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.
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