Sonia Totten Mayer

Head of Talent Acquisition, Japan

Most memorable placement story?

Too many to just pick one. I used to recruit for advertising agencies, and it was super interesting to interact with creative directors both from client/candidate sides. They can be unpredictable at times, but I found them fun to work with.

Years in Recruitment/ TA

17 Years

Industries Covered/Worked

Management Consulting, Advertising, Media, Retail, FMCG, Real Estate

Specialties / Skills

  • MBTI Certified Facilitator
  • Senior-level Recruitment
  • Communicating effectively with senior-level stakeholders across different markets

Years Experience Managing?

10 Years

Describe Your Career Path to Your Current Position

Married into the exciting and dynamic work of talent sourcing. Literally, my husband (fiance then) was an executive recruiter, and his job took me to China where I started my own journey in recruitment. As anyone could imagine, working with your spouse for 10 years gets old. I was hungry for a bigger challenge in a corporate setting. The opportunity with CBRE surfaced at the right timing, and here I am.

What Do You Enjoy Most About People Management?

Playing a personal role in someone’s professional development

Tell Us What You Enjoy Most About Recruiting

The people. The people again. I love interacting and learning from a highly diverse range of people from wide range of industries. It’s also a sales job, in a certain respect. Witnessing people you recruited thrive and flourish in the organization gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

What is the most important attribute you typically look for in a candidate when hiring for your team/company?

Adaptable, flexible, diligent and forward thinking

Have You Ever Worked Agency side? If Yes, do you have a preference? And what do you see as the biggest differences?

Yes, I was on the agency side for 10 years before joining CBRE seven years ago. I personally find an in-house role more exciting and rewarding, as I find that I am required to take a more holistic and long-term approach to hiring, development and retention. Having multiple stakeholders also challenges one to always be on top of your game.

Achievement/s You`re Most Proud of

Starting up a boutique search firm in China that we were able to scale successfully, and being able to partner with interesting and talented business leaders

Any TA or Management Pet Peeves?

When a candidate signs the offer – and then succumbs to the counter-offer! #%@! Bigger picture: when organizational politics temporarily trumps our core corporate values.

If you hadn`t gone into TA what would you likely have ended up doing?

My original plan after finishing my master’s degree was to work at the UN in the area of global poverty alleviation. I played with the idea of being a health coach/consultant.

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

Coming from the agency side, I was stunned to find out that companies spend little effort to build trusting relationships with recruitment firms/consultants. If using agencies for certain roles, in-house TAs need to invest the time to get to know the consultant, provide the full picture of the role, the team balance, culture, visions and strategies. Why pay the high fee if agencies don’t know exactly what your needs are?

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

People outside of Japan don’t quite understand how difficult it is to recruit in Japan, and many global companies are putting more and more pressure on direct sourcing. Implementing the state-of-the-art ATS system, automation and AI won’t improve direct sourcing unless companies invest the right talent into the in-house TA function. It’s a still very high-touch recruitment market.

Hobbies: How do you unwind outside of the job?

Exercise, cooking, playing the piano and watching TV series with my twin pre-teens.

Your last meal on earth, what would it be?

Tapas with a ‘really’ good bottle of wine.

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

Most people think I’m such a city person, but I actually LOVE nature. My dream is to live in the woods full time and have an apartment in the city for when I crave for civilization.

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