Recruit employees from the Public Relations team (also former newspaper reporters) recently interviewed "Deko" Hisayuki Idekoba, President and CEO of Recruit Holdings. Read more to discover the background of Deko's management philosophy and why he came up with the sustainability commitment, which was announced on May 17, 2021.
(Viewing time: 10 minutes)
"The world can't be that difficult." Thinking outside of the box.
Today, I would like to ask you a wide range of questions, ranging from your personality to your views on management. Can you first tell us about your childhood?
Sure. I think I was an inconspicuous child. According to my parents, I was always doing the same things: running around on the block wall alone, pitching a ball at the wall for hours. I never found myself bored. My parents said that I seemed to be deep in thought a lot of the time.
For generations, my family has worked as roof tile makers in the countryside of Kagoshima Prefecture, which is located in southern Japan. When I was in elementary school, I sometimes helped my parents on my days off and got pocket money from my work. I was told to learn by observing the movements of good craftsmen, so I watched them closely.
Were you a studious child?
Well, I was more interested in finishing my work as soon as possible. I carefully observed all the behaviors of good craftsmen, and discovered that the key to efficiency was their usage of the edge of the roof.
The edge of the roof? Could you elaborate on that?
Sure. There's a difference in speed in cutting the tiles according to the size of the margin of the roof. The speed at which the tiles were sized depended on the craftsman: a skilled craftsman could crack the tiles with a hammer in about three seconds, while an ordinary craftsman would typically cut them with an electric sander*1 in about ten seconds. As a child, I helped by going back and forth between the ground and the roof, cutting the tiles with an electric sander on the ground and then delivering them up to the roof.
*1 A tool for sanding wood and metal.
That must've been extra work.
Yes, it was. But even as a child, I wanted to be treated like a professional. I started drawing a temporary line on tiles, which allowed me to hold several pieces at once and become faster than the craftsman using the electric sander on the roof. I was about 12 years old then.
Great idea! You don't like wasting time, do you?
Not really. When I joined Recruit and worked as a salesperson, I remember disagreeing with a senior colleague about the necessity of writing a thank you card to a client after a client visit. I didn't understand its necessity and why we needed to spend our time on it.
Would you describe yourself as someone who questions the status quo?
Definitely. If someone says that something must be done in a certain way, I always wonder if it's true. I like to ask questions like: Is this scientifically verified? Why is it like this? Why is a person doing this? Or, if aliens saw us doing this, what would they think? And so on.
Attending university, want to be "rich"
You eventually moved from your home country, Kagoshima, to attend university in Tokyo. Did you ever consider taking up the roof tile maker practice?
I actually wanted to get out of that environment. My father always converted everything he saw into the price of a single roof tile, which costs about 110 yen. So if there was something I wanted, he would tell me how much it was worth in tiles and then usually wouldn't buy it for me. I grew tired of the practice and that lifestyle, so I decided to attend university. My driving force at the time was to pursue a career or a line of work that made more money.
Is that how you started your online business while in university?
It wasn't really a business. Around 1997, my friend's parents wanted to make a website for their company, so I made one using a website builder. They gave me 50,000 yen for it. I was surprised at how much money I could earn, so I started making more websites. Running three web servers by myself, I eventually discovered how to display websites at the top of search engines through an optional fee, which improved SEO performance. I also set up a monthly running fee to maintain websites on behalf of their owners. It was a worthwhile investment for them, and today it's a common business practice.
This was the early days of internet start-ups. Were there a lot of entrepreneurs around you who would later become active in the IT industry in Japan?
There were none at all. And, at the time, there wasn't really a bigger purpose for me. I wanted to make some money, so I was just doing it by myself. Then the time came when I had to think about finding a job after graduation, so I went straight into the freshman recruiting period, which is common in Japan.
"Have you ever wanted to make your own decisions?" Meeting Recruit and combatting hardships.
Deko, you joined the company in 1999, right?
Yes. It was a time when the economy was stagnant, and it was difficult to find a job. At the time, it was impressive to get lots of job offers, if any. Like many people, I became absorbed in getting as many job offers as I could, without really considering if those roles were good fits for me.
During my job hunt as a new graduate, I remember being at the final interview stage with a certain company. I was told that they didn't think I embodied the enthusiasm to work in that industry. At that time, I was strangely convinced that I really didn't have the enthusiasm. Then, one day, I casually flipped through a recruitment brochure that I happened to have received.
This is it. Recruit's brochure.
Every single thing written in the brochure resonated with me, especially the question, "Have you ever wanted to make your own decisions?" It struck me, and I thought, "Yes!" I made a phone call to Recruit right then and there, scheduled an interview, and decided to join the company.
It was a fateful encounter. From that point on, did you continue thinking about ways to make more money?
I did. I told everyone around me that I would quit after three years. But in reality, the number of users on Jalan Net increased and my work became so interesting that I didn't want to quit. However, around that time, I was diagnosed with peritonitis and had to be hospitalized for about three weeks.
Could you tell us about that experience?
I remember my doctor was very concerned for me, and said that I was wandering between life and death. The disease would not have been serious if I had properly taken care of myself on a daily basis. I asked him when I could return to my work. My team members were waiting for me, I told him. He grew angry, and said that I must reflect on my life. I decided to read books about philosophy and history while I was in the hospital.
How did that experience influence your outlook on life?
For the first time, death became a part of me, and I began thinking about how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. If I had died then, I'm sure some of my colleagues would've said, "Thanks to Deko, the number of users of Jalan Net has increased." But I'd rather the people of the world say, "Thanks to Deko, this process has become more convenient, and has made my life better." Since then, I've decided to spend my time only on things that make me truly happy and make the people of the world happy. It's a feeling I've held onto for a long time now. I really think that everyone should pursue what they want to do and whatever makes them happy.
User's fact alone is enough — the results don't lie within me
Even so, within the company, numerical results are also very important. How do you balance financial goals with the vision of allowing everyone to do what they want?
As a company, it is important to generate sales and profits to fund the things that make people happy. However, I think the essence of a company is whether or not it can make people happy. I think the role of the CEO is to coordinate across the company in order to maximize the value. In other words, Recruit Group is a group of people who work to help all people get jobs and help the enterprises in Japan work smarter. It's necessary to have a coordinator so that the group can produce the best results and make the world happy.
That's true. So you became a CEO because you are good at coordinating and producing results, right?
I don't know, I wouldn't say I'm spectacular at it. But I do recognize a sense that someone must do that kind of work. Since Recruit bet on my passion, it's my responsibility to produce results, so I work hard. And I know if I work hard, the results will follow. I've been working very hard in this infinite loop ever since I joined Recruit. But I do take care to focus on making our mission come true—not just increasing company value.
Do you mean that you don't only pursue sales and profits?
If a product has value, many people will want to use it. I think that fact alone is enough. On the same note, there is something wrong if people can't understand the results, which is why you must thoroughly explain them. And I know the results don't lie within me. I've always envisioned the final result as something that delivers a service that is widely used by many people.
Why do you insist on "widely used by many people"?
I believe that if it doesn't, we're not truly striving toward Recruit Group's mission. I am not Recruit Holding's founder. I have only been able to use the assets of my predecessors, whether it be customer contacts, data, business models, or capital. It is my role and responsibility to build on those assets and deliver better services to billions of people.
Yes, that may be the role of all of us.
I think it's important for all of us to ask ourselves, "Why did we join Recruit Group and what would we like to do?" It's my job to make the answer clear to our employees around the world. I'm trying to make it clear to my employees that when something is achieved, we can toast to it and celebrate together. To overstep language barriers, we're trying to convey these achievements and ideas through lots of imagery and pictures.
What is it like to get a job, fast and simple, with the push of a button?
How did you get involved in the HR industry?
My interest in the HR industry was triggered by an experience in Jakarta around 2010. While there, I met a woman, a professional hitchhiker*2 who carried a baby in her arms, and asked if there were any other jobs out there for her. She told me that she didn't know how to look for another job. In some countries, there were no jobs posted anywhere.
*2 The job of riding in someone else's car and getting paid for it was created as a countermeasure of the government regulation, which states that no one can drive in Jakarta unless there are at least three people in a car.
Wow, it is so hard.
I thought, "This can't be good for the people or the economy of the country." At the time, I was in charge of looking for M&A opportunities at Recruit Holdings, so I had many connections with investors. There were many people who said that HR was not a sexy industry. It was too niche. But I thought it was very important for people to get jobs, and I thought this business was very meaningful.
I see, and the HR field is one of Recruit's founding businesses.
However, when we wanted to provide services to more people at a low price, it was not realistic to deploy salespeople all over the world to collect job information, as was the Recruit way at the time. But I found that I could do this by using the search engine technology of the internet. That's how I fell in love with Indeed.
So that's how you got involved with Indeed. About 10 years have passed since then, and now Recruit Group has set out to create a world where people can get a job, fast and simple, with the push of a button, which you announced recently.
As we expanded our services to various countries, we were able to collect data and learn many things along the way. For example, more than 100 million of people will apply for dozens of jobs in a year, and most of them get no response.
Yes. For example, 1,000 people apply for a job at a restaurant in India. The restaurant doesn't have the resources to contact 999 people to tell them they're not hired, so those applicants don't receive a response. They never know if they've been rejected or not.
If I were a job seeker, that would be frustrating.
Actually, we know that if someone is unemployed for three months, there is a high possibility that the person will fall into poverty. That's why it's better to prevent this from happening.
There are many other parts of the job application processes like screening the documents, setting the interview date and time, interviewing the candidate, and so on, that take up a lot of time and resources not just for the employer, but for the job seeker. Every step requires patience and time, making it time-consuming to get from application to interview to finally being hired. In this way, there are various issues in each step.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it very difficult to have in-person job interviews.
That's right. Last year, Indeed launched Virtual Interviewing. When you look at each step of the hiring process in detail, there are many things that make you wonder, "Is this really the best way?" I believe that there are social issues that can be solved through technology to streamline these processes. As a benchmark, Recruit Group has decided to reduce the time to get a job by half by 2030.
I'm recognizing a connection between "no-response," "poverty," and "halving the time to find work." Could you tell us how getting there "with the push of a button" fits into that narrative? Do you mean to cut down the hassle of the process so that you can get some kind of job with one click? Does it also mean you can find a suitable job?
From the product development side, it makes a big difference. On the other hand, from the user's perspective, both are important. Everyone is happier when they can find a job that suits them, right? If the job is right for you, you'll have a higher chance of making a decision that helps you get a job faster. That's why we are trying to develop a product that can recommend a job that suits each individual.
Are you saying that AI will automatically select jobs for you?
No, our AI technology will only recommend suitable jobs for the individual. It's up to the individual to decide whether or not to accept those recommendations.
Some people may find it strange for AI to recommend a job to them.
That may be true. But if you look at it realistically, it is said that only 4% of people in the U.S. actually meet the recruiter who introduces the perfect fit job for them. I'd like to bring this kind of experience to as many people as possible. However, we can't just call billions of people and interview them in order to find their perfect fit. This is where technology can help automate the process.
Do you think this could change the job seeker's sense of choice and decision-making process?
That will be a consequence of how each individual uses the tools. Some people say that the internet and smartphones lack human warmth — but those technologies also bring the value of connecting with someone you haven't seen in years.
Certainly. With the pandemic, more attention is being paid to value.
I think that human nature will not change so much. For example, I don't think we will have the same health management applications in 100 years from now, though I think there will still be people who eat too many delicious foods. The nature of human beings will not change — only the tools that surround them will change as technology evolves. And it is clear from history that the trend will be toward cheaper and more convenient products for more people.
I see. So you're saying that you want to provide a tool to shorten the time to get hired by half.
Yes. Whether this tool is right or not is a question that cannot be answered at this time. However, I know for a fact that there are hundreds of millions of people who want to work but are unable to get jobs. If their unemployment status doesn't change for three months, there is a high possibility that they will fall into poverty. I would like to help develop a meaningful tool that prevents people from falling into this situation. I have a symbolic picture of a world where people can get a job as fast and simply as possible with the push of a button.
I think I understand what you mean when you say "a symbolic picture." It's an ideal of the future that is quite endless, or rather, not easy to achieve.
It's a niche thought, but I also think that we are the only company that can shorten the time to get hired by half.
Why do you say that we are the only ones who can make this possible?
It is because Recruit Group has lots of data to work with. I don't think any other company in the world is confronting this area at this scale — and that is why I think we should take the most responsibility. On the other hand, if the number of people who cannot find a job does not decrease over the next 10-20 years, that's on us. Even if we achieve a high growth of revenue at that time, I don't think that is so cool do I?. I don't know how close we'll get to reaching this goal, but I'm going to work hard to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your time today, Deko!
[Video] A Conversation with the Recruit Holdings CEO
Corporate Communications Group, External Communications 1 Department, Public Relations & Sustainability, Brand Promotion Office, Recruit Co., Ltd.
After working in the marketing of English teaching materials at Benesse Corporation, he became a reporter for the Sao Paulo Newspaper in Brazil, covering the 2014 World Cup and other events. After that, he worked as a reporter for Nihon Keizai Newspaper in Japan and joined Recruit Career in 2018. Since then, he has been engaged in PR. He is currently in charge of public relations for the SaaS business.
Public Relations & Sustainability, Public Relations & Brand Promotion Office, External Communications 1 Department, Sales Promotion PR 1 Group, Recruit Co., Ltd.
After working as a reporter for the Asahi Newspaper, she joined Recruit Career in 2016. Suzuko previously participated in media sales for new graduates, and joined her current department in April 2009.
"Deko" Hisayuki Idekoba
President, CEO, and Representative Director of the Board of Recruit Holdings .Co., Ltd.
Over the course of two decades, Deko has led the digital transformation of numerous Recruit Group businesses. He was responsible for transitioning print publications and marketing sectors into online businesses across various sectors including travel, beauty, and dining. Being appointed Corporate Executive Officer in 2012, he led the acquisition of Indeed and later served as Indeed's CEO, helping Recruit Holdings become the leading global HR technology company it is today.