Japan, the Land of Agents

Often people ask me whether the headhunting industry is well suited for the social structure of Japan. People here are not used to switching jobs (although that is changing) and even less used to confiding in a stranger about their ambitions, hopes, problems, and shortcomings. After all, you can barely find a marriage counselor in Tokyo. So why would people want to use a recruiter, often a stranger, to share personal information and issues with?

Well, I guess that for most conservative working people, contacting a consultant really is kind of scary. But in reality, Japan is a "Land of Agents." It's just that usually the "agent" needs to be someone they know and trust. Take Nakodo (Marriage go-betweens) for example. Although more couples are finding each other by themselves, still 50% of the population prefers to have someone else make the introduction and check out the background of the other party. Usually the Nakodo is known to a relative, or could even be a relative.

So it is safe to assume that at least 50% of job seekers (as against marriage seekers) would also want a go-between to help them out. The problem is how to make the consultant seem less a stranger? How do we improve the "trust factor"?

The answer is surprisingly simple: "Merutomo" (email friends). Here at DaiJob.com, we have set up a group whose sole job is to interact by email with enquiries coming in from the Web. We chose email over creating a telephone call center, because we don't want to scare away the people who are looking at jobs on the Web but who have no confidence in making the next step. We often get comments such as "Am I really OK as a candidate?" And this isn't really a question most people want to ask a stranger over the telephone - but through the Web, it seems to be OK. Our Email Help Desk answers hundreds of simple questions from first-time job seekers every day, and strikes up an email relationship with thousands of people by email every month.

Over time, the email friends' relationship starts to take root and the candidate feels comfortable about asking for more face-to-face help when they are ready. This process of building an ongoing relationship with candidates is called "Relationship Recruiting" - and the process is completely different from the "Accidental Recruiting" which most advertisers do when they simply put ads in local media without a strategy in place.

The real benefit of Relationship Recruiting is that if it is done in sufficient volume, so as to get economies of scale, then not only are the candidates well informed, confident, and responsive when they do act - they're happy as well! And a happy, motivated candidate is much more likely to impress a hiring company, thus increasing his or her chance to get the job.