Kohei Sano was one of RGF Professional Recruitment Japan’s top-performing Consultants in 2019. He led a team of eight hardworking and dedicated Consultants, placing over 150 candidates for a fast-growing unicorn in Japan within the short span of six months. We decided to interview him to see how he and his team helped a startup company expand rapidly in Japan.
Kohei: Yes, that is correct. In hopes of providing better service to our clients and candidates, we have established a team that further specializes in helping professionals in the Energy and Infrastructure sector. We cover roles such as sales, business development, project management, engineers, construction managers, and operation & maintenance professionals.
Interviewer: You’ve quickly grown your career at RGF Professional Recruitment Japan. What factors can you attribute to your success in recruitment?
Kohei: To be honest, I think it really does boil down to persevering to achieve a goal as well as willingness to listen and learn. Everything else follows. I work hard because I want to achieve my goal and whenever I encounter any issues or problems, I never let that stop me or slow down my process. I do my research and also listen to other people’s advice. It’s important to keep finding solutions until you eventually resolve what’s hindering you from attaining your goal.
Interviewer: That’s very true. Clearly, your hard work and goal-oriented focus became your greatest assets because you and your team managed to help over 150 candidates find a job in only 6 months! How were you able to accomplish this?
Kohei: I could not have done it without my team and the trust I got from senior management. When I discovered this unicorn, I immediately did my research and found that it was under a booming market that wasn’t as highly saturated as most emerging markets. They clearly had a huge potential to develop in Japan and I knew that candidates would want to work in a fast-growing international company like this. Management quickly supported me and we worked closely with our client. After leveraging our resources and vast network to support our client, the initial request of 10 placements grew to over 150.
Interviewer: That is truly a spectacular growth story of hard work and teamwork. You mentioned that you worked closely with your client - how did you and your team do so?
Kohei: They were new to the Japanese market and we wanted to become more than just a recruitment agency for them. We wanted to be a business partner that would, as much as possible, offer them whatever means we could provide so they could grow exponentially in Japan as they have abroad. It was really exciting to be part of the developing stages of a company. For us, it wasn’t just about delivering talent to their doorstep. It was about contributing to their success by imparting as much market information and industry knowledge as we could, and of course, providing high-quality candidates who would help the company reach its business objectives. Because of this, we interviewed hundreds of candidates in order for us to find people that would be most suitable for the job – it wasn’t easy and we faced plenty of challenges, but together we worked on overcoming all of these challenges.
The Energy & Infrastructure Team
Interviewer: What were some of these challenges and how did you overcome them?
Kohei: Providing over 150 excellent candidates in 6 months was a challenge in itself but besides that, we also had to face the fact that our client’s industry was immensely candidate short. Since their industry was fairly new in Japan, the number of talent with experience in that specific industry was relatively limited. We had to find a solution to that – fast.
Interviewer: How were you able to resolve the candidate short situation?
Kohei: That involved two things: one was deeply understanding the client’s and candidates’ needs; and two, proper representation. When dealing with clients, it’s essential to understand both their micro and macro goals. We knew that each business unit had its own objectives to attain. HR had a set number of headcounts while the hiring manager had their own KPIs. So it was all about connecting two and two together to form a bigger picture that illustrates your understanding of the client. This understanding is the core principle of our success. It took constant communication with the client to set-up an accurate profile of the candidate they wanted. From there, we discovered that we needed to evaluate candidates based on specific skillsets instead of industry experience, and it worked! We had to learn about the exact skillsets they needed and match that with candidates who were interested in working for a unicorn and were also keen on working in an industry different from their current one.
Interviewer: What about proper representation?
Kohei: Understanding was the fuel but it was this proper representation that drove us to our ultimate goal. The company needed to be interested in the candidate and vice versa so it was crucial for us to identify both their strengths and represent this to both parties while remaining fully transparent and providing accurate information. We were constantly meeting with candidates – in fact, I would be on the phone or meet with 10-15 candidates per day. But even if you find the best candidate out there who ticks all the boxes, if the representation isn’t done right, then the vacancy will remain open or there will be a hiring mismatch.
Interviewer: That is true. Proper representation does go a long way especially when you’re faced with a challenge such as that. But aren’t companies and candidates more equipped to represent themselves?
Kohei: It’s true that companies and candidates can very well represent themselves but there is a tendency for people to get blindsided by our preferences and goals. This will always deter proper judgment and skew their perspective on current trends and values. By leveraging our resources and experience, we as middlemen would be able to provide 3rd party and unbiased information based on actual market values and trends. This became invaluable for the company we worked with because they were new to the Japanese market and we could provide the feedback they needed to make their Talent Acquisition strategies more competitive. There’s a reason why appraisers and lawyers exist. We hope that we could be that for companies who are facing hiring challenges.
Interviewer: Thank you very much, Kohei, for your time.