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Unlike many new graduates, Issei Iimura won’t feel too nervous next spring when he begins working at Asatsu-DK Inc., a major advertising company in Tokyo.

That’s because university senior Iimura, 22, got not only a job at the company but also a mentor, Shotaro Nieda, 30, through the company’s unique recruitment system.

For the 2017 business year starting in April, Asatsu-DK changed its system of hiring new graduates and began allowing job seekers to choose who they want to be interviewed by.

The new system is aimed at recruiting people that existing employees want to work with, according to officials at the ad agency.

It selected some 90 people from among its employees as potential interviewers, and had them describe on the company website their lives at work — what work they perform and how, according to job category.

Job seekers could choose five from the employee list, with the company eventually designating one as the actual interviewer.

If a job seeker was found to be qualified for a job at the company and passed a written exam, the interviewer then became a “buddy employee” who provided a “support speech” for the job seeker at an interview with higher-ranking managers.

“I was surprised (by the system),” Iimura said. “But I thought I’d be able to do something meaningful with the company, which has such a unique way of recruitment.”

And he will start work at Asatsu-DK with an experienced ally to show the way. “I am willing to become a mentor (for Iimura) when he begins his job,” Nieda said.

Asatsu-DK also saw a decline in the number of job seekers who later spurned job offers, they said, because the system helps new recruits establish ties with senior employees through interviews and exams.

Asatsu-DK is just one of the companies adopting new ways to recruit employees.

Customarily, Japanese companies hire employees by interviewing students expected to finish school the following year. The interviews take place for months starting in the summer, with students interviewing at several companies. Eventually they take one job offer and turn down others.

That system has been criticized as stiff and ineffective, among other complaints, because it provides few opportunities for mid-career workers to seek a different career path once they take that first job.

Companies also miss the opportunity to hire talented, already experienced workers, critics say.

But some companies are rethinking the conventional approach, especially in the IT industry where competition to recruit skilled personnel is fierce.

For example, major internet and telecom firm SoftBank Corp. has abandoned the practice of simultaneous interviews, or interviewing many job seekers within a short span of time, and has started hiring job applicants up to age 30 throughout the year.

SoftBank hopes to attract a variety of people, including graduates of overseas universities, and to reduce the strain on students compelled to decide where to work in just a short period before April every year.

E-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. also started hiring engineers throughout the year in 2015, while Yahoo Japan Corp. announced in October it will hire applicants up to age 30 throughout the year.

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives, meanwhile, has proposed that companies hire applicants under the same conditions for five years after graduation.

And Hajime Yamazaki, an economic critic, has said, “the move is desirable for companies wishing to attract various human resources.”

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