humans of randstad


  1. humans of randstad
  2. A 'people first' approach helps Randstad's Professional Contracting Service build something new

A 'people first' approach helps Randstad's Professional Contracting Service build something new

Kevin VoPrincipal Consultant, Professional Contract Specialist, Professionals

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After graduating from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in 2018, Kevin Vo began his work as an IT contract recruitment consultant at various agencies in Japan. Currently as a Senior Consultant at Randstad, he recruits in the high-end bilingual IT contracting space for temp and sub-contractor roles. His industry coverage is primarily in Life Science and Automotive.

A classic start to a not-so-typical journey

▲ When he was a graduate student at Ritsumeikan University. (Kevin wearing a cap is 4th from right)

How Kevin Vo became a recruitment consultant in Japan is a classic story, one that many non-Japanese working in the industry can relate to. That relatability, however, ends there, because the path he took after becoming a recruiter is anything but classic.


See, Kevin is in the minority of recruiters that work in the unique but lucrative space of filling temp and contract positions, rather than full-time roles. Haken (temp) or contract recruitment shares some aspects of regular, permanent recruitment, but for the most part it is a different animal altogether. The billing and fee structure, the interview and offer stages and especially the candidate search itself can be completely foreign to what most recruiters imagine when they think of how to do their jobs. Remembering this fact is the key to properly contextualizing Kevin’s success and the arc of his recruitment journey, one that ultimately led him to become a Principal Consultant at Randstad.


To tell the story, let’s circle back to the start.


Kevin was an ambitious 18-year-old about to graduate high school in Vietnam when an unexpected opportunity landed in his lap.


“I never planned on going to Japan. It wasn’t on my radar,” he says. “Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University held a seminar at my school, explained their program to us and I thought, ‘Well, I already speak English. Why not learn another language?” He went on to attend the university from 2014 to 2018, obtaining his degree in International Business.


“As I was about to graduate university, like most students, I was thinking of where I was going to start my career,” Kevin recalls. “I felt like, ‘Hey, I came to study in Japan so I want to stay here and work.’” Similar to the way his university showed up at his high school campus with a compelling opportunity, a recruitment firm came to the college and held a business case competition — in partnership with Sony — to try and test the soon-to-graduate students’ skills while also introducing them to the world of recruitment in Japan.


“I ended up being a runner up in the competition,“ Kevin says.


“That was the first time I had heard about recruiting before. There was an alumni from my university that I really looked up to who was representing the firm that came and hosted the competition, and he explained the industry and what it takes to succeed. I said, ‘OK, that sounds like me.’ It's a sales job, in the end. I come from a business family background and I saw myself as quite suitable for sales positions. I like talking, convincing and negotiating. I like communication, and that seemed like a big part of the job for recruiters. I'm also really ambitious in terms of money and a sense of achievement, and I could see endless potential as a recruiter. I thought, ‘Why not give this a try?’ and I started moving my job hunting direction toward the industry after that.”


It’s going from plucky high school student jumping at the chance to come to Japan to becoming an impressive young college recruit eager to prove himself in the world of business that makes Kevin taking up his eventual career in recruitment “classic.” This blog series, Humans of Randstad, is full of similar trajectories.


Also appearing in this blog series are stories of fresh associate consultants walking into the fast-paced sales environment that is permanent recruitment, expressing their initial challenges and thrills, ultimately breaking through with success. But walking in on Day 1 as a contract recruiter, firmly in the minority of consultants in the market, comes with its own unique learning curve that tests your metal right from the start. This is what makes Kevin’s story a little different.

Exponential growth with Randstand

▲With his team members at the Randstad Akasaka office. (Kevin is the first one on the right)

Imagine the billing cycles of perm recruitment like a heart beat monitor, with each spike representing a flurry of billing activity and the flatline period between beats representing a complete resetting of billing targets each quarter — the calm before the storm. It has a cyclical and rhythmic feel to it as you move through the fiscal year.


To understand contract recruitment though, instead of a heart beat, imagine an exponential curve, starting close to the ground, and then curving ever more sharply to infinity. Billing in contract recruitment is made by making placements, just like perm recruiting, but rather than one large fee calculated from a percentage of the annual salary of your placed candidate, it’s calculated on the margin of your candidate’s monthly salary and a monthly fee to the client. This means your billing is frequent, but smaller. But it also means that your placed candidates effectively become your employees, your “contractors,” that you dispatch to your clients for months and years at a time, creating a consistent drip of revenue each month. The more contractors you have, the bigger your quarterly billing. And the kicker is, in theory, it never resets.


A contract recruiters portfolio of contractors can get so large, that, as long as you place more contractors than you lose, you are often over halfway to hitting your new quarterly targets on the very first day of the quarter — locking in ever growing bonuses for all of your hard work. But like all recruitment, it requires extreme focus and skill to keep the ball rolling.


This is the world that Kevin found himself in after landing his first job in recruitment.


He was tossed into the deep end of IT contract recruitment, the hamster wheel of always seeking to grow your contractor base and backfill the ones whose contracts end. Starting at the bottom of the exponential curve, in just three years Kevin became a Senior Consultant, smashing targets with the best of the perm recruiters of the same rank. He joined Randstad in the summer of 2022 after nearly five years in the industry, always in contract recruitment, ready to build a fresh base of IT contract workers and take his career to new heights.


“I don't really choose an agency based on the company's name or the fame,” says Kevin. “I choose the manager. In the case of Randstad though, the manager chose me. I was headhunted by my current manager. I knew her well before joining, and there was a lot of trust when she asked me to come to Randstad. My first impression after joining was that the majority of the agents were very successful in their career at other agencies, and then they come here to start up something new. They know what they are talking about. They know what they need to do to build something from scratch. I have been really impressed by that. I was given the same chance when I got here as well, to build a new team called the Professional Contracting Specialist.”


We're forming a new business, a startup team, within a well established company with all the infrastructure and the market connection. That's an ideal environment.”


As Kevin said, it was the manager that recruited him to come to Randstad and work for new team that really made him feel confident in the move, who is a legend in his eyes, “She is a legend,” he says after describing the ¥100 million annual billing years she used to have that earned her the right to become a manager. “She is someone that anyone would want to work with, and she is genuinely supportive, like expressing real joy when her team members do well. And of course, not to mention her market knowledge, her sales capability, everything. She is the perfect mentor. Randstad has that kind of environment, the people around that make you feel like your career is taken care of.

Unique service requires unconditional teamwork

▲ With Randstad Professionals team.

Since joining Randstad, Kevin now has contractors made up of various high-value candidates in IT such as project managers, program managers, data analysts, developers and more.


I built my current contractor base really fast.” says Kevn. “Contract recruiting can be like that, where the placements happen one after another. There is a reason the client is hiring a contractor, they need a professional ASAP.”


For Kevin, this is a defining feature of the service he provides. He’s building out entire units of IT professionals, which means he is essentially competing with IT consulting firms bidding on delivering various IT projects themselves. His client contact points are often not HR or Talent Acquisition personnel, as is usually the case with perm recruiting, but rather those working on an IT project directly. “Sometimes you have to speak to the CTO or CIO when gathering or doing business development,” Kevin explains. “You have to pitch your service. You know, what's the difference between your service and the other IT package service? It’s totally different, but how do you explain the value of your service.”


It’s this kind of recruitment, one that’s service oriented and deeply connected to the internal workings of his clients, that Kevin sees as the true merit to being a contract recruiter. Combining this with the billing incentive of not always starting from scratch “is a very lucrative business model,” he says. “I think that's more sustainable for a consultant, and it gives you motivation to keep adding more people to your portfolio.”


There is no sales job that is always sunshine and roses, however. No matter the size of the agency, starting a contract team from scratch is always tough sledding. There are only a limited number of candidates who are advanced enough in their IT careers and expertise to even entertain working on a project by project basis with temporary contracts, and when the team is new, you can only go by the names and candidates consultants remember from previous recruitment firms, making market research and candidate relationships paramount to creating a successful new contract team.


According to Kevin, Randstad’s perm recruiters really stepped up to help the new contract team out, putting in hours of their own time to help reach out to clients and candidates to introduce the new service. “I still remember, it was like 9 p.m. and one consultant was typing out emails to every single client he was working with to tell them about me and our new team. I really appreciated that. You know, that was not his primary task, but he did it for me. To this day, whenever I need some information about a client, he's always there to break it down inside and out. I actually got my first placement in Randstad thanks to him.”


In Kevin’s eyes, this kind of “unconditional teamwork” is what makes Randstad stand out among his previous employers, and it’s what gives him the motivation and peace of mind to bring his very best to the table when he shows up for work each day.

People are everything

▲With his family in Vietnam.

“I think it's time for me to start thinking about having my own team,” Kevin says when asked what he is setting his sights on for the future. “I've been a solo player for quite a while and I’ve treated the job like this is my own business, but leading a team I think is the next step. I want to put my team’s brand out there as the first choice when clients need our kind of service.”


With six years of experience in contract recruitment and clear goals of team building, Kevin feels like his situation at Randstad gives him the tools he needs to achieve his objectives, no matter the challenge. “I know that for IT contracting, there's always a market out,” he says. “IT requirements are pretty much the backbone of any company. So it's my job, my team's job to explore the market and just generate more revenue. With the people around me at Randstad, I know we can do that.”


Kevin believes one of the main factors to success in business is focusing on “people,” and he credits Randstad’s human-centric values for creating a healthy business environment. “I think for any company, especially in recruitment, the humanity factor is the main thing.” he says. “We’re all human internally, we have humans on the candidate side and the client side. Our business is all about humans, quite literally. And that’s the core value of Randstad, to keep the humanity of the business in mind as you do your job. If your recruiting for another agency or your a new grad, I’d give you the advice to pay attention to the people you're going to work with in your career. That makes all the difference. Good people is what Randstad can offer. It sounds simple, but it’s everything.”