Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Japan recruiting scene goes pink

April 16, 2009

Tokyo’s first Pink Slip Party, held this week in the Roppongi Hills complex that used to house Lehman Brothers’ Japan operations, was certainly a success in terms of the number of media organisations that showed up. But whether the event, based on the Wall Street gatherings where laid-off bankers and recruiters network over drinks, worked by Japanese cultural standards was a little hard to tell.

In Japan’s conservative recruitment culture, you don’t usually hear people openly admitting to having been “restructured” out of a job, even amid the current financial crisis.

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“There is a sort of stigmatism associated with being laid-off,” said Rajiv Sawhney, a former Lehman Brothers employee in Tokyo now looking to get back into the finance industry. Sawhney was one of only a handful of job-seekers at the party who was willing to speak to me on the record.

“Especially in Japan where it’s so rare for a Japanese company to lay people off, they don’t really want to tell people. They don’t want to network and find out if people can help them,” he said.

Nevertheless, the party attracted a slew of reporters and cameramen from local TV stations, newspapers and magazines. Soichiro “Swimmy” Minami, chief executive of the event’s organiser BizReach, said more than 20 media organisations had come along, which to my mind underlined how unusual the gathering was by Japanese standards.

While reporters and cameramen bustled from one end of the bar to the other conducting interviews, it wasn’t rare to see job-seekers and recruiters standing idle with near-empty glasses in their hands clearly not doing the very thing they were meant to be doing – networking.

Some job-seekers seemed unfamiliar with the culture of networking and were hesitant to approach recruiters. “I’ve never seen this kind of business practice,” said one job-hunter standing alone in the corner of the pink-lit bar. He declined to be identified.

Company recruiters, although enthusiastic about the future of Japanese networking events for their purposes, remained cautious.

Katsu Kuwano, Representative Director of online luxury retailer Gilt Groupe, said “It would be great if we could find good people, but we don’t really know that yet. If there is the right candidate, we’ll come back next time. But if not, then it’s a waste of time and we probably won’t be back.”

Picture credit: REUTERS/Kei Okamura

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