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Smaller Firms Fight for New Recruits

It's corporate recruiting season for new graduates in Japan. But smaller firms are finding that they're losing out to larger competitors in the increasingly tight labor market.

Big companies have moved back the start of hiring from April to August. Graduates are accepting job offers from smaller firms at an early stage but then dumping them when they get better offers from the big hitters.

More than 100 smaller companies have formed an organization called IT Industry Social Gathering to share information on job applicants - naturally, with the applicants' consent. Members of the organization can contact students who have applied for or rejected job offers from other companies.

A group of human resource managers of companies belonging to the group recently met in Tokyo to discuss the problem. They're hoping that member firms will exchange information and that the hiring situation will improve.

This alliance has produced another benefit, as universities are now cooperating with the firms to host recruitment fairs.

Toshinori Shiratori of the IT Industry Social Gathering says, "I think there's a long road ahead. We're still short of workers, but we'll work together to solve this problem."

The labor shortage is forcing smaller companies to be more creative. One IT firm in Tokyo, for example, is trying to attract fresh graduates with a job training program. The program, which started this year, aims to give greater responsibility to younger workers.

Several workers in their 20s have been selected as project leaders and have the chance to propose business ideas directly to executives.

Yoko Okuno of Tsuzuki Denki is one of these newly appointed team leaders. She's just 27 and has worked at this firm for four years.

She got the chance to make a presentation to executives at a major housing manufacturer in which she pitched an idea for using IT technology in housing to help elderly people. "I don't think I'd have this level of responsibility if I were at a big company," she commented. "I don't think younger workers would be allowed to handle big projects."

The strategy has helped Tsuzuki Denki hit its recruitment target of about 30 new employees. Kenji Nishida, who works in the firm's human resources department, said, "Young employees are opening up new paths with their own ideas. We believe this is the best way to promote our firm to students."

Smaller companies risk losing out in the fight for qualified workers. Some, however, are using innovative approaches to attract fresh graduates.

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