Paul McMahon

Founder, tokyodev

What has been most gratifying about your work with TokyoDev?

With TokyoDev, I can see that my work has directly changed the path of individuals’ lives. For instance, when I hear a developer has used TokyoDev to obtain a job in Japan from overseas, it’s incredibly satisfying. I know what a profound effect moving here had on my own life, and so enabling others to have a similar opportunity is gratifying.

Industry Coverage

Any industry that requires some kind of SW development.

Path to Japan/Your Current Position

I came to Tokyo in 2006 on the working holiday visa program. Soon after arriving, I found a job as a software developer at a Japanese startup. After a couple years there, I was ready to try something new, and launched a software development consultancy.

Around 2010, I became pretty active in the Japanese software development community, and began to write about my experiences on TokyoDev, my personal blog. One day, I had a Canadian developer send me an email saying he was considering the move, and asked for advice on finding a job here. I began to write him back, but as the email got rather long, I published it as an article instead.

As it was the only English language article on the topic at the time, soon I had more developers writing me questions, and I wrote more articles in response to them. I also started a mailing list where I could send these developers the job opportunities I came across.

When I learned that companies were successfully hiring developers via my mailing list, I thought that I must be creating enough value to monetize it, and so I started to transform it into a business.

Today TokyoDev is a job board with a focus on helping Japanese companies hire talented developers with little to no Japanese ability. It’s helped companies from fledgling startups to some of Japan’s biggest tech companies make successful hires.

What has been your biggest entrepreneurial challenge?

Recruiters have a reputation for being pushy. Before entering this industry, I didn’t understand why this was necessary. I’ve since learned how swamped people working in HR tend to be, and so without being ruthlessly persistent it can be challenging to close deals.

Naturally I’m a laid back person, who prefers to passively market. However, I’ve found that to be at odds with what is often required, and so balancing how I’d like to approach the business versus what is required to grow it has been challenging for me.

What is one change you would be very happy to see happen related to recruitment in Japan?

Banning companies and recruiters from asking for a candidate’s current salary. In the west, it’s common advice that you shouldn’t disclose your current salary, as it only puts you in a weaker negotiating position. But in Japan, it’s so common for companies to require this information, and candidates to disclose it, I’m not sure that this strategy will work.

Fundamentally, the problem with having candidates disclose their salary is that it perpetuates discrimination. If a candidate has been undercompensated at one organization due to a personal characteristic like gender, a future organization that makes an offer based on that candidate’s current salary will maintain that disparity.

Any other random thoughts you`d like to share about recruitment in Japan?

This perhaps isn’t Japan specific, but the biggest problem I see when companies are advertising their positions is that they focus almost exclusively on what they want: a typical job posting will primarily be a list of “requirements”. This is backwards to me. Hiring is a sales process, where you need to sell potential candidates on why the position is right for them. Instead of focusing on requirements, describe what the job actually entails, highlighting what’s exciting about it, and the exceptional things about your company’s culture.

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