The Money Question at Interviews

It has become a rule of thumb for employers to ask prospective employees salary expectations at interviews amongst other questions. The information is sought to probably clarify a number of issues. First is affordability; whether a company can afford to pay for the value a potential candidate might bring on board. I must say that professionals with track record of high performance are highly sought which tend to tilt pay negotiation in their favour. This is why it is imperative for employers to have an idea of salary expectation from the word go to enable them decide whether to even proceed to the next level of a recruitment exercise. It saves everybody’s time!

A second reason for wanting to know salary expectation of a potential hire is to gauge the industry pay for a vacant position. It allows organisations to know how they are faring in terms of employees’ compensation. If it needs to be jerked up to attract exceptional talent or demand better performance from employees for a company that is way up the ladder in terms of pay.

A recruitment exercise is a bargaining process and it is quite possible for an employer to make a very good deal for a highly sought after professional. Yes it can happen! A lot of reasons might necessitate a professional to change job. Qualified people could take a pay cut for jobs located in the big cities which would launch them onto the big stage. It could also be for a company’s brand and so many other reasons. If I can save money for my organisation and still be able to land a top hire, why not?

On the other side of the divide however, most candidates don’t do well in the bargaining process. Some tend to shy away from the question by opting to go for industry pay of the vacant position. While some would ‘innocently’ succumb to whatever is on the table. Remember an interview is an avenue to prove your worth, why prize yourself low? If you think you are good enough for the job, demonstrate it by asking for a good fat pay!



Recruiters can do better

I read a piece titled “Table Manners” by Christopher Demers and it evoked those unpleasant manners and practices of recruiters. If it is not ‘laziness’ I do not know what word to describe a recruiter who mentions nothing about his client when putting up a job ad. If you wont reveal the identity of the organisation you are filling a position for (even though I frown at this), what about the industry or its market position. I think the focus of every recruiter is to attract a wide pool of talent for position being advertised!

Sometimes when I see ambiguities between job descriptions (JD) and person specifications I wonder if the recruiter had read through the ad before putting it up. The truth could be that these recruiters ‘copy and paste’ already prepared  JD of a particular role for all organisations. In the process, vital details are left out.

The use of social media for recruitment has been on the rise and now a popular source of hiring for most recruiters. How well have they fared on this platform can be determined by the quality of job ads on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. I do understand the constraints of word counts with some of these applications which made it practically difficult to spell out every detail as regards a particular job role. However, I think they can get round this constraint by converting the ad to a web link which can be opened in a new window.

A worrying trend also emerging is for recruiters to tersely post a job role and request for interested candidates to give their email addresses in the comment section. This is a ‘NO’ for me. I wont give out my email address to the public domain with hackers and spammers everywhere. I’m sure other people will share this sentiment. It also gives room for people to send you unsolicited emails and requests. Recruiters can definitely do better than this!

Lack of feedback is an issue so many people have harped on but has lingered in the recruitment industry. The common excuse is giving feedback to hordes of unsuccessful candidates is not practicable. I beg to differ, it is. I wont go into the details of stating the importance of giving feedback as this has been done in numerous blogs but it is important to stress that feedback is possible no matter the number of candidates you have.

As 2015 beckons, we expect to see recruiters up the ante in the new year.


What are your areas of weakness?

Being humans, we all have our frailties. There has to be that habit or skills that need development. While it is easy to come up with those strong attributes and excellent work ethics that make up the individual being, the same cannot be said of our weakness. As individuals, we often do not admit our weakness even though a third party would easily identify this. A third party here means that person who relates with us regularly at a close range. This ranges from supervisors, colleagues and even our spouses.

The intriguing question this piece is probing is why it is difficult to individually come up with one’s own weakness. A regular interview question is to ask a candidate his area of strength and weakness. As a HR person, I have heard candidates give ‘not-too-intelligent’ answers when responding to the weakness aspect. The probability of ‘strength and weakness’ question coming up in an interview is almost one. Consequently, It is expected that most post people would rehearse their answers before appearing at interviews. Yet, most answers we get are not genuine and are ‘crappy’ at the same time.

Apart from job candidates, interview experts are also evasive on tips to answering the tricky question. The common advice is for candidates to stress on efforts they are making to correct identified weakness. Whatever that might be! I do share the constraints of coaches and mentors in attempting to render adequate counseling on the ‘weakness question’. Most interviewers are never explicit on the question. Weakness could be in the areas of skill sets or behavioural traits and other psychological competencies.

If interview experts and counselors are evasive on ‘weakness-question’ because of its ambiguity, it is then proper to turn to recruiters and other HR professionals who sit at interview panels. Mostly, the question is being thrown to elicit certain information or reactions that would help the panel in making a sound judgment on suitability or otherwise of a candidate. Are we expecting candidates to be upfront on their weakness? If the answer is yes, then most candidates do not tell the truth on this.

It is imperative we revisit those generic interview questions because candidates are likely not to be truthful with their responses. What we ask at interviews are set of similar and pre-determined questions. It is like a list of commandments which are meant to be stuck to that in so doing we shy away from probing questions and miss out on good fit. It is high time we reviewed our interview strategies.

The title used for this piece is borne out of the need to evoke changes in the way we conduct interview. It is also genuinely aimed at getting an answer to the ‘weakness-question’ as I have always wondered why individuals are never forthcoming on this. If it is also so important for employers to know the weakness of a would-be-employee, it is more important that the question is asked without any form of vagueness. It is only then; career coaches and mentors can give appropriate guidance to their wards.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter @El_De_Bash

How Gutsy are you in your Job Search?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. This cliché statement is best relevant when you are in the job market. The bills are piling up and your Bank Manager is not ready to grant you additional overdraft. It is like the whole world is going to crash on your head. You have been called up for a couple of interviews but have not succeeded. You are hoping to get some positive feedback from Recruiters.

Rather than live on hope, you need a lot of guts to get out of your predicament. Alfred is a young graduate of Marketing from University of Coventry who advertised himself at the Waterloo Station in London. He did get a job with a Recruiting firm within days of putting himself up. If Alfred had guts, Adam was more daring. He emptied his bank account to put up a bill board ‘begging for a job’. Some people might see this as going to the extreme but I really do not think so.

If you wont tow the line of Adam, have you thought of sending a recruiter an email or adding your interviewer up as a connection on LinkedIn? You can even ask daring questions in an interview. I once did. I was invited for an interview as HR Manager for an NGO that serves as an umbrella body of people with different political persuasions. The pay was good and the working environment serene as I would have loved it but I had my concerns. There were threats to the survival of the organisation which I took up with the panel. The leader of the interview team felt visibly infuriated with my question. The NGO closed shop afterwards.

If you stick to the ground rules of CV writing and other conventional ways of job searching, I wish you the very best. People have sent me unsolicited e-mails to find out if I have a role for them. I have always tried to respond to such e-mails and have even called some for interview. However, other people might find it rude and wont respond to unsolicited mails. It wont hurt a fly, so why not try it.

The job market is a tricky place to be in. Sometimes super credentials are not enough in landing you the dream job. You might have to resort to the use of guts if you have any.

Race against Time in the Job Market

The route leading to the labour market is one which we have all taken and is well familiar to most of us. Our experiences may vary but a common theme which describes the job market is its unsavoury nature.

Depending on which side of the market you are, blames are heaped on the other party. Recruiters are always on the receiving and get a lot of bashing from job seekers on one hand while job seekers are seen as not having the right skills and attitude for available jobs from the recruiters’ perspective.

As the blame game goes back and forth, I discovered a unique factor working for or against the two parties. The factor of time is an essential element of the recruiting process which works for or against the recruiter and the job seeker.

Getting a vacant position filled within a given period is vital to any recruiter while job seekers also compete against time to get their applications out in record time. How the two parties react to the time factor may vary but it has a consequential effect on the outcome. Some job seekers do not wait to understand the role being advertised before sending their applications. Employers or recruiters are often overwhelmed by the number of CVs they receive for advertised positions that they sometime come up with wrong fits.

The two key players in recruitment market have devised different means to beat the constraint of time. Job seekers now have ‘customised’ CVs for numerous job roles. This allows them to apply for more than one job at at given time and more importantly beating the deadline. Recruiters on the other hand, are embracing technology to help in filtering through CVs for qualified candidates. It is also a common practice for recruiters to contact only qualified candidates for the next stage of the process. This is all in a bid to save time.

It is however contestable if these time-saving methods have helped the entire recruitment process. Customised CVs might not indicate specific skills required for some particular roles and could hinder candidate’s chances of proceeding to the next stage. Some job applications are quite extensive and require patience and time to get by them; using a customised CV for such applications could jeorpadise the chances of candidates.

Recruiters and employers are not only in the job market to just recruit anybody but to be able to attract a pool of skilled and qualified hands to select from. This can be achieved if job seekers are treated with respect and dignity. Giving critical feedback to all candidates, whether successful or not, makes employers become ’employers of choice’.

Whichever way one looks at it, time is a tricky element in the job market. Consequently, it is important for all players to strike a balance in the race against time. How they achieve this depends on the industry, immediacy or futuristic role, and other important details of the recruitment industry.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter @El_De_Bash

My Thoughts on Human Resource (HR) for 2014

As the year draws to a close and a new one beckons, organisations are busy taking stock and making projections for the next business year. It is also not uncommon for individuals to make New Year resolutions which is often characterised by adopting new habits or the quest to attain a particular goal. It is on this basis that I argue the HR profession, though a professional discipline, should appraise itself and set new targets for the coming year.

I am quite aware that HR practitioners could fill up a whole book with aspirations and targets for 2014. This can best be attributed to the institutional and cultural factors inherent in our countries of practice because the HR discipline in itself is a universal profession. The traditional method of interview for new hires in use in the United Kingdom is also prevalent in Nigeria. Reward management is mostly based on employees’ performance in most organisations across the globe. Skill gap is still a challenge for most organisations across different industries.

I won’t pretend to know all the challenges of the workplace and neither do I have the magic wand of solutions. However, I have my aspirations for HR in 2014 and I look forward to a more responsive discipline. There has been a barrage of complaints on graduate employment as young university graduates alleged that recruiters do not treat them with dignity. They complained that recruiters demand work-experience which are apparently lacking for most advertised jobs. The few ones who got called up for interviews were left in the limbo for so long without feedbacks from recruiters. Young graduates don’t really like our faces!

Shortage of skilled workforce is still predominant even in the so-called big companies. Customers’ needs are ever changing and it takes a very agile HR unit to make available skilled employees that can meet these needs. A similar issue is that of skill gap between senior executives and middle cadre managers. The ageing workforce has not been able to transfer knowledge to upcoming middle managers. It is a dilemma which today’s organisations are faced with and I will lay the blame at the HR’s desk.

Companies that do not have the problem of skilled workforce are found wanting in keeping their talented employees. Attrition is now very common in the business world as competitors are on the prowl to poach talents from rival companies. While it could be difficult to stop a want-away employee, it is important to ask ourselves how well we (HRs) have tried to keep our best hands. In a bid to remain competitive, some recruiters are not mindful of hiring ‘highly mobile’ employees. Someone who has worked, say in three to five different companies, within the same industry in a short spell of time.

By not paying attention to the development of internal employees, companies are left at the mercy of these highly mobile talents. Learning and development of employees still takes a backstage in most organisations. As HR professionals, we need the convincing ability. A lot of organisations today are averse to anything ‘cost’ and it takes only a HR professional who knows his onions to be able to justify the need for training. How have we fared in this regard? For those that have been convincing enough, what has been the Return on Investment (ROI)? It is important that the huge amount of money expended on staff training impacted positively on the employees and the organisation.

Interestingly, learning has taken different forms with the advent of technology and the social media in particular. Sadly though, there are still some HR professionals who are yet to key into the revolution, Personally, I have benefited immensely from social media through connection with numerous HR colleagues across the world. I now follow experts from New Zealand, Canada, India and a host of many others on Twitter and it is helping me to deliver improved solutions to my clients’ needs. It then baffles me why some of us still operate as if we were in the seventies!

I should not harp strictly on Learning & Development as there are other HR practices needing attention. Performance Management, Leadership and Reward Management can all do with some tweaks. I however made a disclosure earlier that I do not know all the problems and neither do I have answers to them. I am passing the baton to other professionals to look inwards and come up with ways of improving the HR profession.

Let me also say that it’s not been all knocks for HR. The profession has really come of age and there are lots and lots of practitioners doing great works out there. Day in day out, they churn out new solutions to the ever complex workplace situations. Everyone will agree with me that of all living creatures, human beings are the most complex to manage. With this in mind, we can give ourselves a pat on the back even if some people think otherwise. We have done well so far in the midst of lean budgets we had to work with and I feel we should raise our glasses up and toast to a drink.

While we celebrate in the euphoria of our achievements, we should not allow complacency to set in and lose sight of what lies ahead. It is my wish in the New Year to see HR professionals get a grip of how to use data to improve our works. We should be able to analyse statistics (age, qualifications, skills etc.) of employees and determine how they affect manpower planning and talent management. Representing HR in terms of numbers is the way to go in 2014. We should be able to quantify the impact of HR in the overall success of the organisation. In other subjective areas, we need to improve on our attitudes toward young graduates. Others may disagree on this though. Whatever we do feel about our work, I believe we can do better in 2014.

Before then, I am wishing everyone a happy festive season. See you all next year.

Please connect with Bashir Mudi Baba on Twitter via handle @El_De_Bash                     

December: The Season of Temp Jobs

The month of December is always a busy one for the HR unit of most companies. It is the period when workplace activities are reviewed yearlong and manpower planning for the coming year is drawn up. It is also the yuletide season when employees go on vacation to celebrate with families and loved ones. Consequently, vacant positions open up albeit temporarily which leaves the HR unit scrambling for people to fill up the spaces.

In the spirit of the season, companies are also involved in charity activities and other special projects. For most high retail stores, they are always a beehive of activities as shoppers swarm about in search of best deals. In order to cope with the hordes of shoppers, additional hands are always sought during December sales.

December is a month which shoppers look forward to. People have worked hard all through the year and saved up enough money for the holiday season. In order to take advantage of this great opportunity, companies normally embark on massive advertisements and marketing which sometimes take the form of roadshows and other carnival-like activities. Temporary employees are always needed to partake in these events.

It is imperative that job seekers make the best out of these opportunities. Experience acquired from temporary jobs will form part of curriculum-vitae and recruiters are ever keen to hire candidates with work experience. More so, it is a chance of making some quick bucks which could make the holiday season a memorable one. Picking up a new shirt or taking that dream lady out for a dinner won’t be a bad idea.

On several occasions, people who took up temporary jobs have been retained on those jobs. It is unthinkable that young school graduates reject temporary jobs in anticipation of permanent ones that are not forthcoming. How about starting with a temp job and proving your worth. How about putting to use those skills you acquired in school before they go out of trend. Temp jobs pave the way for more permanent ones and should be grabbed at the first opportunity.

Good luck in your job search and wishing you all a happy holiday season.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be engaged on Twitter via @El_De_Bash