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Finding the Right Staff

Nana Yamada

Managers at many Japanese companies are having a hard time recruiting workers because of the low birthrate and aging population. In the first installment of a two-part series on Japan's labor market, we look at how some businesses are finding unique ways to attract and keep the right staff.

A meeting is taking place at a textile recycling firm. The manager has invited a recruitment company to help him hire staff. He wants to recruit younger talent. But his firm is small, and he doesn't have time to search for candidates.

"We need people who can keep an open mind," says Kiyoshi Ito of Nakano, the textile recycling firm. "They need to be flexible in their thinking."

"We hope to introduce someone close to your ideal worker," responds Recruit Career's Taku Hirakawa.

The service costs more than $4,000 for each new hire -- a price hiring managers seem willing to pay. The recruitment company says it has 6,400 clients on its books. Many are smaller firms.

"We could place ads at public job placement centers, but that would require us to handle everything from scratch," says Ito. "We don't have the luxury of spending that much time on the task."

One problem for small companies is their low profile in the job market. One online service offers a pro-active solution. It allows firms to search a database of students. Categories range from universities and qualifications, to positions held in sports clubs.

If the firm finds a promising candidate, it can make a direct offer for a job interview.

"Students know very little about small- and mid-sized firms. But the companies know from past experience what type of students they want to hire," says Tomoya Nakano, President of I-plug. "So naturally, we thought that the companies should approach the students, not the other way round."

One company using the service is a tool wholesaler based in Osaka, western Japan. The company has been expanding into new areas and is doubling efforts to hire young talent with innovative ideas.

On this day, 4 university student, all contacted through the online scouting program, are visiting the head office. They talk to the employees to learn about the company.

"The atmosphere was free and lively. I will definitely apply for a job interview," says one of the students.

The recruitment chief says she's been encouraged by the positive responses from students. "About 80 percent of students who take part in the company tour apply for the next step in the recruitment process," says Kanami Masaaki of Daito. "We're getting better in terms of finding the right match."

The website operator says 28,000 students have signed up from across Japan. The service is promising to be a new lead for smaller companies scouting for manpower.

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