer to focus on outcomes rather than inputs when measuring and managing good or bad performance.

Tell us something unique about how SThree do business

SThree only recruits for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent and the vast majority of our customers are also in the STEM industry. We operate a “house of brands” model, partnering with healthcare & medical device companies and professionals under our Real Life Sciences brand, in the technology /IT space via Computer Futures and our Huxley brand supports clients and candidates in the finance sector. In effect this means our offering to our customers feels (and is) a niche, specialist relationship with a clear USP: they get the expertise, service and knowledge of a high-end boutique search partner, backed by the resources of a global market leading staffing firm.

Tell us the most important attribute you typically look for in a candidate when hiring for your team/company

We prefer “builders” to “billers” – someone adding to their revenue figures every year and building a great customer base and candidate pool in a niche market over a longer period of time is much more interesting to me personally than a recruiter who has had maybe one big year. Applicants who can demonstrate “sticking power” and long-term thinking, as well as a focus on making, developing and keeping good customer relationships are the most interesting for us.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

The market has changed so much since I started billing, and the teams, industries and countries I have worked in all face unique challenges and are subject to different market forces over time too. As a less experienced manager, it was easy to always get my team members to copy what worked for me, and to a certain extent this was quite successful. As my remit and circumstances have changed, understanding that there are many routes to success in this job and creating an environment where people can thrive and succeed without having to follow a set formula has been a constant challenge that to be honest, I am still trying to get better at every day. One thing I now know is that there is no “right” way to do recruitment, so finding a balance between accountability and flexibility is something I and everyone else in our leadership team has to keep working on if we really want to be a great place to work.

What is most gratifying about your role?

I love interviewing internal candidates and hearing people’s stories. One of the great things about recruitment is that there’s no obvious path into this career and people tend to have truly unique backgrounds and career histories. This is especially true in Japan, where recruitment really stands out as a career for well-traveled and internationally minded people, both Japanese and foreign nationals alike. And of course, it’s always tough to compete for the best talent, but for me the excitement in selling our business, our culture and our people to new potential employees and getting them to choose US over our competition really fills the hole that moving “off the tools” has left!

What goals do you have for the coming year?

2020 has been a pretty crazy year but fortunately the COVID pandemic hasn’t been too impactful on our business, owing largely to our focus on tech & healthcare. I think we have a great opportunity to invest and take more market share in pharma and life sciences in particular so scaling this part of our business is a big goal for me and the team. I also want to make sure we use this unusual set of circumstances to have a total rethink about our working style, and perhaps reimagine the role of the office in our regular work-life. Personally I really hope to get home to see my family in the UK at least once before the year is out!

Any random thoughts you`d like to share about the Japan TA/Recruitment market?

Japan might well be the world’s best permanent recruitment market – high demand, low supply and a relatively low level of competition create the perfect conditions for justifying high fees to our clients and guaranteeing enough roles and customers to work on and with. I expect the market to become more saturated as many other global firms face fee and demand pressure in their home markets and look for opportunity elsewhere – if this is the case, the specialist recruiter with an established network who can add value via a high level of subject matter knowledge and expertise will thrive but your more generalist “good at sales” recruiters will find the market gets tougher and tougher. Pick a niche and dominate it, there is never a bad time to start being more focused in the clients and candidates you choose to work with!

Hobbies: How do you unwind outside of the job?

I’m English and unfortunately fall into most of the stereotypes of a typical Brit: I am obsessed by football (playing, watching, following) and am very partial to a good pint of beer. Aside from that, I am a voracious reader and probably read for over 2 hours every day on average. From the classics to fantasy to non-fiction, I pretty much read anything put in front of me and absolutely love talking about books I like with anyone who will listen!

Any Pet Peeves?

I absolutely hate waiting in line… which isn’t very British of me I know. Also ketchup is not an acceptable flavour for crisps… this is a hill I am willing to die on.

Most Memorable Placement Story

The biggest fee I ever made in the UK was placing a fairly senior IT specialist in the Cayman Islands. The recruitment team have been looking for 3 years and the brief was insane – a Cayman national with a very particular set of technical skills who was open to doing a role split between Leeds in the UK and Grand Cayman. I managed to get a referral who ultimately got the job, but the closing process was a nightmare and typically done on Cayman time which necessitated more than a couple of calls in the middle of the night. I am ashamed to say that the final offer meeting, which the candidate ultimately concluded by signing the contract, was conducted over Skype at 3AM… with me wearing pajamas on the bottom half and a full suit and tie up top. I guess the client and candidate were none the wiser but I always like to remember that the biggest deal of my career was made in my underpants!

If you hadn`t gone into recruitment what would you have been?

I have always wanted to do something involving writing – through university I strongly considered working in journalism or even trying to make a living through writing fiction. I still plan on writing a book one day, and I have the bare bones of the novel I’ve always wanted to pen up there somewhere.

Tell us one change you would be very happy to see happen related to recruitment in Japan

I would love to see more collaboration and support amongst competing recruitment companies. One thing I have always found quite sad is how tribal recruitment can be sometimes, and how quickly people and companies are to denigrate the competition. We all know how hard the job can be, and how little the work a consultant does in the background to source a candidate or make a deal happen can be appreciated by clients – instead of pulling one another down in a never-ending game of one-upmanship we should build each other up by being proud of what we do and how important our industry is to the economy, to our candidates and to our clients.

Your last meal on earth, what would it be?

Fish and Chips with loads of salt and vinegar!

Tell us an unusual fact about yourself that your friends might not already know.

Whales are my favorite animal – I don’t know why but I have always loved them, and one of my bucket list items is to swim alongside a humpback whale one day.

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