They looked like any other job recruiting seminar. Company officials asked job seekers their perceived strengths and in return were asked what kind of people they want to hire.

But one seminar held in mid-September in Tokyo targeted people with disabilities, while another highlighted Asian students in Japan who want to work for a Japanese company.

Amid Japan’s chronic labor shortage, companies are seeking a diversified workforce, including people with mental illness and foreign nationals, in an effort to expand their business overseas.

Adding to the trend is a planned legal revision that from April will oblige companies to hire people with mental illnesses and other disabilities, prompting the job placement industry to organize new kinds of job fairs. Companies are expected to recruit more people with mental illnesses, as well as those with physical and intellectual disabilities.

To diversify employment, companies are already holding job fairs in response to the various needs and characteristics of potential employees.

Node Inc., a manpower agency targeting foreign students in Japan, mainly those from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, held a seminar in Tokyo in mid-September where seven companies took part, including nursing care and real estate businesses.

Among the students who participated were about 30 from ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and Thailand.

At the seminar, the participating companies were briefed about how to obtain work permits for prospective employees and the advantages of employing foreigners, while the students were given advice on job interviews.

“We are looking for human resources who can become our partner when we advance into the Southeast Asian market,” an official in charge of personnel affairs at Tokyo-based realtor Tact Home Co. said.

Foreign students are also welcoming the trend.

“I’d like to work in fields where I can use my environmental management expertise. I want to act as a bridge between Japan and Thailand,” said a female student from Thailand who attended the seminar.

Since its launch in 2014, Node has organized 10 job-matching seminars, inviting students from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and companies interested in hiring them.

According to the government-backed Japan Student Services Organization, the number of foreign students in Japan totaled 239,287 as of May 2016, up 14.8 percent from a year earlier, with those from ASEAN countries accounting for more than a quarter.

“Inquiries we receive from companies looking for work-ready manpower have increased year after year,” a Node official said.

In a separate seminar in mid-September, Recruit Staffing Co. arranged interview sessions for recruiting people with disabilities, bringing some 20 companies and 40 job seekers in their 20s to 40s in Tokyo.

“Ahead of the scheduled mandatory employment of people with mental illness, we want to secure manpower who can work for a long time,” said Keisuke Tokoyo, president of IT firm Takes Co.

“By meeting directly with applicants, we can learn about their personalities and characteristics in person — which we cannot find in background papers,” Tokoyo said of the interview session he attended.

Job seekers benefit from such events because they can get a lot of information about jobs at one time.

“I’m glad I was able to contact many companies,” one participant said. Another said, “It’s good to know how I could work at each company.”

An official of Litalico Inc., a job and education assistance service provider for disabled people, said corporate demand for holding interviews for disabled people is strong.

The company co-hosted the September session with Recruit Staffing.

“We will organize more interviews not only in Tokyo but also in other regions as a way of connecting the disabled to companies,” the official said.

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