“We always need to think from a client’s perspective … [and] to give them that extra mile of service”

Back to basics

JAC International strives to change the image of recruiting in Japan


Text by Toby Waters

Self-improvement is one thing. Improving your company is another. But it’s something else entirely to try and improve the image of the industry you work in. Ash Elfadeli, CEO at JAC International, a subsidiary of JAC Recruitment, is aiming to do just this — and as with any lofty ambition, he’s making sure to get the small things right.

Founded in the UK in 1975, JAC Recruitment initially recruited for Japanese firms as they expanded overseas. Today, it has grown to become the third-largest recruitment firm in Japan for fulltime placements, with 800 employees. It is also the largest 360 recruitment firm — that is, one responsible for all aspects of the hiring process — with global coverage. The firm is listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It specialises in hiring for mid-career roles, and caters to a wide range of sectors, including medical devices, IT and fashion.

JAC Recruitment has offices all over the world, most of which are in Asia, and it recently opened an office in Germany. This cross-border network is an advantage when it comes to having the right mindset for recruitment, according to Elfadeli.

“Since we have UK roots, I believe we are naturally conscious of having a global mindset in Japan,” he says. “If we only focus on the domestic market, we may tend to become closeminded and forget about the big picture.”

One element in that big picture is Elfadeli’s goal to improve the image of the recruitment sector in Japan. Many businesses — especially older, established Japanese ones — don’t have much experience working with outside recruiters, and so don’t understand the finer points or advantages of doing so. For example, there is a world of difference between temporary and permanent recruitment solutions, but many clients might not be aware of them. Worse, their inexperience might mean that they think lower-quality service is the norm.

“The average expectation of recruiters may not be so high,” Elfadeli explains, “which means companies would not be so surprised to encounter recruiters with less quality or professionalism.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way — Elfadeli believes that this industry can develop a positive reputation among clients, candidates and the general public in Japan, just as it enjoys in other countries. Change, he believes, will come when recruitment firms take the time to do the basics well, but this is not happening here at the moment.

“What other firms are doing is looking at one key performance indicator [KPI] for all when it comes to managing recruiters’ performance” he explains. “They go to one Excel sheet and say, ‘This recruiter didn’t do well, fire him; she did, she’s good’. We don’t want that type of management.”

Instead, JAC International evaluates its employees using smart KPIs, which take into account a consultant’s seniority, coverage and specific role. The employees also undergo special customer service training, both internally and externally, to improve the quality of service that the clients and candidates receive.

“We are conscious of always thinking a step ahead and anticipating our clients’ and candidates’ needs,” Elfadeli says. “It may sound basic, but management and the employees are so close to each other that everyone in the company is committed to always being professional, providing the best service and becoming better human beings.”

Elfadeli’s theory is that by managing JAC’s recruiters on a person-by-person basis, their own satisfaction and sense of accomplishment will increase their motivation to provide superior service to clients and to candidates. His goal is, in turn, to instil in his employees the desire to take a personalised, individual approach to everyone they work with.

“I want to build a company where the client is the priority,” he says. “We always need to think from a client’s perspective, about what they want, to give them that extra mile of service.”

As part of its goal to get the best result for all parties, the team dig deep into what the clients are looking for, as well as what the candidates’ goals are, and give honest feedback. Elfadeli will sometimes tell prospective candidates — after hearing the full details of their goals and current role — that they are actually already in the perfect position.

This upfront attitude follows the company’s philosophy of fairness, freedom and discipline, executed through the values of speed, sincerity and attitude. These policies are carried out to ensure there is no regret on either side of the hire.

For candidates, JAC International doesn’t take for granted how profound an experience getting a new job can be.

“Like marriage or sending your kids to university, changing jobs is a big life event,” says Elfadeli. “Our passion is to make the process of finding a new opportunity memorable.”

The firm takes a similar approach with clients.



“In order to expand in this fast-growing market and find the right talent within a certain time limit, we act fast using tailor-made solutions,” he says.

Elfadeli also actively encourages companies to place more women in higher-paid positions. He notes with pride that JAC Recruitment was co-founded by a woman, Hiromi Tazaki, who currently serves as chairman. This, he believes, is an illustration of the positive example his company is setting for other recruitment agencies — and companies in other sectors across Japan.

“If I were a Japanese woman, I’d look at our example and think gambarimasu — I can do it,” he remarks.

These simple yet effective strategies are what Elfadeli belives can elevate the Japanese perception of the recruitment sector, and help to impress on clients why it benefits Japan as a whole, and their business in particular.

“My main mission would be to contribute to our clients and candidates by providing committed service of the highest quality, so that they will understand the importance and value of having a career consultant,” he says.

Elfadeli is optimistic, but he has a long road ahead. JAC International is just one consultancy, and this means that his mission to improve the reputation of the recruitment industry — by getting back to basics, as well as improving existing methodology and team management, and being upfront with candidates — is going to take significant time and effort to bear fruit. But when it does, that really will be something. 

“We want more hands-on management”