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Thursday, Nov. 23, 2000

Exec finds niche as firms outsource manpower hunt


Staff writer

With deregulation in the job market and the proliferation of the Internet, job-seekers now have more windows through which to approach a potential employer.

But personnel managers often find themselves buried under mountains of resumes, many of which are unsolicited. Hiroyuki Hosoda knows this through experience.

At his previous job as a human resources manager at the Japanese subsidiary of computer group Hewlett-Packard Co., Hosoda was constantly bombarded with applications, including those faxed by some 190 employment agencies.

"Deregulation has opened the job-placement business to newcomers and the Internet has allowed agents to easily collect data on job-seekers," Hosoda, 35, said. "But some agents scatter resumes around without bothering to check whether the applicant is right for the job offered."

Resumes also come from individuals responding to employment ads in magazines and on companies' Web sites.

"With limited resources, many personnel people are at a loss as to how to meet their imperative of hiring talented people speedily."

That's where he found his niche. In October, Hosoda spun off from HP, setting up his own employment and career counseling agency, Ability Design, in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward.

Hosoda now undertakes 70 percent of all hiring for the HP Japan group, giving written exams and interviewing applicants. He then presents the company with a list of selected candidates.

He is offering a similar service to other firms as well.

His 10 years of expertise in human resource management has also prompted corporations with personnel concerns to seek his advice. One of the 10 or so projects he is working on involves a megamerger, and Hosoda has been helping the soon-to-be-merged firms assess the aptitude of their managers. He refuses to disclose the names of his clients.

Many mergers often fail due to political infighting over personnel decisions. In the past, merging firms have tried to resolve such conflicts by turning to a practice known as "tasukigake," in which key posts at the new company are divided equally among the parties involved, or by allowing the companies with the higher stock prices to take the lead in making personnel decisions.

Hosoda, however, sees this as lacking objectivity and fairness and as being ineffective at producing strong performers.

He argues that companies can make a merger succeed by assessing the caliber of each manager objectively, using tools such as personality tests, interviews and role-playing assignments.

Through these tools, such finely defined qualities as attention to detail, quick thinking, innovativeness, creativeness, sociability and independence are evaluated and reported numerically to client firms. The final judgment on whether to promote one worker or another, however, still rests with the employers.

Another project he is working on concerns a major manufacturer. At the company, about 600 employees -- mostly between 35 and 45 years old -- fall off the managerial career track every year. If left unattended, their performance level will drop, Hosoda said, adding that he is coaching the firm on how to keep morale high.

Remedies include lectures and the recommendation of counseling.

"Basically, I try to help such workers widen their perspectives, persuading them at times that becoming a manager is not the only way to live a happy life," he said.

In a time when mergers and acquisitions are on the increase, more restructuring and smaller budgets for human resource management mean that corporations will increase their dependence on outsiders offering specialized services such as Hosoda's, he said.

"Outsourcing of human resource management will inevitably grow," Hosoda said. "Businesses can no longer afford to have human resources specialists in-house."



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