Case Study

  • Candidates

Essence Digital Stays Competitive Through Flexible Hiring Practices

The Situation

Essence Digital is an end-to-end global digital consultancy/media agency and the world’s largest buyer of digital media. Launched in the UK in 2005, Essence is now in eleven markets, running on millions of dollars of ad spend from clients like Expedia, eBay and most notably Google.We helped bring on Essence’s initial hire in Japan, Kyoko Matsushita.

High Hiring Hurdles

As we helped Essence build out their Japan team, we saw three strategic challenges. First, the caliber of individuals must be at least on par with Google Japan’s people. That’s a major challenge, since many prime candidates were already at Google, and Essence could not poach them. Second, working with Google at a global level requires the ability to translate concepts both conceptually and literally (with data), so Essence needed someone both fluent in English and with a deep understanding of Western culture. 

Third, Essence campaigns are data-driven and run across the full spectrum of digital—mobile, online, SEM/SEO, affiliates, display, DSP, etc. Since marketing is still a relatively new concept in Japan and analytics is in its infancy here, the supply of people with the skill set required is limited.

Scaling Talent Peak

Quickly realizing that limited pool in Japan, we searched our U.S. network to find Japanese-speaking candidates living abroad who would consider relocating to Japan for the right opportunity. However, we quickly saw that the logistics made this approach unfeasible. Instead, we discovered an unusual pool of candidates: strong, bilingual digital marketers in Japan with global exposure but only interested in moving abroad. 

The Candidate—An Unexpected Find 

Emi Maeda was born in Japan but studied overseas in the UK and Germany, and eventually went to Australia to work as a digital marketer for a small e-commerce platform. We knew immediately that Emi’s language and marketing skills were right for Essence.

Timing is always a critical factor, and fortunately for us Emi’s company had transferred her function to Japan. Her role was still marketing, but at a smaller scale with a smaller team. Emi immediately fell in love with the Essence team and their data-driven approach. The sense of culture fit was deep, and her strong analytical skills were a great match. She was interviewing with several large tech companies, however, and her priority was going back overseas. That posed a problem, of course, because Essence wanted someone embedded locally to focus on the Japanese market. 

How Did We Solve the Dilemma? 

While Emi sped through the interview process at Essence, we came up with a promising solution: hire her out of the Singapore office instead of Tokyo. Reason: her work is largely digital in nature, the time difference is minimal, and she could still focus on the Japanese market using tools like Skype. Essence agreed.

Emi received offers from other firms and even for positions with better pay, but chose Essence because of the team and job scope, and because Essence’s flexibility showed their corporate culture and commitment to people. 

Key Takeaways 

In the U.S., the challenge confronting companies like Facebook and Google is the task of sifting through a landslide of applications. In a candidate-driven market like Japan, however, the most desirable candidates often have a dozen options to choose from, so we have to match skill sets, personal goals and even personalities to positions. You need to pinpoint the motivators—geography, team, compensation structure, mentorship or other benefits—for the desirable individuals you meet and be willing to tailor your job offer to make it irresistible. In short, showing creativity and flexibility like Essence Digital did will make you more successful in hiring, particularly in Japan. 

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