We Want to Expand the Potential of the Next Generation of Talent! The Challenges Facing Mercari’s New Grad Recruiting Team

Mercari CHRO Tatsuo Kinoshita (@tatsuo) is passionate about his wish to “bring together diverse talent from around the world and foster an organization that is constantly evolving.” At Mercari, we invest resources into recruiting new graduates because we believe that in order for our business and organization to make giant leaps, it’s necessary to throw open our door not just to experienced senior-level professionals, but also to the next generation of talent.

For this article, we invited five of our members to contribute their thoughts and take a deep dive into the reasons why Mercari continues to recruit new graduates. In addition to Tatsuo (@tatsuo), we spoke with Talent Acquisition Team manager Takanobu Kuboki (@kubokkie) , New Grad Recruiting Team manager Masanori Murakami (@maashi), and recruiters Jane Corleony (@jane.c), and Victoria Astingo (@Vicky). From looking at how Mercari has handled hiring so far to giving a shout-out to people looking to take the first steps on their career path, this article is packed with our thoughts on new graduate recruitment, so be sure to read to the last line.

Featured in this article

  • Tatsuo Kinoshita

    Tatsuo worked for P&G Japan where he gained experience in his role as a Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP). After joining GE Japan in 2001 and working in the US and Thailand, he held roles as Black Belt at the Plastics Division, HRBP, HR Director of the Financial Division in 2007, and Organization & Talent Development HR Director for Asia. He became Head of HR for GE Japan in 2012. In 2015, he assumed the role of HR Director for the Asia Pacific Organization & Talent Development Division in Malaysia. He joined Mercari, Inc. in December 2018 as CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer).

  • Takanobu Kuboki

    Takanobu joined Rakuten Group in 2007. After working as an engineer in the company’s development department, he transferred to a position in global hiring. As the person in charge of engineer hiring, he was involved in launching initiatives for both new graduate recruitment and global recruitment. He joined Mercari in December 2018 as the manager of the Talent Acquisition Team. He is now in charge of managing a number of teams including Mid-Career and Hiring Management. In total, he has worked in domestic and overseas hiring for internet-based companies for more than 10 years. In addition to recruitment, he also has a large reserve of experience in other fields such as implementing and operating global HR systems.

  • Masanori Murakami

    Before coming to Mercari, Masanori joined recruitment company Biz Reach, a Visional Group company, where he was in charge of new graduate hiring and corporate sales. He also experienced the excitement of working for Biz Reach when Visional was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. In 2022, he joined Mercari where he has worked in the company’s corporate divisions such as Governance and Finance. He also worked on launching new graduate recruitment for the company’s India-based corporation. In addition, he has led company-wide projects such as the work to revamp new graduate recruitment across the company and the Build@Mercari hiring initiative. In August 2023, he became the manager of the New Grad Recruiting Team.

  • Jane Corleony

    Jane is originally from Indonesia and trilingual; she speaks English, Japanese, and Indonesian. After gaining nine years of experience in talent acquisition in Japan and other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, she joined Mercari as a mid-career recruiter in May 2021. She has been in charge of new graduate recruitment for Mercari Group since April 2023. Her strong interest in Diversity & Inclusion comes from her life experience as a person with a multicultural background.

  • Victoria Astingo

    A trilingual professional who speaks English, Japanese, and French, Victoria came to Japan from France nine years ago in 2014 and worked for a major apparel manufacturer. Following this, she worked in recruiting in the tech industry for five years. In December 2021, she joined Mercari as a sourcer/recruiter. She has been in charge of new graduate recruitment for Mercari Group since June 2023.

Mercari’s new graduate recruitment: Our beginnings and present

──To kick things off, I’d like to ask you about the history of Mercari’s new graduate recruitment. New graduate recruitment started in fiscal 2016, four years after Mercari started doing business. What was it that led to the establishment of your team at the company?

@tatsuo: There are three main reasons why Mercari implemented new graduate recruitment. The first reason is that we believe recruiting new graduates makes it easy for us to meet top-level talent who will empathize with Mercari’s mission and values and demonstrate their strengths for the company. Naturally, we do find a lot of people like that through our mid-career hiring processes, but because people make the decision to change jobs in their own time, it can be extremely hard to meet the job market’s top talent when they are actively looking for a new opportunity. To that point, compared to mid-career talent, the period when new graduates are searching for work is more predictable, and because people come and go from our talent pool every year, the likelihood of us being able to reach out to the top talent we meet from time to time increases.

The second reason is that we want to create a product that will receive fervent support from people of various ages. Mercari aims for a diverse range of users to use our products, but we are a service with an especially high percentage of users in their teens and twenties. We therefore believe that providing an environment and opportunities for members of Generation Z to thrive as they carry Japan into the future will facilitate the growth of our services, which will bring with it a positive impact.

The third reason is to promote diversity in our organization. Currently, the majority of people working in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are men, but that trend is changing gradually among the younger generation. Therefore, promoting the recruitment of new grads makes it easier for us to reach out to job candidates who are gender minorities in STEM fields, allowing us to form a diverse talent pool.

Tatsuo Kinoshita(@tatsuo)

──Let’s talk about the results the company has seen so far after seven years of new graduate recruitment. How many people have actually joined the company as new grads? Also, what job types do they join the company to fill?

@kubokkie: Well, as of April of this year, a cumulative total of no less than 200 people have joined the company as new grads. A lot of people join to work as engineers or product managers (PMs). But ever since we hired 50 to 60 PMs in 2018 and 2019, we haven’t posted jobs for that position; however, we plan to start hiring PMs again in time for them to join the company in 2025. Our intention is to create a diverse organization by accepting the next generation of talent not just for the engineering positions we have been hiring for in recent years, but also for a variety of job types.

@maashi: As for other job types, in fiscal 2023 we’re looking to hire data analysts, and starting in fiscal 2024, we’re going to be looking for people to fill job positions in our corporate division such as on our Legal and Governance teams. We’re also going to be hiring for other positions too, such as Security. Going forward, I would like to further expand the job types that we hire for and create a system that is able to accept more new grads.

Unconventional hiring methods

──So, could you talk about some of the details around the methods Mercari uses when it comes to hiring new grads?

@maashi: Well, when it comes to new grad hiring at Mercari, the four-prong approach that we’ve implemented is what I think makes us unique; this includes intern hiring, hiring by job type, year-round hiring, and overseas hiring.

Of these four paths to joining Mercari, we’ve continued to hold tight to intern hiring, and most of the new grads who join the company as full-time employees do so via an internship. I feel that this benefits us as employers, but it also benefits the interns. From the company’s perspective, having interns actually work in their future workplace helps spark their interest in Mercari as a place to work; from the candidate’s perspective, it helps reduce culture shock that some people experience after they join the company and realize that their expectations don’t align with the day-to-day realities of the company.

@kubokkie: One of the Mercari values that I think is really important for new grads is “Be a Pro.” At Mercari, interns join actual projects—usually for a month or longer—in order to gain hands-on experience. Through their time on the internship, we want people to sink their teeth into the internal aspects of the company to get a feel for things such as our culture and workstyle as well as how we handle technological initiatives. This allows people to join the company with an understanding of these things.
Takanobu Kuboki(@kubokkie)

@maashi: Another defining feature of Mercari’s new grad hiring is our practice of hiring by job type and by division. What this means is that the manager of the team where a candidate is scheduled to be placed or where they could be placed is involved in the screening process starting from posting the job to narrowing down the pool of candidates. Since the screening stage makes it easier to picture how a candidate will approach their work, I feel like this contributes to the creation of a workplace where members can hit the ground running after they join Mercari. Also, by determining a new employee’s job type even before they join the company, we can expect them to excel as a professional soon after they join Mercari; therefore, we don’t need to have a set entry-level salary and instead present candidates with offers that are in line with each individual’s skills and experience.

@kubokkie: Going forward, I want us to try things with hiring that embody our value of Go Bold even more. One thing that I am especially excited to work on is overseas hiring.
Mercari is gathering top talent from Japan and the rest of the world, so in order to handle the graduation periods of various countries and territories, we accept and screen applications year-round. I want us to develop unconventional hiring methods and flexible hiring activities both in Japan and overseas.

@maashi: I agree. We’re also working on new grad hiring with the members of the local hiring team located at the Center of Excellence in Bangalore, India. In 2023, the India office also welcomed six interns for the first time, so we want to ride this wave and promote new grad hiring at our overseas offices as well. Going forward, we also want to increase the number of interns from universities overseas who come to work at our offices in Japan. There aren’t many companies in Japan doing this, so I think Mercari’s intern program will allow us to show the country what our company culture is all about as cutting-edge industry pioneers.
Masanori Murakami(@maashi)

@tatsuo: It’d be interesting if we could start something like a Mercari world tour that goes to colleges and universities around the world to hold information sessions. One past example of a unique hiring campaign that we had was the “BOLD INTERNSHIP in USA” from 2016 to 2017. The internship drive dispatched a total of 100 students from each of the 50 states and incorporated a fieldwork element that asked interns to come up with “ideas for Mercari to be competitive in the US.” The initiative received a lot of attention for being unprecedented.

If you want to assemble the best talent in the business, you can’t do things that anyone could come up with. You have to take on challenges that no one else has done before. I also believe that the people who would find such a bold initiative interesting would be highly likely to be a good cultural fit for Mercari. Using the power of technology, Mercari aims to connect people around the globe and to create a world where anyone can demonstrate their potential, so I think that global-stage initiatives like “Bold Internship in USA” also have value in the sense that they allow us to promote our commitment to becoming a global company.

Promoting the diversity of our organization with new graduate recruitment

──I think that our discussion so far has conveyed that Mercari’s culture and values are closely connected to our vision and approach to new grad hiring. In talking about the reasons for focusing on recruiting new graduates, the words “promote diversity” came up. What are we doing as a company to support diverse job candidates?

@maashi: Well, we host an online training and internship program called Build@Mercari that caters to STEM and tech field minorities including women and members of the LGBT+ community.

This program started in response to requests from our engineers. To date, there have been a lot of people who—for one reason or another—were not afforded a chance to prove themselves or who weren’t able to master the skills required even though they had the drive to learn. Mercari provides Build@Mercari as an opportunity for people who fit this description to get hands-on experience in order to encourage them to be positive about their potential and to show them that there are chances for them to succeed as well. I think we should create a workplace where diverse talent can thrive.

@jane.c: Our initiatives don’t stop with Build@Mercari. We also hold a program called the “Merpay QA Summer Training Camp” that supports a variety of talent. In this program, participants learn about and get hands-on experience working on the QA (quality assurance) supporting Merpay as a safe and secure service. This summer intern program is limited to students and this year hosted 32 participants, three of whom we subsequently hired as interns. Two of them were women, one of whom was a foreign national, so I feel like there is potential for us to contribute to promoting D&I for our organization through programs like this.

Jane Corleony(@jane.c)

@tatsuo: Although we would never compromise our hiring standards, paring down our pool of candidates to include only individuals who have a high level of technical knowledge and ability would present us with the dilemma of a workforce whose attributes leaned too heavily in one direction. Through this hands-on program that provides students with the opportunity to take on challenges, we want to be proactive in providing opportunities to candidates who, in spite of still having a lot of room to grow their skills, strongly empathize with our mission and values and have hidden potential.

The sort of person recruiters consider a “good cultural fit”

──As you meet with various job candidates day-in and day-out, is there an ideal candidate who shows traits of being a good cultural fit for Mercari?

@maashi: At Mercari, we’ve created an environment where there are a lot of chances for people to Go Bold and follow through in a big way. I think this is probably the perfect environment for people who want to increase their expertise while sharpening their skills with members from a variety of backgrounds, and where people can enjoy their work and expand their potential without being fettered by convention.

@Vicky: We see a lot of changes at Mercari each day, so I think that being able to accept change is another important point. We’re constantly looking for better ways to work, and there is a need to make proposals without hesitating, so I think a person who can think and act independently, even if there are no company rules or operation manuals yet for something, is a good fit.

Victoria Astingo(@Vicky)

@kubokkie: I also think we’re a good fit for people who want to resolve social issues through their own work. Mercari isn’t just looking to make a profit for itself; as a company, we are proponents for the creation of the circular economy and are aiming to generate benefits for the world. We’re constantly monitoring the pulse of social issues and welcome anyone who thinks about what they can contribute to and who gets excited by the prospect of that potential.

@tatsuo: Whether or not a certain candidate seems to have room to grow or potential is something that we pay very close attention to during the screening process.

At Mercari, we have members who have gone from new graduate to VP in just five years. This is an exceptionally quick pace, and I think it also shows the extent of unlimited potential that comes from recruiting new graduates. Of course, even if it’s not realistic to expect everyone to become a VP or to assume some other high-level position that quickly, I would like us to select and hire people who will grow quickly and provide them with opportunities for growth. By doing so, I would like us to produce the talent who will shoulder the leadership of Mercari in the future.

In closing: A message from the New Grad Recruiting Team

──To close out this interview, does the New Grad Recruiting Team have a message that you would like to deliver to the next generation of talent just starting out on their career path?

@Vicky: If you are just starting your career, I would like you to get to know the values of as many companies as possible; I think this will allow you to discern what company will suit you.

@jane.c: I agree. Job seekers, I would like to see you maximize your use of internship programs and screening processes to deepen your understanding of the culture of the company to which you are applying.

@maashi: It’s important for job seekers to go to the source of information and get it themselves rather than just believing rumors and hearsay. So if you’re looking for work, I think it’s a good idea for you to have casual interviews with people working at companies that interest you and then choose a company that fits you.

@kubokkie: I want you to pay attention to how much a company’s culture and mission excite you and to think about whether you can see yourself investing your time in these things. I think we’ve all said this in one way or another, but if in the process of looking for work you have a chance to meet with people who work at the company that you’re thinking about joining, you should embrace it. At meetings like that, I like to disclose as much information as possible to job seekers!

@tatsuo: Ask yourself whether you can relate to the company’s mission and if there is something that you want to accomplish by working with others as a member of that organization, and value your answers to those questions.

Like it says in Mercari’s Group mission, our company is a place for unleashing everyone’s potential. If you are the type of person who wants to maximize your potential and broaden the horizon of your future, join us in taking on new challenges.

@Tok from the Hiring Management team, who also serves on the New Grads team, joined the photo shoot!

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