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Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2001

Net provides alternative for job-seekers

Online recruitment agencies erode domination of traditional providers


Staff writer

Print media and conventional job-placement agencies are still the main players in connecting jobs to seekers, but the Internet is slowly emerging as an alternative.

"We tell our client companies that we will make life easier for them by doing most of their work to hire people," said Michael Nishi, president of Asia-Net, an online recruitment agency based in Tokyo.

Asia-Net is one of an increasing number of online recruiting agencies that post job opportunity advertisements on their Web sites and accept resumes via e-mail.

The agencies typically screen and grade resumes according to conditions set by client companies, then match the best candidates with open positions.

While employers pay the agencies for posting their help-wanted ads, job-seekers, in most cases, use the services free of charge.

To survive competition, online job-placement agencies are targeting niche markets.

Nishi said Asia-Net focuses on jobs for "bilingual and international-minded professionals" and works with companies operating in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia-Net's site lists an average of 300 companies a month, and the number is on the rise.

Another company, Tokyo-based Venture Online, targets people interested in positions at venture businesses. About 180 companies post their ads on Venture Online's Web site, and about 5,000 people a month send in resumes.

Meanwhile, Jinzai Draft Co., which launched its Web site in October, targets candidates with expertise in finance, such as certified public accountants and financial planners.

"We're focusing on specific types of careers, so it makes things very easy for our clients to look for the people they want," said Hideo Kawano of Jinzai Draft.

Although the Labor Ministry does not keep records on the number of online agencies, 758 employment agencies were licensed during the 12-month period through the end of November, compared with 480 in the corresponding period a year ago.

The sharp rise came in response to a December 1999 revision to the the Employment Security Law that enabled private agencies to provide job-matching services in almost all job categories except for construction and harbor shipping services.

Previously, such services were primarily provided by state-run employment offices.

Traditional job-placement agencies are also putting some services on the Internet.

Recruit Ablic Co., a major job-placement firm that has been operating since 1977, opened a Web site about four years ago to handle resumes.

The affiliate of job magazine giant Recruit Co. receives an average 2,500 resumes per month via the Internet, and the number has been increasing.

"We want to be able to answer to the different needs of our potential candidates and our client companies," said Shinichi Sakamoto of Recruit Ablic. "While we want to maintain our traditional way of providing services, we need to be alert to the different services that our competitors are providing," he said.

Online job-placement agencies, however, were operating in a legal gray area for a long time as the Labor Ministry took until July to establish guidelines for them.

Under the previous regulations covering conventional job-placement agencies, providers of job-matching services had to be licensed, physically meet with job-seekers and provide job information in a written format, whereas those simply providing information were not.

With online agencies sprouting in various forms, the line between the two categories was blurred, which left the area unregulated.

The government in July drew a distinctive line, however, to clarify what kinds of online agencies are required to obtain licenses.

The ministry in April also plans to drop a requirement for job-matching service providers to physically meet with job-seekers, a move designed to eliminate an obstacle to the further spread of online agencies.

With the Internet fast permeating people's everyday lives, companies hoping to recruit new employees are finding Web sites an efficient tool.

Mitsubishi Corp., a major trading house, is now advertising jobs for midcareer posts on Asia-Net as well as on its own Web site, said Yukari Abe, a spokeswoman for the firm.

"It's not just that we want Net-savvy staff," she said.

"But by recruiting people online, we've been able to cut down on paperwork, both in handouts for candidates and in resumes we receive from them," she said. "Online recruiting has made the entire process very efficient."

Nishi of Asia-Net said newspaper and magazine job-placement ads still outnumber online postings. But in a decade or so, he predicted, things will be quite different.

"I think it's natural that clients will believe more in online (services) in a decade or so and they will convert to online recruiting," he said.

For that to happen, however, more people must begin using the Internet. Greater job liquidity is another key factor.

But with Japan's lifetime employment system gradually eroding and more companies outsourcing their recruiting to cut costs, Nishi believes more opportunities lie ahead.

"The Internet recruiting business is one of the most energetic and quickly growing industries among online businesses in the United States," he said. "And I think Japan will follow a similar path."



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