Job search agencies with free student services are spreading in Japan – but caution is advised

This photo provided by Reatage Co. shows a new grad agent consulting with a student.

TOKYO — The job search process for students due to graduate in the spring of 2023 is in full swing. While it is not uncommon to see large numbers of students coming together each year for joint company information sessions, more and more job seekers are now turning to “new grad agencies” to help them. selecting companies and preparing for interviews. A reporter from Mainichi Shimbun investigated the situation.

Akira Mogi, 22, who enrolled at a university in Tokyo, was relieved to receive a job offer from a Tokyo-based IT company in late March. She commented, “I found my ideal company and got a job offer from her.” An agency had enticed Mogi to take the IT company’s job test.

These agencies offer services that help students in their job search. Once students register their information on agency websites, a full-time consultant is assigned to them. It provides them with job search advice, corrects their applications and presents them to companies according to their preferences. The service is free for students, while the companies that hire the students pay a referral commission to the agencies.

Mogi signed up with such a service in October 2021 and consulted with her agent approximately once a week, in person and online, regarding her self-analysis and industry selection. At first, she didn’t have a specific industry in mind, but through consulting, she narrowed it down to three industries, and then she applied to an IT company she liked from those she was introduced to.

Mogi recalls, “Using an agency helped me understand the job search process and kept me from falling behind in the process. I was applying. If I hadn’t used an agency, I would have struggled more.”

According to Tokyo-based Reeastage Co., which provides such services, the number of students enrolled in the service increased from 46,000 in 2019 to 66,000 in 2021. The increase started around 2018. At the time, a labor shortages were becoming more severe and it was said to be a “seller’s market“. So there was a flood of job offers from companies that wanted to hire more workers. With more jobs available, it seems like more students want to efficiently gather information and figure out which companies they should apply to join.

This trend of employing agency services has been spurred by the fact that the coronavirus crisis has reduced opportunities for students to travel to their campuses, making it difficult for them to use university career centers and exchanging information with friends.

Ai Inaba from the company’s public relations department said, “Many students don’t know where to start their job search. The gap between ideals and reality is wide in job hunting, but by consulting with an agent, students can bridge that gap while choosing the company they want to work for.”

However, as the use of these services increases, problems between some agencies and students would increase. According to industry insiders, agencies receive referral fees ranging from 500,000 yen to several million yen (roughly $4,000 to tens of thousands of dollars) from companies for each student recruited. However, if a student withdraws after receiving a job offer, the agent does not receive the referral fee.

One person associated with an agency said: “Recently companies are hiring earlier and the period between job offers and entering companies is longer, so some students change their minds and apply to others. companies. Even if we take the time to provide advice, it will be in vain if the student declines the job offer. Therefore, some agencies try to force students to join a company and prevent them from declining the offers.

Universities are also becoming more vigilant. A person close to a university in the Kansai region said: “We started to receive an increasing number of consultations on the problems (caused by these agencies) a few years ago. Students are rushing to career offices , claiming that recommendations for companies they didn’t like were forced on them.

Setsunan University in Osaka Prefecture is urging students to beware of such agencies, as there have been complaints at other universities that “agencies don’t listen when students turn down job offers. employment” and “students’ personal information has been passed on to other parties”. and they’ve been contacted by companies they don’t know.”

What should be paid attention to when using such agencies? Naoki Fukushima, an employment consultant, warned: “Some agencies can get you in trouble. It is important to research the agency thoroughly by checking its reputation on the internet or in other ways before signing up. .”

In addition, since agents only introduce students to affiliated companies, Fukushima advised, “Information from agents alone may be biased. You can benefit from the job search process by exchanging information with the center of your college career and your friends at the same time.”

(Japanese original by Ryotaro Ikawa, Department of Economic Information)

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