The choice of this piece stems from a job advert placed on one of Nigeria’s numerous job boards. Before I give the details on what caught my attention in the advert, I will do a run-through of global best practices in recruitment. Apart from a chance of running afoul of the law, it makes a lot of business-sense for companies to adopt recruitment practices that will attract the best of hands.
Job roles are endlessly described these days as companies are determined to get quality for every penny they pay as remunerations. While some job descriptions are well fitted for the position being advertised, some are way off the track. I do agree that job roles should be flexible but that elasticity is being stretched to the limit. A similar thing can be said of person specification. Some behavioural and cognitive qualities required of applicants are just too unrealistic.
Imagine a chartered accounting firm that needs the services of graduate trainees and requires them to be chartered in the accounting profession. I do wonder if the jobs are meant for experienced hands. Being a chartered member of any professional body requires years of experience and practice. How possible is it then for an applicant who just graduated from the university to be a chartered member of a professional institute? Job roles and person specification are two important elements of a recruitment exercise that should be devoid of vagueness.
The medium of disseminating vacant positions determines the quantity and quality of people that will apply. The Nigerian law which requires vacancies in government ministries and agencies be advertised in three national newspapers needs to be amended. The social media revolution should be embraced being the easiest way of reaching out to job seekers. In this vein, good candidates can be reached. Private businesses and companies are beneficiaries of the social media phenomenon but they still need to invest in recruitment software. There is quite a handful out there.
The three elements of recruitment that I have highlighted above are often not given the seriousness they deserve by employers. Sometimes, job roles are vague and ambiguous leaving candidates in a state of confusion. When enquiries are made on job vacancies they are often greeted with little or no response. Some behavioural and physical traits like sex and ethnicity should not form part of person specification. Job vacancies in Nigeria still carry statements like “only female should apply”, “interested candidates should not be more than a certain age”, and “only a particular tribe should apply”. Apart from being discriminatory, these statements are detrimental to employers by limiting the number of highly skilled candidates that could apply.
In this day and age where affirmative action has given way to diversity and inclusion, gender discrimination in recruitment is still rife in Nigeria. When developed countries are trying to correct the wide imbalance against the youth in their work systems, Nigeria is sending her aged citizens to early graves. Even when retirement age for workers in some public institutions have been increased, private companies are not having any of it by their insistence for youth employment. There is no gainsaying that a balance between the age divides is sine qua non for productivity. Our employment laws are obsolete and are in dire need of amendment that will conform to current realities in the country’s employment system.
If the laws are amended and the judiciary is free as it should, it would have taken action on a company which included an obnoxious line I read from a placed advert. Nigeria is plagued by mistrust among its three major tribes and ethnicity is smothering the potentials of the country. How else can one explain the reason behind an advert which explicitly says “Yoruba need not apply”? I think this was brought to the attention of the recruitment manager as the discriminatory line has been expunged. The damage has however been done. If employers, for strategic reasons, are in need of people from a particular region or speak a particular language to take up job roles, it should not make the list of person specification. In the case of that company, it was a blatant act of discrimination with grave legal implications.
My MSc dissertation explored discrimination in employment as it relates to foreign nationals in the United Kingdom. I found no real evidence of discrimination based on race, gender, age and social status against foreigners but only subtle innuendoes. We need to tow along this path and embrace development in people management. It is fast becoming hackneyed that a diverse workforce has a positive impact on the bottom-line of companies especially when the customer base is diverse. This is well depicted on the high street shops in London where they cater for people from China, the Middle East and Africa. The telecom industry is perhaps the only industry in Nigeria that could boast of a diverse workforce as evident in their call centres.
Sometimes last month, Nigeria Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC), a government agency, embarked on a recruitment drive to fill up over 1500 vacant positions. Reports had it that over 158000 people applied for various positions. This translates to an average of 105 people applied for a single job. The recruitment consultant called for computer based testing outside the geographical locations of applicants. People were made to travel long hours for the test while others declined the invitations. This was a faltering step for a comatose agency which is on the verge of being revived. The action might have also robbed the agency of highly skilled people who could not make the long and tortuous journey.
The aim of any recruitment exercise is to bring in employees that will contribute to achieving organisational goals. It is a tedious task and should be painstakingly carried out; eliminating any discriminatory tendencies which might lead to fines or picketing. It is encouraging to see multinational companies operating in Nigeria are exporting recruitment standards which are operational in their home countries. A scan through their recruitment portals reveals the data protection act is being observed. Personal information like age, gender, race and religion no longer appear as compulsory fields for applicants or are being expunged in entirety. Nigerian companies should also begin to care less of what colour a candidate looks like or what section of the country applicants hail from and focus on the best-fit for the job.
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Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter handle @El_De_Bash