en world Japan makes the right connections
In April 2012, executive recruiting company Wall Street Associates was relaunched in Japan as en world Japan. It has been an exciting first year, with the company exceeding revenue and profit targets, says Craig Saphin, President, en world Group, President and Representative Director, en world Japan KK.
Born in Australia, Saphin holds an MBA from the University of New South Wales. Prior to joining en world in 2007, he was EFI Japan president and senior director of APAC. He also spent nine years at Fuji Xerox in Australia.
Japan Today visits Saphin at the company’s impressive office in Ginza to hear more about en world Japan.
Why did en-japan take over Wall Street Associates and how did you get the word out?
The main reason was that we wanted to expand beyond Japan into the Asia-Pacific region. We held a number of events for our clients and we also communicated directly with our candidates. We don’t do mass marketing.
How was your first year?
The first 12 months were very exciting. We hired a lot of people and we opened offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam. Since we rebranded in April 2012, we exceeded our revenue and profit targets. Our business has remained strong because our clients have been innovating and developing markets here in Japan despite the malaise in the economy.
In such a competitive industry, what are en world Japan’s strengths?
Our main strength is that we have very good people. We spend a lot of time handpicking every person who joins us. It is a very exhaustive process called Topgrading, a famous recruiting and retaining method in the U.S., and takes a lot of time. We go to that trouble because we are very particular about who joins us and why they want to join us. Once we hire someone, we spend a lot of time training them as well. We have three full-time trainers for that purpose.
Another strength is that we place great value on our relationships with clients and candidates. Plus, with our growing network of offices, we can offer borderless recruiting solutions.
How does the Japanese recruitment market differ from other countries?
There are a number of differences. Firstly, the recruitment for mid-career level in Japan is still a very young industry. That sounds unusual because Japan is a developed market but there is a very strong culture for hiring graduates and keeping people on for the whole of their career. However, as that continues to change, the recruitment market and the requirements of our clients also change. Second, the market we are in is for talent who can work for global companies or companies from Japan that want to operate in a global market. Such talent is in short supply. Third, our niche is a very small part of the market. So you have the overall market which is basically the Japanese companies and a small part of the market which is foreign companies and Japanese companies that want to operate in a global environment. In other countries, the market tends not to be as segmented.
What trends do you see in the Japanese labor market?
It is still a tradition for Japanese companies to hire graduates and you see them starting every April 1. However, increasingly, Japanese people are looking for career options and part of this is the fact that Japan is changing in a socio-economic way. But the ability to speak English in Japan is one of the worst in the developed world and that is a big thing that differentiates the market. People may want to change their career but because of their language capabilities, they are restricted in the areas in which they can move.
What are the hottest job categories?
Two huge growth areas are life sciences, such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biotech; and consumer/retail, such as luxury brands. Besides these fields, I see future growth opportunities in executive contract staffing for women, and with Japanese companies that want to hire mid-career people to help them expand their business abroad.
How do you find candidates?
We get candidates from mainly referrals. We place people who are highly sought after and in short supply. So in general, really good people know really good people. By having a trust relationship with our candidates, we can get referrals from them. We also use Linked-in, general job sites and our own webpage.
We spend a lot of time with candidates, helping them with interview skills, their resume, and debriefing them after interviews. A lot of people don’t know how to package themselves or present themselves. That’s true everywhere. In Japan, though, we encourage candidates to present themselves differently to a global company. We also have offices in Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama, which makes it easy for us to meet the candidates.
How has social media changed the recruiting industry?
Social media have provided a new aspect to finding talent, especially on a global basis. But the level of service we are offering to our clients is so high that social media can’t replace the most important element – which is face to face personal service. Our consultants are our brand ambassadors and are out there meeting clients every day. Clients appreciate that level of service and don’t want to be treated like a transaction. They want to hear market information, so we work directly with them to help them grow their business and achieve their strategic objectives.
How flexible are your clients when it comes to recruiting needs?
Some companies have very strict hiring requirements and will wait forever until the right person comes along, while others listen to our consultants’ advice and are more flexible. Part of the training we give our consultants is to use their knowledge about the marketplace to advise their clients about the best approach.
What sort of a person makes a good consultant?
A consultant needs to be tough because recruiting is a tough job. They need to be very well organized and have an ability to learn about an industry so they can add value to the clients. It is not just about finding a candidate and sending a resume out. It is about understanding an industry, the culture of the company, types of managers and personalities so they can provide the highest level of service to the client.
In the past, the industry hasn’t always had a good image, has it?
At times, the industry hasn’t had the best reputation. I think that since the Lehman Shock, it has improved because a lot of companies that weren’t taking recruiting as a serious profession have gone.
What should a client or a candidate look for in a recruiting company?
From a client’s perspective, they need to look for a suitable level of consultation and have a reasonable level of confidence that the consultant understands the industry they are in, understands their business, the type of role they need to fill and how it will interact in the business.
For candidates, they want to be sure that the recruiting company has the ability to service them in a particular market segment, that the consultant understands their strengths and weaknesses and what their unique selling point is. When we place a candidate, we send them a customer satisfaction survey and ask them how their experience with us was and if they would recommend us to their friends. We do that with clients, as well.
What is a typical day for you?
Some days, I have a breakfast meeting, then I come here and have internal and external meetings back to back. On other days, I have review meetings with managers. At night, I often go out with clients or go to networking events.
When you are not working, how do you like to relax?
I do a lot of running and right now, I am training for a half-marathon in Sydney on Sept 22. I like riding bikes. I am also on the board of Tokyo English Life Line.