The search is over

Scott Woodford, Managing Director of Executive Search International
Photo by Maki Nibayashi

Executive search firm ESI is looking for a range of corporate, management and technical personnel. Maki Nibayashi spoke to Managing Director Scott Woodford about how ESI is blazing career paths in Japan.

Tell us briefly about your firm.
ESI is a management consulting firm specializing in executive search and selection. We have been serving the business community in Japan since 1969. Corporate management relies on us to search for and assist in the acquisition of executives, key management and technical personnel. Our services have expanded in recent years to include other areas of HR and management consulting such as re-engineering, on-site solutions, outplacement, and market entry.

What are your criteria for identifying a good candidate?
There are probably five general factors we are looking for in assessing candidates' qualifications: 1) Track record and reputation for results 2) Interpersonal skills 3) Communication and leadership skills, including if they are multi-lingual or not 4) Ability to think strategically 5) Fitness of person to suit a particular client's corporate culture.

What's unique about ESI? Why would clients choose ESI?
A lot of clients who meet with our consultants for the first time I think are surprised by how open, direct and authentic we are. Our approach in establishing relations with clients and candidates is that we must place their best interests at the top of our lists of priorities. We try to get to know them as people first, which makes it far easier to gain an in-depth understanding of what their needs will be. The popularity we enjoy with our clients can be traced not only to our track record of strong performance over a number of years, but to the fact that both clients and candidates really enjoy working with us. ESI consultants have fun, and this permeates through to everyone we have dealings with. Naturally, trust and mutual respect result. That's how we build longstanding, productive partnerships. Pretty simple.

Why is ESI's service valuable to job-seekers and clients?
For people who are looking for a change in their career, using ESI's services can help them in numerous ways. Probably the best service we can provide to people is our ability to be a confidential career consultant. Look at it this way, when you or I are busy in the day-to-day grind of doing the best we can at our jobs, we never really have time to get off that treadmill and assess where we are and what we have accomplished.

By consulting with us, job-seekers can have someone who has reviewed tens of thousands of résumés, and conducted hundreds, or perhaps thousands of interviews and knows precisely how to dissect a person's strengths and weaknesses, and just as important, where a particular person stands in the job market. People can then take this information we have given them and use it to further develop their careers - whether we end up placing them with one of our clients or not.

For clients, the benefits for using a reliable search firm are so far-reaching I would need a book to describe them. However, if I had to be pinned down to a few key points I would have to say talent and time. Foreign companies here in Japan usually have fairly lean organizations that do not have the luxury of making an occasional mistake in hiring key personnel.

What are the present general trends in the executive search market here in Japan?
Practically all established firms in the market are experiencing rapid growth. Dramatic year-on-year increases in volume of business and revenue have especially been the trend over the past few years and should continue. At ESI we recorded our best year ever in 2000, and I'm sure our competitors can say the same. This growth is of course primarily being spurred by the new economy, but we are also seeing a greater commitment to the Japanese market by traditional manufacturers who are successfully opening new channels of business here.

Future trends?
Besides further growth, I see more new multinational search firms entering the market. They will offer a wide range of services and attempt to monopolize key clients. From the clients' position this can be either good or bad. The good side of this kind of arrangement is the close, personalized service a company may enjoy. However, if the search firm they are committed to is not equipped to meet expectations, it can be a huge waste of time, money, and perhaps errors in key hires may result.

For more information contact Scott Woodford at or visit 

Do you have a position to fill? Email

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