Beyond Localization—Customizing Indeed for Job Seekers in Japan

How user research led to a redesigned UI that works for local needs

Mikako Matsunaga
Jul 24, 2019 · 5 min read

Two years ago, Indeed had a mystery to solve. The Japanese labor market was the tightest it had been in decades, and job seekers had plenty of opportunity to pick and choose the work they wanted. Our job search platform had the single largest number of job listings on the market. And we had lots of traffic.

The only catch? People weren’t applying for the jobs we listed at the rate they were in the US.

From the data, it was clear that something was different in Japan. So we dove into user research. What we found led us to remake Indeed’s web app for job seekers here. We pushed our user interface past localization and culturalization to create a customized product designed especially for local needs.

Learning from local job seekers

When our team went through the results together, we found some important insights. Location and work conditions were top priorities for people seeking part-time work. That’s because the people we’d met wanted to find jobs that fit in with bigger priorities in their lives.

For example, one was a student hunting for his first job. He wanted to work in a spot that was easy to get to from home and school. He commuted by public transportation, so he was looking for something along the train lines he used.

Another was a stay-at-home mother seeking work she could do while her child was at kindergarten. Japanese companies tend to have firm work hours, and she wanted to be sure her employer would let her leave early enough to pick up her child from school. She needed a job with flexible shifts or a workplace that clearly accommodated people like her.

When they used Indeed, the users we talked to couldn’t easily narrow their searches to meet needs like these. There was no way to sort jobs by location within a city, for example. And it was hard to find phrases like “flexible shift” or “stay-at-home partners welcome” in the text of job descriptions. These aren’t factors that tend to keep job seekers in the US from applying for a job, but in Japan they are.

Building for Japan

We held a workshop that brought together designers, researchers, engineers, and product managers to discuss solutions from a variety of perspectives. We used our research to create a user story for part-time job seekers. Then we quickly sketched ideas for making things easier for our users and picked out our favorites.

The challenge here was to understand the full context for our users. Yes, we considered the way their needs were different from those of users in the US. But we also took into account the special features of the Japanese job market that make it unique.

Left, a job listing showing workplace tags highlighted in blue. Right, job seekers use this filter to narrow their searches to particular wards of Tokyo.

One of the solutions we chose was to turn workplace details into searchable tags. Users like the stay-at-home mom could use them to filter for jobs with “flexible shifts” and “no overtime.” She could be confident that the jobs she found would fit into the rest of her schedule. Other users wanted to find other workplace characteristics like “dyed hair OK,” “uniform available,” and so on.

Another idea we pursued was a way to let job seekers filter their searches geographically by selecting particular wards within a city. This would help the student find jobs closer to the route of his commute.

Prototyping and release

First, we made a simple conceptual prototype that had all of our dream changes and asked users for their reactions. Some features received really positive feedback. Others not so much, but the user interviews showed us what needed improvement.

From there, we picked the features we wanted to implement right away based on our users’ feedback and how feasible our engineers thought they would be to create. We built a second prototype and put the new design in the hands of a group of job seekers. Overall, they found it easy to narrow their searches to the jobs they were interested in. When the interview was over, we had a list of improvements to make but we also knew the concept was good enough to commit to shipping it.

User research was essential to improving our UI

As we’ve implemented new features, the data has been encouraging. Adding office photos to job descriptions, another change we made, increased the number of applications those jobs got. We will continue to add new features and iterate on existing features to help job seekers find the jobs they want.

Frances James contributed valuable advice and writing assistance to this article.

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