It is that time of the year when Africans like professionals from other parts of the world, start seriously assessing their work activities for 2013 and making plans for 2014.
As part of the process, we reflect on the goals we set out to achieve in January, what we were successful at, what we failed at and what we are currently doing. We compare our thoughts and give ourselves the push to accomplish as much as possible in the remaining weeks of the year.
In all of my years of recruiting into the African market, this is the time I receive the highest number of job queries, from locally and internationally based Africans alike. One of the most popular questions I get asked is “what is the best company to work for in ABC industry or XYZ region”. My new candidates are always surprised when I respond by asking two questions – “what is your expertise and what are you looking for?”
Candidates generally expect that because of my recruitment reach across Africa, I will immediately give them a short or long list of potential employers to target, possibly across multiple industries. This is not how recruitment, at least good recruitment works. The process should be the other way round, in this order:
- What is the candidate’s expertise?
- What is the candidate’s interest and
- What companies should the candidate target?
As a Recruiter, it is important for me to first understand what a candidate has done, where they are at professionally, what they are looking for and why, before suggesting companies they should focus on. This information provides me with the tool I need to give the most appropriate industry and regional information.
Interestingly, I have similar conversations with my clients. I try to understand what they have done as well as their current and future plans. In doing so, I am able to figure out where their immediate and future resourcing needs are and the sort of professionals needed to take them to the next level.
No two companies are at the same stage of corporate growth. Structures and operations are often different, even with direct competitors. As a Recruiter, part of my responsibility is to understand these differences and map out strategies for identifying the best talent my clients need at all times and for all opportunities. Some times, I have a shortlist before the end of a client discussion, partly because I have built relationships with many professionals over the last six years, understand their strengths (and weaknesses) as well as know the sort of opportunities they seek.
One of my colleagues describes a Recruiter’s brain as a real-time processor. When I respond to a candidate’s question with my questions and get the responses I need, I immediately process the information, eliminating companies and opportunities that may not be relevant to the candidate and automatically creating the short or long list they so desire. In addition to specific company information, Recruiters have general market knowledge and sometimes are able to point candidates in the right direction when they can’t help.
So what is the best African company to work for in 2014?
Ventures Africa, Top Employers Institute and other organisations have their list for 2013 and will probably have for 2014. Selected companies are assessed based on specific criteria and a list drawn based on how well they meet these criteria. These lists can serve as useful guides to job seekers. However, ultimately, the best determinant is a combination of:
- A candidate’s situation – expertise & professional interest and
- A company’s situation – current plans & future strategic goals.
The closer the match, the better…
I strongly believe this because I have seen candidates who are leaders in their disciplines and can almost pick any job they want, choose to work for companies that some describe as “bad places to work”. To some of these candidates, what makes a company a “bad place to work” is the same thing that drives them to seek a career opportunity there. They are driven by the fact that they have the expertise needed to make the right changes and turn things around. They are hungry to make significant positive changes. That is what motivates them.
Candidates should take it upon themselves to self-assess. Understand their strength, weaknesses and interests, then use available resources (online, professional networks and Recruiters) to research information about companies that are walking in the same direction as they are and want the same things they do. Only professionals who can combine all of these harmoniously, will know the best African company to work for in 2014.