Jul 152013
7 Tips for working with a Recruiter 2

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My last article 7 Tips for Working with African Recruiters – Part 1 focused on three important things to consider when working with a Recruiter – 1) identifying the best and most relevant one for you, 2) building a mutually beneficial relationship where possible and 3) honesty at all times. This part focuses on the remaining four.

To get the best experience working with a Recruiter, it is important you:

4        Are ready to discuss remuneration

Remuneration package discussion is almost always sensitive. One of the first questions hiring managers ask is “how much does the candidate earn or what is his/her expectation?” This is particularly so for positions that are not hard-to-fill. So when a candidate hesitates or even refuses to disclose their remuneration package, their chances of not being shortlisted by a Recruiter is increased.

Recruiters put a lot of effort in sourcing candidates, preselecting, interviewing, shortlisting, presenting them to clients and arranging interviews. One of the things we least enjoy is having candidates make it to an advanced stage of the recruitment process and then pull out because their salary expectation for a role is not aligned to what the employer is offering. It is a lot of wasted time and effort by all parties involved, including the candidate. To avoid this, Recruiters tend to work more closely with candidates who are open to discussing their packages early in the process.

5         Are ware of communication etiquettes

Effective communication is the basis of all recruitment activities.  A Recruiter should communicate to shortlisted candidates as often and necessary as possible. A good one will let you know if you are not successful in a recruitment process and ideally, why.  Poor communication between Recruiters and their candidates is partly because some Recruiters feel they have no incentive to call back if there is no commission to be made. This is unprofessional and misplaced because they forget that an unsuitable candidate for a role may be an ideal candidate for another, plus candidates today may be clients tomorrow. Good Recruiters appreciate that candidates are as important as employers because it takes the two to make their job successful.

On the other hand, although using the services of an experienced Recruiter may improve your chances of getting a suitable position, even the best Recruiters need time to process candidates’ applications. A typical Recruiter’s responsibility includes business development, sourcing candidates through multiple channels, interviewing and shortlisting candidates’, following up with clients, attending local & international networking and other business events as well as managing every stakeholder’s expectation.

Recruiters also have high-levels of administrative, analytical and reporting activities. So be patient when dealing with them as good ones will let you know as soon as they receive feedback (positive or negative) and are able to communicate it. Calling every 5 minutes and following up with 10 emails after every call will make little difference if they are unable to communicate. In fact in some cases, it may put them off working with you in the future.

6        Are aware of the core responsibility of Recruiters

One of the common misconceptions about Recruiters responsibilities is that we are CV writers and career counsellors.  While it may sound harsh, it is important to know that Recruiters are neither. The primary responsibility of every Recruiter is to find the best talent an employer needs for a role.

There are many good (and free) CV templates online and when needed, competent CV writing companies that charge reasonable fees. In the same light, there are many free platforms for career counselling and when needed, career coaches that charge reasonable fees. If you want the best from a Recruiter, it is important to know what we do so you can determine how best we can help.

Expecting a Recruiter to counsel everyone they come in contact with or help with their CVs is not realistic. Apart from the fact that it is not their responsibility, it takes time.  Some Recruiters work with thousands of candidates every year, it is impossible to manage and effectively deliver on their “real” responsibilities if they assist every applicant.

This said, good Recruiters are always happy to help review the CVs of some candidates and give advice on ways to improve them, whenever they can. They are also keen to advice candidates on the best ways to advance their careers.

7         Do not apply to every role

I have not come across an Accountant with expertise in Facade Engineering, Civil Law, Investment Banking, Astronomy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. I have however come across candidates who have applied to roles as different as these. Seriously…

We understand that many candidates have multiple skills, but we also understand that some extremes are not compatible and “Jacks of all trades are usually masters of none”. When you apply for multiple roles that are not remotely connected, it raises concerns. Before you have the opportunity to discuss your expertise, questions will be raised with regards to your honesty (do you really have expertise in all of these areas or are you just desperate to get a job – any job?) and motivation (even if you do, what path are you really interested in?). Chances are that a Recruiter will contact other candidates before you.

In summary, while Recruiters may help review candidate CVs from time to time and give career advice where possible, our main responsibility is to source and recruit candidates for our clients. To get the best out of us, it is imperative that you identify, work with and build relationships with only true professionals. Good results usually come from honest relationships, open communication and mutual respect.

A good way to turn us off is to apply to many unrelated roles. The best way to get our attention is to have a great profile. We appreciate your referrals,  it will not only help us fill our roles, but also easily remember you if we come across a relevant role that matches your expertise. However, keep in mind that ultimately, your profile is what will get you through the door, not the number of referrals you send to us.

While there are some “bad eggs” in the recruitment industry, there are many great professionals who are keen to ensure candidates come out of every recruitment process with positive impressions, regardless of the outcome. You just need to find us…

One last thing… Recruiters can be a great resource; but some candidates will not find their next job through us.  Candidates should ensure they utilise other resources, especially professional networking to maximise their job-hunting opportunities.

I wish you the very best in your job search…

Jul 152013
7 Tips for working with a Recruiter

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One of the direct effects of the economic growth in Africa is increased career opportunities for Africans and non-Africans alike. This, in addition to the adoption of “localisation” policies by many governments has contributed to the war for talent and growth of African-focused Recruiters and recruitment consultancies.

Working with a Recruiter can be of great benefit to job seekers. Some of the most obvious benefits are access to a wide choice of job opportunities, exclusive insights to companies and their operations as well as salary negotiation support. The recruitment industry in Africa is relatively new and poorly understood. The misconceptions about how Recruiters work mean many candidates are not effectively utilising us in their job search.

To get the best experience working with a Recruiter, it is important you:

1.       Identify the best and most relevant one for you

An ideal Recruiter for Mr Olu may not be for Miss Aminah or Mrs Mandisa. Recruitment consultancies tend to have niches, with Recruiters specialising in specific regions, industries, functions or levels of experience. In some cases, great Recruiters may be generalists, but some of the best are not. So depending on your experience and what you are looking for, there is almost always a Recruiter for you. Unfortunately, not all Recruiters can help you. Specialist Recruiters look for and focus on candidates relevant to their niches. When you are approached by a Recruiter, you should aim to confirm their expertise.

All Recruiters are not “great” for all professional, so a little time researching or asking people in your network for recommendations will definitely be worthwhile.

2.      Build a mutually beneficial relationship where possible

Recruiters are in a lead-generation and relationship-building business. Successful ones know that their long term success is based on their ability to identify leads, follow up on them and build a sustainable network of relationships. So what can you offer a Recruiter? You can offer anything that makes them good at their jobs such as opportunities to connect with other professionals and build meaningful relationships.

When recruiting for a specific role, a Recruiter’s primary goal is to find the very best active or passive candidate. Recruiters work with hundreds or even thousands of candidates every year – many with similar experience. It is a challenge to make a shortlist from a very long list of qualified candidates. Whenever this is the case, a Recruiter naturally looks for the most efficient way to make an excellent shortlist and it is usually the relevant candidates they have a relationship with or remember that make the list.  One of the best ways to make a Recruiter remember you is to refer people in your network for roles that may be suitable for their recruitment campaigns, when the roles are not suitable for you.

A little over a year ago, I was looking to recruit a management position in Kenya. I had a chat with a Kenyan candidate who had the right expertise, but was working on an exciting project at the time and not ready to leave his employer. For privacy reasons, I will call him James. James referred someone in his network who was subsequently placed.  After a couple of months, another client wanted to hire someone with similar expertise, guess the first person I thought of – James. This time, I thought of him for two reasons. A) To see if he was open to new opportunities and keen to consider the role. B) To ask for referrals if he wasn’t.  Again, he wasn’t open to new opportunities, but there were few people in his network he was very keen to introduce me to. I am closely following James career and would be delighted to work with him whenever he is ready to find a new role.

Do not wait until you are desperate to change jobs before you develop a relationship with a great Recruiter. Although there are exceptions, desperate times are not usually the best times for a candidate to engage a Recruiter in the first instance because your situation may alter your ability to articulately discuss your expertise. “Dig a well before you are thirsty”.

3.      Are honest at all times

Honesty works best when it is two-sided. I appreciate it when a candidate says “Nneka, I am great at managing a project team, but not so good at financial analysis”. It saves everyone a lot of time. A good Recruiter can determine if a candidate’s “claim” is true or false during an interview.  We are trained to probe. The clearer a candidate is about their expertise, the better the chances of finding him/her a suitable role.  The more honest a candidate is, the more Recruiters enjoy working with them.

When a Recruiter matches a candidate with a role, it is not just about the expertise. A good Recruiter also considers such things as a candidate’s ideal job, their motivation and cultural fit.  When discussing with a Recruiter, be open and honest about the sort of role you are looking for, your ideal work environment and what motivates you. Do you prefer working for a large or small firm? Are you open to extensive travel? Are you open to working late or over weekends? These are some questions that would need clarification, to ensure you are matched with the most suitable role.

Information you give may prompt a Recruiter to suggest other possible roles or career paths you may not have thought about or previously considered.

You should also disclose any aspect of your work or career history that may be of concern to a prospective employer. A good Recruiter will be honest with their client, but able to present you in the most suitable way. I have worked with candidates who are “red flags” on paper, but because I had discussed extensively with them and aware of what my client was looking for, I was able to arrange interviews to give them the opportunity to discuss their expertise and the client’s concern.

Outside of the actual expertise, three of the most common concerns of employers are: reasons for leaving the last job (or wanting to leave), job-hopping and genuine motivation.

Click here for the concluding part of this article. 

7 Tips for Working with African Recruiters – Part 2

Jul 112013

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Not very long ago, I was leading a recruitment campaign and looking to fill a long list of roles for one of my many African clients. As I engaged professionals in my network, I received many referrals from the company’s employees working outside the recruiting country. It was particularly interesting to me as some were the “perfect” fits for some of the roles and had no visa restrictions. To me, this was a clear-cut internal mobility issue.

As a Recruitment Consultant, I am paid to look for and recruit the best talent for my clients. When an employer engages with me, they are pretty much telling me that they have a talent gap and want me to find the right fit. The right fit is usually someone with the right level of experience in say, a competitor company. However, on this occasion, I felt they should be looking inward for some of the roles.  I brought it to their attention, but it left me wondering why they were looking outward for what they already had. Prior to this, I had the same conversation with a few other employers.

When employees of a company contact me for roles in their companies, it tells me two things.

  • The company is a great employer, because although they are considering a move, they would like it to be within their company
  •  There is a big internal communication gap

If employees do not know the positions their companies are recruiting, how can they put themselves forward for it or refer people in their networks?

To me, recruiting for employers is not just about making quick money by sourcing external candidates for my clients, it is about building relationships and helping them identify gaps that I can see from an outsider’s perspective that they may not. It is about telling them in the most honest, yet professional way possible, what the candidate market is saying about them as potential employers.

Employers should be doing everything they can to ensure that employees are fully engaged and create real platforms to help them identify and pursue internal opportunities. It is always a shame to lose a dedicated, hardworking and productive employee because they want new and exciting opportunities that you can’t provide. It is worse if you can provide the challenges they seek, but do not or have a weak platform for achieving this. This is particularly so for employers with large numbers of foreign-born employees, who may sometime look to relocate to their countries of origin or employees who are very mobile and looking for their next international experience.

A lot of Africans have strong family and other links to the continent and with the growth in many of its economies, there is no shortage of candidates keen to relocate, who would gladly consider opportunities with their current employers. I have come across many.

A lot of companies have developed global mobility roles to manage the relocation process of their employees.  Teams have been built to help identify and implement immigration solutions that align with their companies’ objectives. They are also involved in tracking exceptions to relocation policies and communicating trends to management, with a view to recommending specific actions. The problem is that a lot of the time, this function almost always caters for expatriates short or long term international transfers, not necessarily for nationals looking to relocate to their countries of origin.

Any employer that prides itself as an “employer of choice” should have a good strategy for regularly capturing information about their employees short, medium and long term relocation or transfer interests.  Obviously, this should be voluntary, but all employees should be able to easily identify and discuss potential international opportunities with their employers.

From experience, many professionals looking to relocate to Africa would like to continue working for their employers if given the right opportunities, so why lose them to the competitors? The reality is that if they have made up their minds, they will relocate anyway, so why not encourage them to continue working for you if there is an opportunity. They have some of the best attributes that can make the role a success – the right expertise, knowledge of the local market, international experience and knowledge of the company. In addition, companies could save a lot of money and other resources in the long term by avoiding immigration and work permit cost and related issues.

As many countries tighten their immigration laws – making expatriate hire more difficult, this approach to global mobility becomes even more important. Roles need to be effectively advertised internally. Employees need to know the steps they should take if they decide to relocate in the future.  This approach has the potential to make employers more attractive to great applicants looking to gain experience in multiple locations and encourage a culture of positive career development discussions. Employees would see their companies as providing a web of long term opportunities, which in turn could lead to long term commitments – a novelty these days.

What is the justification for paying a premium fee for the services of a Recruitment Consultant, if the ideal candidate you seek for a role is already an employee? As a Recruitment Consultant, I am must admit that it doesn’t feel right to present an external candidate for a role when someone internally fits the bill. I am happier to fill a role that has become available because the last holder has moved to a new one.

Jul 082013

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Huge competition for limited early career roles means graduating with a good degree does not guarantee gainful employment. This is especially so as globally, millions of students graduate from good universities and with first-class or second-class upper degrees every year.  Masters degrees  are seen as stand-out tools and have gained desirability because undergraduate degrees have become the norm. But is it right for you to undertake one – now?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is completely dependent on each individual circumstance. Putting it into perspective, a masters degree involves a massive financial commitment. In addition, even if a person comes from a wealthy background or is granted a scholarship, there is still the issue of time commitment to consider. So is it worth it? It could be, depending on the benefits a person seeks.

Understanding the benefits (and limitations) of masters programmes could help you make an informed decision. Let’s explore a few:

  • A masters degree provides an excellent platform to gain more knowledge of a subject area you are interested and want to build a career in. It has the potential to help develop your skills and boost your employability profile. However, keep in mind that it can be very expensive and may not always be the most cost-effective, efficient or rewarding way to gain the experience you seek.
  • Some careers require professional certifications, so you have little or no choice than to undertake a masters degree or another relevant qualification. For careers requiring only transferable skills, you may not necessarily need it to succeed, but you would likely encounter a lot of competition as there are bound to be others like you. So research to see if getting the right degree will significantly (or not) set you apart from other people.
  • Some degrees provide first-hand experience. This is more so for research-oriented or management degrees. Students may gain insights to industry information and valuable contacts as some high profile institutions (and employers) are consistently making effort to merge academics and industry.  Through university contacts, some students gain relevant industry experience and are encouraged to take on further research studies by their professors who assist them in getting relevant grants/scholarship where possible.
  • Further degrees are a good way to broaden or change careers. Career interests may change over time and masters programmes may be helpful in the transition. To effectively compete with other professionals with relevant backgrounds, you will need to show exceptional motivation and transferable skills, particularly if your previous studies are markedly different from your new career interest.
  • A further degree has the potential to increase your critical thinking/analytical skills as well as earning potential. The key word here is “potential” as your ability to improve them are a function of more than just your course of study.

There are benefits of delaying postgraduate studies. I have met a lot of professionals with two (or more) masters degrees – one taken immediately after graduation and another after some years of experience.

When I ask why, one of the common response I get is “my second Masters degree is more relevant to my present or future career growth”. A lot of professionals would not have gone for their first masters degree if they could turn back the hands of time. The main reason some professionals gave was that it took them a longer time to figure out what they wanted to do. Others said they had become interested in a different profession.  Sometimes it takes real work and life experience to figure out what a person wants to do.

There is no doubt that there are appealing reasons to undertake a masters degree. Successfully completed masters degrees are a good indicator of people’s abilities to perform certain roles. However, it is important to note that:

  • It comes at a price and needs a lot of commitment
  • Every day in a masters programme is a day lost in work experience
  • In many situations, employers are increasingly looking more favourably at work experience than they are at certificates

It is definitely a great idea to be 100% sure that a further degree is a more efficient route to progress in your career, before you embark on it.

Weigh your options carefully!!!


Jul 032013

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Africa’s economy is booming. Now more than ever, people are spoilt for career choices. Many are looking to cash in on the positive socio-economic changes the continent is experiencing by considering new career paths. However, for some, the decision for a career change poses a dilemma as a the thought of a new career could sometimes be daunting. But, why choose a different one in the first place?

Sometimes, we start our careers not exactly sure of the direction we want to take. At other times, we think we want to build our career in a company or industry, but find out along the way, that it is not for us. In some situations, whilst we may have an interest in a career path, as we gain more experience, we may find that we are more interested in other paths.

In some African societies, parents (or other members of a family) pay for their children’s education if they can afford it. This is great, but naturally, means they may have some level of influence over the sort of education their children have, where their children study and even what they study. It is not uncommon to hear stories of parents forcefully encouraging their children to study particular courses, even when they are not interested in the career paths and may struggle completing their education, let alone succeeding in the profession. There are classic examples of parents wanting to live their dreams through their children.

I have come across professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds with no mentor to guide them, and as a result have studied courses they now regret. I have also come across professionals who have studied courses they regret because of the limited higher education places in their countries. Out of desperation, and to a large extent as a result of society expectation, they accept to study courses that they were not interested in. With time, a few adapted and enjoyed the courses, many didn’t.

The fact that there are now many more career options in Africa than a decade ago does not mean there is enough for the continent’s growing population. This to a large extent has encouraged a lot of graduates and experienced professionals alike to take on “almost any opportunity” that presents itself. It is not strange to see a Chemical Engineering graduate applying for a Customer Service position or experienced Managers targeting Recruiters on LinkedIn and asking to be considered for “any role in your organisation”. According to a United Nations article, Africa’s worrisome youth unemployment is often told alongside the story of the continent’s fast and steady economic growth.

So, what are some of the  important things to consider when deciding on a career change?

  1. Qualification vs Work Experience. The type of career a person seeks, determines if it makes sense to get more qualification or work experience. As a rule, the less fluid the skills needed in a profession is, the more likely a person would need to study to make a move.
  2. Reflection. It is important to reflect on interests, strengths, weaknesses and expertise. People who do well in their careers are usually those that have full knowledge of what they can or can’t do. This guides all of their decisions as they grow professionally.
  3. Research and Analysis. Before making up your mind to pursue a new career, it is  important to research the “real” employment prospects of the career path you have chosen and opportunities for career development. A look at how the profession has been affected by the recent global economic crisis and market projections by competent Analysts is a step in the right direction. It can help you decide if your choice is worth pursuing or not.
  4. Entrepreneurial Opportunities. It is no news that all companies put together can’t employ every job seeker on earth. It is therefore important to choose a career (and industry) that you can continue to develop in if you cease to have a traditional  9am – 6pm job. People are let-go everyday through no fault of theirs, what would you do if happens to you? The ability to diversify when needed is key.
  5. Have a Strategy. Whether you want to take on an employment or entrepreneurial route, you should definitely have a clear (and back-up) plan on what you want to achieve and how you want to do it.
  6. Get a Mentor. Part of your plan should include getting a mentor. When you have decided on what you want to do, look for a mentor with experience in the area. Career advice from people with first hand industry knowledge is usually the best. They are in a good position to let you know the best companies to target based on your overall skills, if it is a good idea to get an industry certificate, the best time to do it or where and how to get relevant work experience to better prepare  for the change.
  7. Join Professional and Groups. In addition to having a mentor, joining relevant professional groups would help you fast track your knowledge of the industry. You do not need a physical group as there are many great ones on LinkedInYahoo and other social media platforms.
  8. Put Together a Super-convincing Profile and be Interview-prepared. I used the word “super-convincing” as you have more to prove and will be competing directly against people with the relevant qualification and/or experience. Your focus should be on your strengths and transferable skills. Employers love profiles that tell a consistent and interesting story, especially when they have hundreds of applications to consider. If invited for an interview, be prepared to discuss why you want to change your career and what value you will bring that others may not.
  9. Start from Scratch. Unfortunately, changing a career sometimes mean you may have to start from the bottom in terms of responsibilities and remuneration, and work your way up. You should be prepared to do this as sometimes, it is the only way to break into a new industry.
  10. Evaluate and Re-evaluate your Strategy. So you now have a plan and have put it to work. Are you achieving the results you want at the shortest possible time? Evaluation on your career change activities should be done regularly so mistakes are corrected swiftly.

Enjoying our jobs is something we have a significant level of control over and should do everything we can to make it happen. It sometimes mean we have to change it. As Confucius nicely puts it “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

Jul 012013

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Recruitment consulting across Africa is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic and exciting professions today. One day, I could be attending a Recruitment Summit in Johannesburg, the next, presenting at a strategic HR event in Lagos and networking with top multinational executives from West Africa or on the phone all day in London interviewing director-level professionals for a senior management position in Nairobi.

In addition to identifying the right candidates for my client roles, one of the most personally-rewarding aspects of my job is discussing with early to senior – level candidates. I enjoy talking about Africa’s economic growth and development, the realities of job market in different countries, effective relocation or just asking questions and listening with a view to learning from their experience and gaining a better understanding of industries I have limited knowledge of.  It is a very engaging profession and has given me the opportunity to meet, interview, discuss and work with some of the most amazing people on earth. Seriously…

I have recruited candidates across different levels of experience and worked on some very challenging and not-so-challenging recruitment campaigns across different industries, but enjoyed every step of the journey. From a Resourcer at Justmeans, working closely with the UK Managing Director to set up the London office and develop the company’s presence, to a Senior Recruitment Consultant at Global Career Company, project managing recruitment campaigns and working closely with the Recruitment Manager to recruit, train and develop members the recruitment team, it has not always been a perfect ride, but I have no regrets, whatsoever.

Not very many professions give the opportunity to learn in-depth about the multiple sectors as well as social, economic, political and cultural changes in Africa, how they interact with one another, contribute to its growth and directly affect its human resources. In the same light, very few professions give an opportunity to meet and discuss with some of the brightest young talents or most successful leaders the continent has produced.

Working across the African space has made me realise that there is a lot more to my mother-continent than the media tells me. I have learnt more about my people, languages, geographies, economies, industries, politics, histories, cultures, religions and overall diversity in the last couple of years than I ever thought was possible. I however feel like I have only just scratched the surface as there is still so much to discover and have been exploring new ways outside of core recruitment activities to broaden my horizon. I decided on recruitment blogging as it will complement all of the opportunities recruitment consulting offers me. As with recruitment consulting, it gives an opportunity to research new information, engage with an audience and network with a wide range of people.

Finding exceptional locally and internationally based Africans gives me lots of personal and career satisfaction. It provides a great opportunity for me to support the continent’s growth in little ways, whilst growing professionally. Recruitment blogging although complementary, is very different, it poses a different kind of challenge and involves different sets of skills. While I am very far from an expert, I have learnt a thing or two about web design, web hosting and content management. It is quite exciting to learn new technical skills that I would have previously described as “out of my comfort zone”.

I am very excited to take on this new challenge, especially as the opportunities blogging provides is endless… Or isn’t it?