The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

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MARCH 2015

Attract the Best Talent by Transforming Your Hiring Process

By Paul Dupuis

managing director—Professionals, Randstad Japan

In my role as a professional HR solutions consultant, I have the opportunity to meet with senior business leaders, heads of HR, and talent acquisition specialists on a daily basis. The common theme of our discussions, regardless of whether the company is a famous multinational or a local Japanese small or medium-sized enterprise, is the ongoing challenge of attracting the best people to join their organization.

With Japan’s unemployment rate at 3.4 percent and 2.5 jobs per jobseeker, (about 2.7 percent and 1.7 jobs, respectively, for mid-career professionals) it’s clearly a candidate’s market. To meet this challenge, I recommend some quick, high-impact changes that any organization can make to increase its recruitment success.

The first step is to define what an “A-player” means for your company. HR should sit down with line managers and ask, “What are the hard skills [key abilities and specialized knowledge], and soft skills [personality traits and attitude] that are crucial for success in the specified role and the organization?”

It’s helpful to rank each item on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of importance. Crafting a scorecard of required competencies and personality traits should be a collaborative exercise and involve all stakeholders. For more senior roles, the company president should be involved.

At Randstad, our team works closely with companies on this process, advising and sometimes mediating the passionate discussions among managers. Healthy management teams have vigorous debate from time to time, and certainly nothing is more important for the success of an organization than getting the right people on the bus. Spending 90 minutes in a room discussing and debating with colleagues how to define “top talent” is a worthwhile venture.

Once the scorecard is ready, it’s time to move to the next step: selling the story to your target candidates. The best companies (and best leaders, for that matter) are good at telling their story. Unfortunately, this is where many organizations fail.

Recently, we had a candidate who was, by all measures, an A-player and the best match for a role in a well-known global company. She had a positive first interview with the HR manager, who explained the history of the company, the culture and attractiveness of working there, and included a personal story about the reasons for having joined the organization eight years earlier.

The manager used keywords such as “humanistic,” “professional development,” and “global” to describe the company culture, and asked the candidate many of the standard HR questions about her past experience, successes, failures, motivation for wanting to change jobs, and reason for showing interest in the company. Some interesting questions were also asked, such as, “What are you passionate about?” and “How would your best friend describe you?”

The second interview was with the line manager, a director who had been with the company for 10-plus years. His presentation was less positive than that of the HR manager, emphasizing that the company culture was rooted in short-term thinking. He was much less optimistic than the HR manager about prospects at the company, and seemed unprepared for the meeting. The candidate found that he seemed to tell a story that differed from what she had heard in the first meeting with HR.

The candidate walked away from the second interview less interested in the company and, ultimately, chose a lesser-known company for her career move. When we asked the candidate the reasons for her choice, she replied, “I was attracted to their people and their story.”

The results of Randstad’s global Workmonitor quarterly research show that one rule holds true around the world: candidates join companies because of the people working there and a compelling story they hear from the potential employer. A well-crafted job scorecard, combined with a good story and managers who are trained to tell that story, will help attract the best talent.