Hiring in Japan might be trickier than you would expect
When you're ready to make your 1st hire, what kind of person would be looking for? As your recruiting agents have already told you, hiring people in Japan will be very challenging. It's simply because your candidate pool will be vey limited. It's expected that you'll meet with fewer candidates than you wish, so you should have a clear idea on the profile you are looking for to make decision quickly when you find the one. Otherwise, other will hire that person.
According to a report published by ETS, Japan has lowest score on speaking section of TOEFL among 35 countries categorized under Asia region. This entry on WikiPedia says that there are 15% of people who speak English among total population in Japan. A survey conducted by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry tells us that there are 5,701 foreign funded companies in Japan. Those reports and surveys will tell you that your candidate pool is very limited and your competition on hiring will be tough in Japan. In addition to those, there will be very small numbers of people who has experience on leading and growing SaaS business among the small pool of candidates.le
Though I'm not a recruiting expert nor a legal expert on HR matters, I'd like to share with you several tips on making initial few hires in Japan. (Disclaimer - This blog post is not intended to give you legal advices in any mean. Please consult with your lawyer for legal advices.)
Be aware that the Japanese labor law is very protective of employees. It is not an easy process to dismiss an employee even if s/he is a low performer. I'd recommend this article to understand overview of how the labor law works.
Have a realistic expectation on the language skill and have clear requirements based on the roles to hire. Some role needs higher skill than others. e.g.) Business level or above for a country manager position, Intermediate level for an account manager position, etc.
Have a clear and practical understanding on your company's/team's work culture (not the ones on the website) and hire based on the realities. If you demand people to work hard and long hours, then you need to set appropriate expectation to the candidate through the interview process. Too much selling on hiring will lead a terrible mismatch.
Value feedbacks from your local team if it were not the first hire. Some people are trained enough to give good impressions on people from H.Q. and you should leverage the local team member to evaluate the candidate from multiple angles.
Unfortunately, we don't provide recruiting services but we're able to introduce recruiting agencies you can trust. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have hiring challenges in Japan.