Transforming The Recruiting Landscape For Women In Japan With Advisory Group
This company matches women looking for a flexible work environment with firms that need their talent
Outdated company attitudes and hiring practices often prevent women and other under-appreciated candidates from re-entering the Japanese job market. The Tokyo-based recruiting firm, Advisory Group, is here to change that.
The importance of increasing female participation in the workforce has been a persistent topic for Japan over the past few years and was back in the spotlight last month once again with International Women’s Day on March 8 and the Women 20 — an engagement group that makes recommendations to the G20 — held on March 23–24, in Tokyo.
Efforts so far, however, have been twofold: reversing the trend of women quitting work after getting married or having children and supporting mothers to return to work. According to the latest government statistics report evaluating post-partum trends among employed women between 2010 and 2014, 53.1% of women continued working after giving birth to their first child — a steadily growing number in comparison with data from two decades ago.
Simultaneously, however, 46.9% discontinued working. Over half of all responses cited the reason for not returning to work as being “due to difficulties keeping up with work and child rearing at the same time,” with other work-related obstacles, including “insufficient support toward child-rearing by the company.” Anxieties over having to take days off too often for child-care related issues were also listed.
Over half of all responses cited the reason for not returning to work as being ‘due to difficulties keeping up with work and child rearing at the same time…’
And in a country where over 83.2% of working women take maternity leave versus the mere 5.14% of men who take paternity leave, according to the latest statistics from the ministry’s Gender Equality Bureau, it’s clear that it is women who are most affected by the current work attitudes and hiring practices.
Introducing Advisory Group
One dedicated recruiting company based in Tokyo, called Advisory Group, is tackling this serious social concern. Founder Jivago Matsuoka built the company with the mission to help overlooked talent overcome those barriers to find real jobs that make a meaningful contribution to society. “We aim to help those under-appreciated candidates, such as single mothers, working mothers, seasoned professionals aged over 50 or unemployed people,” said Matsuoka during a recent interview with Savvy Tokyo.
By helping candidates and clients change their perspectives, Advisory Group is doing its part to turn the grim situation around. Since 2015, they’ve matched hundreds of overlooked job seekers with companies in need of talent. Here’s what they do.
Changing the conversation
Advisory Group specializes in getting bilingual working and single mothers, as well as senior citizens and the unemployed back to work, either in a permanent or interim role. They work with employers across a variety of industries, from healthcare to retail to IT.
“We want to help overlooked talent,” explains Milan Pham-The, HR and Operations Manager at Advisory Group. “People who come to us have usually found job searching a challenge because of their specific situation. They may have been out of work for some time, or have particular needs such as flexible hours. We feel we are able to truly add value to their job search experience by understanding their unique skills.”
By offering a clever match of flexible hiring solutions to clients and optimal job options to candidates in need of flexibility, Advisory Group is able to raise awareness of the advantages of a more malleable hiring process.
For the majority of employers in Japan, there’s a strict basis of hiring that’s typically decided by career history and age. Having been in the same job for a consistent number of years without time off or switching companies will typically be an advantage. Periods of leave, different part-time roles, and non-conventional hours of work are generally viewed with suspicion — without looking into the individual’s case in detail.
For working mothers, however, “irregular” hours and years of time blanks in between jobs are a rather common experience and this by no definition should indicate “incompetency” as far as work is concerned.
For the majority of employers in Japan, there’s a strict basis of hiring that’s typically decided by career history and age.
This is exactly what Advisory Group is working to change. A key part of the company’s role has been educating both candidates and clients that—contrary to the dominant narrative in Japan—skills, experience, and potential are the most important factors to consider when hiring someone.
Building candidates’ confidence
For candidates who have not worked for a long time, or have experienced rejection in the job market, Advisory Group provides real support that helps to build their confidence.
“The first step is meeting with candidates to understand everything about them,” says Pham-The. “Not only their work history but also what they want to achieve,” she adds.
As candidates often “don’t know how to promote and leverage their skills and overall experience,” she says an advisor helps them with resume formats and how to approach interviews from their unique standpoint.
Rather than apologize for a career gap, mothers in a job interview should focus on why they are returning to work, says Yumiko Eisley. Once a working mother interested in part-time work but with a 10-year gap in her career history, Eisley came to Advisory Group for help getting back to work. Now, she is its HR and Office Manager, helping to onboard team members and working staff.
Important, too, is managing expectations so that both candidate and employer understand what is possible and what is not, given the commitments of family life, she added.
Providing team, not individual support
While traditional recruiting companies typically have one member of staff dedicated to finding a candidate a role, Advisory Group’s advisors share information about their candidates with all staff, so a complete team is behind helping each candidate find the right position. According to Pham-The, this approach means staff know the candidates’ potential extremely well and develop a “close relationship” with them.
The process at Advisory Group is also fast-paced, typically seeing candidates and scheduling meetings for them the next day, with roles secured within a week or two, unlike traditional recruiting companies that can take much longer. This is hugely reassuring for candidates who have been job hunting without much luck for a while, and evidence that the advisors will do everything in their power to help candidates find new job opportunities.
Recently, a working mother with a 10-year blank in her resume was referred to the company one Friday afternoon as most agencies could not help her. Within one week, Advisory Group was able to find her a permanent role on a flex-time basis.
Advisory Group is also working to shine a light on the positive opportunities outside of permanent roles and reduce the stigma against temporary positions. With changes to the workforce, employers are increasingly seeking temporary hires for employee resignation, maternity-leave coverage, special projects or work overload during the busy or peak season.
With changes to the workforce, employers are increasingly seeking temporary hires for employee resignation, maternity-leave coverage, special projects or work overload during the busy or peak season.
This is exactly the kind of opening where a candidate can find a way in and show what they can do.
“Most candidates are looking for permanent positions, it might take some time, perhaps months or even a year. Thus we encourage these candidates to consider other opportunities such as a temporary or contract-based role to keep their skills fresh,” she says.
“What’s important is to be in the market,” said Pham-The, pointing out that many candidates then move from temporary to permanent roles.
Encouraging clients to think outside the box
Clients, meanwhile, are encouraged to look beyond age or long career blanks due to childrearing. They are advised on the candidate’s “skills, attitude, experiences, and potential.”
“Many of our clients have become more flexible over the years when it comes to hiring; they are more open to looking at the candidate’s abilities to do the work and their experience, rather than their age or gender,” explained Pham-The.
We stress to our clients that the most important part of the process is for them to meet the candidate in person, to fully understand what she (or he) can offer the company and get the reassurances needed that the candidate is right for the role. It’s about giving people a chance.
“Clients are skeptical at first, but are very receptive after we set them up with our candidates,” said Pham-The of the company’s efforts to educate clients. “When they meet our candidates they can see how hands-on and capable they are, despite their age or career gaps. We do not persuade, we educate and inform.”
Advisory Group mostly works with employers that do not post their jobs online or through other job boards. Rather they work closely with the client to thoroughly understand their needs so that they can match them with the ideal candidate.
Anybody still with doubts need simply to look at Advisory Group as evidence that the approach works. The company itself practices what it promotes, hiring the best people to join its team, which is diverse in age, gender, nationality, and culture.
According to Pham-The, it is the small wins that drive Advisory Group on its mission: to adhere to the highest professional recruitment standards, to improve clients’ hiring performance and to create an unrivaled environment for each and every one of the exceptional women out there.
About Advisory Group
To register with Advisory Group, interested persons simply submit their resume and meet with an advisor who will interview them on their work history and skills. The candidates’ information is then shared with all staff, who will search for roles for them. If a client is interested in the candidate, the advisor will arrange an interview between the candidate and the client.
Advisory Group recruits for positions in finance, accounting, HR, IT and supply chain management. Find out more about their tailored solutions and what they can do for you at the link below.