Japanese Startup From Scratch Opens Up About Hiring Foreigners (Part 1)

From Scratch Co. Ltd. Shouta Miura

From Scratch Co. Ltd. Shouta Miura

From Scratch Co, Ltd has been named as one of the top seven most promising startup stocks by the world-renowned economic magazine Forbes Japan for two years running.As they expand in the process of becoming a publicly listed company, they continue to seek out exceptional talent regardless of nationality.In a country with a historically homogenous racial makeup, many Japanese companies seem to take issue with hiring non-Japanese. Difficulties in communication and time lost to visa processing bureaucracy are just a few things companies consider as unfortunate hurdles to hiring foreigners.We invited the operating officer for From Scratch Co. Ltd., Mr. Shouta Miura to discuss how he addresses the complications that come with hiring such talent, and in this interview, he outlines his first experience with hiring a foreigner and further discusses what companies that seek to hire foreigners should take in consideration in the rather frantic process.

--What was hiring a foreigner for the first time like?

The first foreigner we hired had lived in Japan for quite a long time, as long as half of his life, having lived in Canada and South Korea. He was already familiar with Japanese culture--there were really no ‘cultural shock’ type of obstacles we had to tackle--so the process went rather smoothly. The whole thing was that the person we thought best-suited for the position just happened to be of a different nationality. Of course, there was the usual visa process we had to go through, but it wasn’t much of a fuss. Personality, work culture fit and sharing the same vision are characteristics that are most important to us when it comes to new hires. Our candidate already met the desired criteria so it really was not a problem. It’s just another step we had to go through. 

--What do you mean by “company work culture” and “shared vision”?

From Scratch Co., Ltd being a startup venture, we have a lot on our hands. There are just so many things happening across the board internally, especially in the process of trying to expand. For example, we would have you doing one thing for the first three months but as soon as we hire someone new, you might be responsible for something completely different. You would have to be flexible toward constant possible change in order to really keep up and contribute to the company’s growth. The “I want to do this, if not I will quit” mentality equates to resignation the moment someone is not able to do what they want. With this in mind, we emphasize the importance of understanding the distinction between getting hired by a company and getting hired to do a job. The substance is in actually being a part of a company, working within the mind frame of building and bettering it over being on the receiving end and expecting to be provided work. It’s really not about nationality; it’s more about how an individual can be part of a venture startup. 

--A cultural fit is very important, isn’t it?

Cultural mismatch really does lead to rejection in some cases. Wanting to work on a specific job, expecting a certain raise in salary or position are just the few obvious motivators anyone has. But when it comes to startups, ambition and the strong sense of being a fundamental element of the company’s progress is what holds most significance. Not liking what you see in the company? You’d be better off assessing the problem and initiating change than calling it quits. These are the few characteristics and mindsets I look into when hiring. 

--When it comes to judging whether or not someone’s personal values are a good match, whereabouts do you look?

Getting the ‘right’ answer to a given question doesn’t necessarily make it ‘all good’. It’s entirely possible to answer any question in a way that would appeal most to the interviewer’s own preconceived notions, so you wouldn’t really be able to get a grasp of the person just through given answers. I think the only way to get a real understanding of someone is to observe the person over the course of multiple interviews rather than just simply getting them to answer questions.Another thing we keep in mind is to manage our candidate’s expectations. We make it clear what type of person would be a culture fit to us at the very first stage. If the candidate feels that our company is not what they are looking for we advise them to look elsewhere. If they are intrigued, we are more than happy to continue with the process.The candidate can be Japanese, the candidate can be a foreigner; either way, we go through this process of trying to figure and measure their values. We respect diversity, and in that way nationality and individual culture are not factors that cloud our judgment. Of course, when it comes to language, you can’t really deny the fact that Japanese natives have the total advantage. (Continue to Part 2 here)