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INTERVIEW vol.2

Employee Discussion: Oishi Yutaka (Tohoku Company) and Watanabe Megumi (North Kanto Company) 
A frank discussion. From its rewards to its hardships. What is the true nature of career consulting?

Career consultants link companies and applicants and personify the true essence of Region’s business. “Just one outstanding person can change a company”. This idea can be realized precisely because they cover the three areas of sales, career consulting, and recruiting by themselves. Oishi, who has worked in Tohoku for six and a half years, and Watanabe, who debuted as a career consultant in North Kanto one and a half years ago, will talk about the harsh and attractive nature of the job, from its true purpose and value, to its hardships and troubles.
※Date of Interview: 10th January 2018

Oishi Yutaka

Tohoku Company Deputy Branch Manager
Joined August 2011

Worked at a large legal publication firm, Recruit Holdings, and a traditional Japanese inn in Yamagata. After experiencing the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, he started working on promoting Region’s Tohoku business so that he could use the experience accumulated in his career for the good of the Tohoku region. His hobbies are jogging, dieting, and music.

Watanabe Megumi

North Kanto Company Consultant
Joined June 2015

Went on a language exchange trip to Thailand for a year while in university. She joined regions after working at H.I.S, a medical corporation in Tochigi prefecture. Her hobbies include singing, mountain climbing, and marathons.

The “two-handed model” allows for a creative job with increased perception.

Watanabe: In the recruitment business there is usually a “single-handed model” where recruitment advisers (RA), who deal with companies, and career advices, who deal with job seekers, are split into different departments. Meanwhile, at Regions our career consultants carry out business under the “two-handed model”, where they handled both aspects. How do you see the “two-handed model” Oishi?

Oishi: There’s lots of ways to describe it, but I believe the two-handed model allows you to see things that both job seekers and companies can’t. In general it is said that it’s good practice for someone who understands both the company and the applicant to match them together, but I personally feel that that explanation alone is nowhere near enough. Rather, the point of the two-handed model is that you can get information that the company doesn’t have from the applicant and vice versa. It’s a creative job that lets you see what both sides can’t see. I personally see that as the definition of the two-handed model.

Watanabe: What kind of things do you mean when you say “what both sides can’t see”?

Oishi: In general, a coordinator who knows a company will meet with an applicant, and be able to have a convincing discussion precisely because he knows about the company. They can also give a strong presentation to companies precisely because they know the applicant well. However, there are times when both companies and applicants don’t know certain things about themselves. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but there are times where by someone serving as a mediator and putting into words what they can’t quite explain themselves, a realization comes to both sides.

Watanabe: I still haven’t reached that point. But I do fully feel that the two-handed model is what allows you to do that. I want to become like that someday, but can you give me a concrete examples from you experiences where you have been able to do that?

Oishi: Let’s see… there are times where needs appear where they didn’t exist originally. For example I often spoke to a certain CEO. I know his personality and character well, and also understand what the company is lacking on a personal level. At the time I met someone who I hadn’t pictured for that company. She worked for an IT company in Tokyo, and belonged to an organization called Administration which covered both general affairs and HR. Under a special order from the CEO she would slip into each department and report what was going on to the CEO. She had a very bright and open personality. She would warm up to anyone she met the moment she met them. When I met her I suddenly thought about the company I mentioned earlier. The flow from the reception until I met the CEO, the way the CEO and employees spoke… what this company was essentially lacking was a more sentimental human force, one that doesn’t appear on an organizational chart. I thought that the company needed someone who would link people and the organization.

Watanabe: I see I see…

Oishi: In truth I only received requests from that company for IT engineers. However, I told them about this applicant, and gave a proposal to the CEO. I said “This is the essence of the issues happening at your company. Don’t you think someone like her could fix them?” At the start he didn’t really seem to understand, but when I got him to meet her he said “I definitely want to hire her. I’ll create a position for her”.

Watanabe: That’s pretty amazing.

Oishi: It’s only been a few months since she joined but right now she works sort of as a secretary to the CEO, and works in mixing around the departments. I’ve heard from many sources that her role is to get to know the employees and sort of link them together. I think she will fulfill a necessary role for the company’s future growth. I had this great realization because experienced not only her personality, but things you can only tell from meeting candidates in person, such as their feelings, as well as the company’s atmosphere over and over. If you don’t understand both sides fully then you can’t come to conclusions like this.

Watanabe: Should I usually be thinking about what essentially needs to be there for that company to grow?

Oishi: That is part of it, but what is important is to go to the company and directly feel the atmosphere. Not to miss any of the words or nuances that come from the CEO’s mouth. I think my role is to connect the atmosphere. In this way I’m a bit different to people who press on with their work logically. What is vital for that, even more than career consulting skills, is understand what they of person the person in front of you is, what kind of atmosphere they have, and to take it in completely. If I can express these things which I take in in the form of matching company and applicant then I’m very happy. For me my role is to thread together the things required of a career consultant – sales, career consulting, and recruiting.

Watanabe: A year and a half has passed since I set off as a career consultant in July 2016. I still haven’t fully obtained the three skills of sales, career consulting and recruiting. Listening to your story, I instinctively felt that these are exactly what I should aim for. I still have a bit of trouble on picking up on things that can’t be put into words, but if I can do it some day then I’m sure my job will be extremely fun, and have a massive amount of meaning and value to it. Not a job that anyone can do, but a job where I match based on the information I learned directly from both sides. At Regions the ways in which people demonstrate the three skills differ from person to person, but I feel I’d like to follow a similar path to you Oishi.

Oishi: I see this business as being a job where you introduce two of your acquaintances to each other. That’s it in its most primitive form. The closer you can get to that the better your matching is. That’s why you should meet people in person, increase your acquaintances, and search further for more. This leads to applications and hiring. Like you’re in close quarters combat, searching for companies and applicants from within your connections and acquaintances. That’s how I think career consultants should be.

Watanabe: That’s why there is true value to a career consultant acting as a mediator, rather than just mechanically matching conditions.

Oishi: If you just match conditions then you won’ be able to go against the large companies who use such systems. For a job of course sales figures are important, but even more than that is whether or not you find the job interesting. If you introduce people you found yourself to companies you sought out yourself then you have no supply costs. 100% gross profit. This is of course also good for the company.

Understanding the values at the heart of your client. This is the first step to building a relationship of trust with executives and candidates.

Oishi: Watanabe, do you ever put extra effort into building a trusting relationship with CEOs?

Watanabe: In truth I’m actually a little bad at building such relationships. A lot of times I feel I’m not on the same page. This is one of my biggest concerns right now.

Oishi: Why do you think that is?

Watanabe: As I worked in HR at my previous job I always thought of things from that perspective. I can’t really get out of it… In contrast business meetings where I go to see the head of HR or the second in command at the company are quite easy for me. However, if you don’t speak to the CEO then you can’t get those feelings that you mentioned earlier. You won’t have any great ideas or come to any conclusions if you don’t talk from the perspective of the CEO. I want to be able to do that without shying away, and would like to continue to study how to. How do you build relationships of trust with CEOs Oishi?

Oishi: First I go drinking with them. Second I speak in the exact same mode as when I’m speaking with candidates. We acquire theories regarding career consulting, and train every day to see in how short of a time we can dig up and understand the values at the heart of our client. Similar to practicing sports you need to understand your opponent, and so every day as a sort of systemized technique we practice having conversations, so that for example we don’t look over any fluctuations in our client’s feelings. Normally you wouldn’t do that kind of practice right? In truth this skill is actually more useful with CEOs than with job searchers. “His expression just went a bit gloomy”, “She sure has used that word many times”, “I wonder why he gulped just now”, these are the things that you don’t miss. When you notice them you ask “Is something up?”, “Is there something you’re concerned about?”. That’s why I don’t see business talks with CEOs as business talks. I see them as interviews. If you talk with each other in that way then the CEO will warm up to you. Things that wouldn’t come up in normal conversations can come out. That’s why you should only talk about work for around 2~3 minutes in the latter half of your hour discussion, and then invite them drinking afterwards.

Watanabe: Just what I’d expect from you! On the other hand is there something you see as important when building relationships of trust with job seekers?

Oishi: To never lie. To not sugarcoat things. For example if I get a request for a stable, high-paying job at a big company from someone who doesn’t seem like they can achieve it, I will tell them honestly that it will be difficult. Of course I do think about how best to express it to them. I think that even if the applicant gets a bit upset from that it’s just something that can’t be helped. I ask the person in front of me what I want to ask and say what I want to say. Even if it’s something they don’t really want to hear, if you say it honestly then usually it’ll get through to them. Maybe I should think about it a little more, but personally I’m not particularly good at controlling that part of me, and more often than not I can gain trust by speaking honestly.

Watanabe: Is there anything else?

Oishi: I don’t want to just give some cookie-cutter advice. The values at the root of their actions differ depending on the person, so I change my expressions or way of speaking based on that.

Watanabe: For me I put the theory of career consulting at the base of my discussion with applicants, but at the root of it is a personal interest in the person. If you don’t have that then your job will be boring. I’ve always been someone who liked to observe others. To listen to the various stories of people and the backgrounds behind then, and put them into a box inside me. For example, this person thinks this way or feels that way. As a career consultant you can connect with people’s values. Indeed having a personal interest really is the most important part. I want to use my knowledge and skills in career counselling and put in my all. Recently I’ve also been trying to do as you said earlier Oishi, to say things that are difficult to say without skirting round the issue. It is a bit difficult though.

To have a sensitive heart and mind. Struggles so hard you have to hold back tears. The unification of work and life.

Watanabe: What kind of things are you working at or striving towards to improve yourself?

Oishi: Of course I continue to study and learn, but above all that, I like music. Ever since I was young. I believe that career consultants need things like music, films, love. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I believe it’s important to increase the intensity of your interest and passion in each one. That’s why I often tell the younger members to fall in love. It’s important to forget about yourself and just dive in, and I want to have a sensitive heart and mind so that I can be sensitive to the layers in other people’s feelings.

Watanabe: I completely agree.

Oishi: If I look back I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life, but both experiences of success and of failure have all been useful in my job. There isn’t a situation where they aren’t helpful. In that way I think it’s a fantastic job. At the same time I feel you should constantly be moved. What’s important is the fluctuation of your emotions. To put your heart and mind in a sensitive state. I’m a bit of a fanatic, and always try to make sure my heart isn’t chained up. If I’m too put it into words, I want to be a bit of an immature adult, and I’ve had the mind of a middle schooler ever since middle school.

Watanabe: I’m also concentrating on trying to expand the range of my feelings and emotions. That’s because there are so many different applicants who I speak with. From people who are high tension to people who are so low tension that you can barely hear their voice. As a consultant I have to be able to pick up on any emotions, no matter what kind. At Regions we do things like studying management philosophy, training where we point out the each others good parts with other staff, training where we confine ourselves for a few days deep in a forest, shut off from the world, and face ourselves, and so we are blessed with many opportunities to have experiences which improve and fulfill our heart and mind. As a result I’ve become able to compose my mind a lot better. I’ve also become able to look at myself objectively, and set how I want to be and a way to get there. I’m very grateful to the company. However at the same time there are times when I find things difficult. Do you have times in this job where you find things difficult or feel as if you can’t really deal with a certain situation Oishi?

Oishi: Earlier I mentioned how I want to be an “immature adult”, but that being said I still have to continually grow and evolve as a human. I don’t mean just improving your knowledge, if you can’t improve yourself as a human than you won’t be able to continue to demonstrate your value to executives or job seekers who are candidates for executive positions. It’s quite a strenuous thing for me, and there are times when I can’t get my thoughts and opinions through to my clients. If you can’t get them to hire anyone then you get no sales revenue, and of course you have to materialize consulting as a business, and so times like that can be painful.

Watanabe: Indeed. Regions is a startup company with a small number of employees. We can’t afford to be stagnant, and I think we must constantly try to challenge new things. Also, who must not just have a sense of maintaining the status quo. We have to change ourselves. We must also absorb information and use it to reform. There’s a lot of these kind of pressures. As long as you’re doing this job as a business, while it’s important to see what you enjoy and don’t, you must also give out results, meaning there is quite a bit of pressure.

Oishi: At the end of the day we can’t give any decisions, no matter what we do. It is applicants who decide whether to enter a company, and companies who decide whether to hire someone. All we can do is advise. While we can’t decide anything at the end, we can think of our client and do as much as possible for them. That can be both interesting and bothersome. There are times when you feel betrayed.

Watanabe: There are times when I’ve been upset from that. Lots and lots of times. Maybe around 80%.

Oishi: It’s pretty difficult to just maintain your composure, don’t you think?

Watanabe: My heart is always in disarray.

Oishi: That’s why when I meet someone who says they want to be a career consultant, I always think “Really? Are you sure??” You feel the same right?

Watanabe: There’s no end to it, and no time to catch your breath. How do you take your mind off things Oishi?

Oishi: You have no choice but to take your mind off things with work. For example “I’m really glad that this case went well” et cetera. I was once told by my instructor that “Starting this job means that you’ve given up your basic human rights”, but I feel that in a way that’s true. Indeed I’d say the better you perform the more you think like that. Not in the negative sense of “I don’t have any rights”, but more the idea that your work and life are completely united. I think that is the greatest blessing of this job.

Watanabe: Earlier you said that you like to see the job as introducing your friends to your friends, but that really is the inherent state of this job isn’t it.

Oishi: That’s precisely why you can get quite emotional. Everyday life and work are combined. It’s quite a difficult job for someone who wants to work 9-5 Monday to Friday.

The value of working at Regions. A company where you can work freely.

Oishi: What do you think the enjoyment and value of working at Regions is?

Watanabe: As I work in Utsunomiya my story will be quite centered around Tochigi, but in Tochigi there is a lot of competition from large companies and Regions isn’t too well known. We can’t rely on our brand image. It’s a situation where we have no choice but the clear a way with our own skills and obtain trust. As a result when I hit a wall at the start it was really difficult. Our customers often started with “Isn’t that a little strange? Your head office is in Hokkaido!”. However, in contrast I feel that due to that I was able to get a bit stronger. Also, another reason that I’m glad I joined this company is that you can work freely. Each individual has discretionary power. That can be both a blessing and a curse, but it’s very attractive to be able to do what you want, but on the other hand it’s very difficult for people who don’t have something they particularly want to do.

Oishi: It’s not really a company for people who like straightforward work or simply following orders. They won’t be able to produce any results.

Watanabe: That’s right. What about you Oishi?

Oishi: I always say whatever I want to the company. Regardless of whether it’s to the CEO or whoever. I’m really grateful that they listen to what I say. Something I think is distinctively good is that everyone is a hard worker. The CEO himself is very diligent, and everyone is thinking seriously about the region, everyone seriously wants to make a change to the world. But if I’m being honest I wish everyone would loosen up a bit more. I want them to act more freely. After all, they’re at a company that will let them do it. Another good aspect of Regions is that you can express your feelings openly. It’s the kind of company where if you don’t express your feelings then you’ll be asked why you joined in the first place. Perhaps that can be both a good thing and an annoyance.

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