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Job hunting: So what if President Uhuru is a Referee in your CV?

Many Kenyans list useless hobbies like listening to music, travelling and watching movies in their resumes

Jobless pose: Popular television anchor Betty Kyallo was among those offloaded to inflation at K24 where pay cuts and looming layoffs are the order of the day. Many Kenyans will be dusting their CVs in coming months.

Sometimes job seekers who are dropped turn out better than the ones hired and the college or university, one attended can influence who gets the job.  

  Feature writer SHIFA MWIHAKI spoke to ESTHER MWANGI, CEO of Executive Edge Consulting about the most desirable employees and why social media posts influence who gets hired!

Over 500, 000 Kenyans have lost their jobs. Most are polishing their CVs. Which is the best way of standing out in a job interview?

Be brutally honest about the value you will be adding. Companies are also looking for employees who are self-motivated, all-rounders with multiple skills will be key.

 Some like cabin crew, and journalists will find zero job openings as their industries have been hardest hit. What should one do?   

Redefine yourself. Switch to other things. Like an engineer with interest in marketing. Be open-minded. Try things you have never done before. Have a different way of thinking. Pilots, for instance, are minutely detailed and can find jobs as Quality Assurance Managers which require attention to detail. 

 Once the pandemic is over, what scenarios will play out for companies in Kenya?

Chaotic. Most won’t know where to start. Most will need quality employees for half the salary. Some sectors will go obsolete. Co-working will be a new normal. People have been hairdressing, baking and preparing pizza from home meaning non-essential services will die slowly. Education will change. E-learning will see wastage in colleges which invested in buildings.

 Many job seekers are at sea when asked about ‘expect salary’.  Solve it…

 Try knowing the budget but also know your exact value. Know prevailing market rates versus your current salary. Companies are trying to get their heads out so rates will differ.

 Polycarp Igathe, former Nairobi Deputy Governor, is one of the most employable executives, resigning but getting job offers at will. How does one become marketable like Polycarp?

Guerrilla job search: Many Kenyans list hobbies like swimming when applying for jobs in finance. ‘Reading financial journals’ is way better on your CV.

 He is a good marketer. He talks. He is hired for his networks. His wife (Catherine) is a brilliant lady with a senior job. They are a power couple and the network grows exponentially. But I think Polycarp is ruining his career. He is a brand. People like a brand that lasts. He needs to ask himself: Am I hired because of my potential or for my name?

 Most Kenyan job seekers hardly take the section on ‘Referees’ seriously. Why?

 There was a long standing perception companies don’t check with them. Job seekers think no one calls. Others list very senior people to scare HR. But Majority pick referees randomly as long as it’s an older person with more experience. Today, HR does background checks with referees. So avoid relatives, friends and list immediate line managers who can vouch for you.

Uhuru is my referee: Ambassador Martin Kimani listed President Uhuru as his referee for his job as Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. MPs vetting him were not impressed. They felt he was trying to intimidate them with a referee they cannot reach. ‘I thought they (referees) are people who know my character and in particular to this assignment,’ he explained ‘I commit to provide another name.’

What most job seekers don’t understand is that they can fail in interviews but  background checks give surprising results. Some were just anxious and unable to explain themselves during the interview. Others fail because of listing malicious managers, though we are able to weed those out. Most Kenyans also list just three referees. They can be four or five, unless otherwise stated. It also doesn’t matter if you coached the referee on what to say. We check out with referees to gauge a candidate’s suitability.

 Is there an added advantage if one listed President Uhuru Kenyatta as a referee?

You should know people: Some job seekers list senior Kenyans as their referees to scare HR. It can backfire big time listing the president as your referee because you waved at him in a rally.

It doesn’t but it might if you worked with him. Forget he’s the president, can he also remember you? With background checks it means HR will have to call him. Will he pick the call or will it go to his personal assistant? HR asks technical questions to gauge a candidate’s technical understanding, personality and skills that need enhancing and whether you can fit in with the culture of the company… but most senior people listed as referees often say “I don’t know that person very well….how was I listed as a referee…where did you get my number” and that works against the job seeker!

HR is also nowadays checking a candidate’s social media pages…

Yes. We learn a lot: Tales and photos of binge drinking reveal there is a problem of responsibility. This is an employee who will be disappearing feigning illness, but it’s a hangover being nursed. We also check out WhatsApp status. It tells us what info the candidate consumes.  

 Recent research shows Millennials are jobless from demanding unrealistic salaries. What misconceptions do they have?

Sumbua: Millennials are paid crazy salaries as interns and this becomes a problem when job hunting after graduating with degrees in IT.

 For most, things were done for them at home and college. They were given pocket money to fund their lifestyle and want to upgrade it. Social media influences them on how much others are making and they demand the same. Others are employed and paid crazy salaries as interns in international organizations especially in IT which local companies can hardly match. 

 Why do companies demand work experience yet a job seeker just graduated?

Work experience is what you have been doing with yourself. Skills learnt at internship, part time hustles, businesses started even if they have failed. Also include college activities. If you were the school club accountant and you’re seeking an accounting job, include that too. Those who fundraised for an activity then list that as part of your experience when applying for marketing jobs.

 Do hobbies tilt any job weight in one’s CV? 

 Hobbies don’t matter much. It’s a point of connection with heads of department and the organization. Those who list reading as their hobby means they can do research and sporty people come off as team players.

What new qualities will be the most sought after for CEOs going forward?

We are all restarting. We will need a hands on person, those who can rethink what was being offered.  

 Which are the least studied, but most lucrative degree courses in your experience?

The digital platforms but most will need structuring.

 Besides plumbing, which other areas have a shortage of skills, but Kenyans are not interested…

Mtu wa mkono: Kenya has a shortage of plumbers and electricians which are ideal as sources of self-employment but most desire the security of monthly salaries.

There is a lot of money in good masonry. Building and construction has crazy returns if you do the math.

Which job seekers impress you the most in an interview?

 Honest people. Those who expose their background, experiences and list the positive lessons including shortcomings. They perform better than those who are scared and hide things. Also those who were jobless but did things that society frowned upon but it put food on the table. Those are for keeps. Then there are those who downgrade from big organizations to learn something in a small one.

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