Paul: Gerard Noakes is an in-house recruiter at Indeed's Tokyo office. We met in the summer of 2016 when Gerard joined the recruiting agency I was working at. His first time working in recruitment, he took to the role like a fish to water. A natural recruiter, Gerard could speak with ease to clients and candidates of diverse backgrounds, worked well in a team, and was committed to doing the right thing for his candidates.
Gerard, tell us a little about your background.
Gerard: Where to start? Husband, new(ish) father, son, brother, amateur DJ, occasional cyclist and recruiter by day. Originally from the northeast of the UK (Toon Army!), I grew up mostly down south just outside of London, and now find myself between Tokyo and Yokohama most of the time (more than I would like lately). I’m definitely a people person and could talk the hind legs off a donkey, which is something I’m working on curbing a bit, but the day to day consists of working at Indeed recruiting awesome engineering managers.
How did you end up in Japan?
I ask myself that at least once a week. Like a lot of people, I ended up here without really meaning to, but being bored of my work and life in London in corporate investigations, I wanted to travel but had a taste for getting paid. I looked into a few options and Japan seemed like it was about as foreign as it gets so I took a leap of faith. 8 years later, somehow I’m still here.
After uni I joined City & Guilds in an account management role then later corporate investigations (it was more exciting than it sounds). Then I took a total 180 and decided to go on the JET program, (the Japan Exchange and Teaching program). I wasn’t really drawn to teaching but it seemed like a good opportunity to work and travel. I touched down in Komatsu airport among the rice fields a few months later and ended up there for 4 years.
Life was very different there but I was missing the city hustle and bustle, so I decided I wanted to come to Tokyo. Via some program alumni, I ended up in agency recruitment in Tokyo, focusing on tech largely in the financial services sector. I did about 2.5 years there, learning from the best (shout out to Paul for mentoring and keeping me sane most days). In 2018 I was trying to headhunt people from Indeed and nobody seemed to want to move, they all seemed very happy, and when one of them mentioned they were looking for a recruiter, it went from there.
Tell us a bit about Indeed.
Indeed is the #1 job site in the world with over 250 million unique visitors every month. Indeed strives to put job seekers first, giving them free access to search for jobs, post resumes, and research companies. Every day, we connect millions of people to new opportunities. The technical design, engineering and product teams in Tokyo work fast and iterate often to make sure each job seeker has the best experience possible. We aim to be one of the world’s premiere technology hubs inside Indeed Tokyo.
And what are you responsible for at Indeed?
I came on board Indeed at a crazy time, we had grown from roughly 30 people in tech in Japan to 500 in the space of a few years so it was a great opportunity to learn and grow for me too. I spend my days mostly looking to hire engineering leadership, so anyone who is a people manager within software engineering. Sometimes I do get to dip my toe into different roles here, which is cool. I enjoy working with engineers and technical people so it’s great fun.
What does your typical working day look like?
I have a 1-year-old so the day usually starts around 5am! Which I love, of course, in spite of what the bags under my eyes and daily coffee consumption levels may suggest. Like many people, I work from home currently. I guess right now there is no such thing as a typical day for any of us, with the world being turned upside down a few months ago, but I am fortunate that I get to spend most of my time doing what I love, talking to people and getting them as excited as I am about what we do, helping people get jobs.
What are the challenges in recruiting engineering managers for Indeed?
Our managers are quite technical and still sit very close to code, so it is often challenging to find managers who still want to be hands-on technically. We have quite a high technical bar so our interview process can be quite tough. It’s also challenging finding people who would like to relocate to Japan. Often managers have families, mortgages and other commitments that make packing up and relocating here a bit more difficult.
What advice do you have for job hunters from overseas looking to move here? (when travel restrictions are eventually lifted)?
I would say try and pick up some sort of ability in Japanese. It will help open more doors for you. While places like Indeed don’t need Japanese skills, you will find you can remove barriers to entry at many companies by learning Japanese. Also, I think you need to have good reasons for moving here. Not having ties to the country or an interest in the culture will mean some companies might be hesitant to hire you and invest in visas, relocation and the like. At least do some surface-level research.
Tell us about the differences between agency recruiting and in-house recruiting?
There are loads, but at the same time, a lot of the fundamentals are the same. The core recruitment stuff we all do is the same, building relationships with candidates and stakeholders, ensuring we get the right fit for both us and candidates and building pipelines all still happen in-house. I guess one of the major differences I saw is that in agency recruitment you will have a book of business or clients you can work with, and if one isn’t working out you can focus on another. That is impossible in-house. If you are having difficulties filling roles you should know why and have the data to back it up and a plan to move forward. I also find myself being a bit more strategic which is enjoyable and thinking about the long term business growth is interesting.
Understanding sourcing strategies and building interview processes, utilising data to back up your arguments is really key in everything we do. I think another big difference is really knowing the organization in depth, and when you are 10,000 people like we are, that is hard. I still don’t know the ins and outs of all our products and teams.
And personally, for you, what are your dreams or goals for the future?
8 hours of sleep would be pretty high on the list right now. That and an overseas holiday, but both of those seem a little out of reach at the moment. We can dream, eh! I think keeping myself and my family sane when we are all spending so much time with each other at home is another goal at the moment.
– the advice you’d give yourself if you could go back in time to your arrival in Japan?
Take some chances. Many of us took a chance on coming here to Japan without much of a plan or roadmap at the time and I think we can tend to play it safe as we get settled. Use those early days to experience more – food, meeting people, professional chances. Don’t be afraid of failure.
– how do you learn new skills?
I’m quite ‘old school’ in that I still need textbooks and structured plans to get through stuff. If a course consists of videos or an app, I won’t watch or use it. I would rather watch Breaking Bad again, or something fun, so I need my learning to be separated. I also think trying and failing is a huge way that I learn. I failed at teaching at first, failed at recruitment and failed at Japanese but as long as you learn from it and get better, it’s all good.
– tell me a few of your favourite or most recently read books, movies, podcasts, games?
I am currently reading Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean – Kim Scott [Amazon JP] which I am enjoying and on my to-do list is Shoe Dog – Phil Knight (I’m a bit of a sneakerhead) [Amazon US / Amazon JP]. I don’t get much time for movies lately unless it’s Curious George or Peppa Pig, but I will always rewatch the classics like The Wire (best TV show ever made) or Breaking Bad. I did get back into gaming a bit lately but I need to find a way to sneak a few purchases past my wife!
– your favourite place to visit in Japan?
Tough question, but I would have to say my former home of Kanazawa in Ishikawa. It’s a perfectly sized city and really beautiful. Great people, awesome seafood and good beaches and mountains.
– what’s the best thing you’ve ever spent 10,000 JPY on in Japan?
Probably 10,000 Yen’s worth of Uniqlo Airism. Being British I am not used to temperatures above 25C so between July and October I generally need to be in air conditioning or wearing lots of Airism.
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