The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

After several years as a manager at a leading recruitment office in Japan, Razin Ashraf asked: How could he do it better? How could he apply the knowledge, expertise, and relationships he had built over the years to a positive, Japan-centric method for finding the best talent?

In 2016, Ashraf took the leap and established Divine Solutions Japan (DSJ), a specialist recruitment company focusing on financial services and technology markets.

In just three years, this newcomer has grown into a company with a reputation for reliability and efficiency. They have received recognition as a top supplier at more than five major banks, netted spots on the preferred suppliers list for most of their clients, and increased revenue year over year.

Ashraf told The ACCJ Journal his vision was to build a team based on potential and passion—not just a proven track record. “I didn’t want to be influenced or confined by methods that were successful in countries other than Japan,” he said. “Each one of our consultants brings different values to DSJ.”

“We’re not just salespeople,” he said. “We’ve built up expertise about the industry and its subsectors. To do the job effectively, you need to process a considerable amount of information daily. As a team, we go the extra mile to provide the best service and do the best we can.”

Ashraf surrounded himself with a small but culturally diverse team of consultants. Manager Alistair Ramsbottom brought more than 20 years of industry experience when he joined the DSJ team. “It’s entrepreneurial,” Ramsbottom said. “This is the sort of environment that suits me very well—there’s a close team and flexibility. You can generally spend more time focusing on clients and candidates, whereas a bigger organization tends to just brush them over.” This focus helps DSJ achieve positive outcomes for client companies.

Consultant Joel Faustor said it is the clear management style that provides the freedom to express ideas. “At DSJ, I feel that I’m taken seriously, and I know that my input counts,” he said. “There are not many companies in this industry where you have a say in something.” Consultant Shoya Ono added, “I feel grateful to be able to work in a very international environment. We are more than a team­—we are a family.”

Ashraf is planning to grow coverage beyond financial services in the near future by expanding his team farther into the technology, accounting, finance, sectors, and life sectors.

Ashraf recognizes that the recruitment industry has a fierce image, but believes DSJ is changing misconceptions. “This industry has a reputation for putting profit before people, not being experts in their field, or not being impartial. DSJ is striving to put people first and to do what is best for the client and the candidate to help create a win–win situation.

“I firmly believe we’re doing a positive thing for someone—a step up in his or her career, forming a better team, achieving better work–life balance, or growing a team that appreciates you more,” Ashraf said. “We are not just closing the deal and moving on. We want everyone to be satisfied and have something better. Some of our existing relationships span more than 12 years, and these business associations turn into long-term friendships.”

Some companies rely too much on internal resources to attract new talent. But Ashraf believes the best strategy for finding talented candidates is reaching out to a well-connected consultant who understands not only the client’s needs but also the culture of the companies where they’re placing candidates. “The consultant should be able to explain the dynamics of the available talent pool to the client, manage their expectations, and understand the candidate’s needs and motivators in terms of their expectations for the new role. The better a consultant understands the client’s needs and the candidate’s expectations, the easier it is to match top talent with the top companies.”

“Quality over quantity is what our clients want,” said Ashraf. “We aim to have strong candidate pools for every area that we cover so that we can present the best profiles when needed. This is what we strive to achieve at DSJ.”