Let’s call her name Chikodi. She came to see me the other day. I had asked her fiancé to ask her to see me for a chat. Chikodi was (at the time of this meet) 24yrs old (I think); had spent over a year post-NYSC without a job and had a second class upper degree. My objective in this discussion was to help unravel the internal and external (excluding spiritual though) factors that may have ‘helped’ her situation and to assist in charting next steps. And this is what I discovered. Chikodi admitted that, while in the university and also NYSC, she never thought that she would have any challenges getting a good job – in fact she more or less felt it was a done deal.
She had been told from home that all she needed was to just get at least a second class upper degree and everything would be alright afterwards. How wrong she had been. Bimbo’s meeting with me had a somewhat different flavor from Chikodi’s. She met me and more or less said, “I am 22 yrs young; have a first class from one of the leading private universities in Nigeria; have since concluded my NYSC and I have been trying to get a job in the last eight months…I want to know why? Any similarities? Yes. Bimbo had also thought that getting a job is a done deal…piece of cake. But alas!
‘Why Should Anyone Hire You’?
There is a problem in town and I intend to resolve it … once and for all. Most times a problem creeps up on us unnoticed and by the time we know it, it has become a cancer … eating deep , far and beyond repair. It is the problem where some people think that they have a right to being employed – that they deserve to be employed. And I am not talking about the faith-based approach to life. I speak of that mindset that is hinged on the understanding that ‘I should logically be the one to be recruited’. Call it an entitlement mentality if you care. The worst consequence of this problem is that it creates a certain type of attitude and also affects workplace and job-search preparation.
This question, ‘Why Should Anyone Hire You’? is the bedrock of a quality preparation for employment. It is a question to be answered now and always . . . again and again and again. Why should a Shell, an Accenture or a GTBank want to hire you and not the other person? Why should a firm that is working so hard to build a name and reputation hire you? Why? Just why? Some people feel they deserve to be recruited by some of the leading-light firms (local and international) but unfortunately they haven’t asked and answered the Ultimate Hiring Question. Some others desire to be hired by the ‘Most Admired’ employers but they also have, erroneously, not asked or answered the Ultimate Hiring Question. As depicted by Bimbo and Chikodi, there are more wrong answers to this question than there are right answers and I intend to fill in the gaps – providing light like a daystar through the winding uncertain dark maze called the recruitment process.
Wrong Answer No. 1 – I should be hired because I need a job badly.
As an individual, as a career coach, as a job-search strategist and even as a youth-instigator I sincerely empathise with the people who are either unemployed (on the job of getting a job) or under-employed in the world of 2011. A world much different from what it was in the past. A world seeking redemption . . . from bad debts, corruption, porous and selfish leadership, moral decadence etc. But be that as it may, no organization was set up to solve or reduce unemployment. Even governments and international agencies don’t hire people because they want to deplete the labour market but they do so because they need additional hands. In a personal bid to tame the unemployment market (so help me God), I have stumbled on some startling facts and tendencies. For example, it would interest you to know that some people have lost the chance of getting hired because they communicated how badly they needed the job. Remember that question that usually comes at the end of ninety-nine percent of all interviews, “Do you have any question?” This was how Hakeem answered the other day, “I don’t really have any question but I would like to let you know that I really really need this job and I can work”. What Hakeem (and many others) don’t know is that nobody wants to hire a liability. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t invest their best efforts into the job search process like a young man did the other day.
I was part of the team that was facilitating entry level interviews for a leading bank and as I walked through the candidates, organizing them and providing directions, the corner of my eyes seemed to sight a young man – for a brief second or more I must have thought I was mistaken. Can you hazard a guess? The guy came into a bank’s interview without a tie! The HR professional in me took control of the career coach in me and I asked him…with all the patience, self-control, and civility that I could muster, I asked him if he had schooled in this country. Well, for me it was more important to eliminate all the circumstances that could have sponsored ignorance in the young man. So next I asked, “Are you aware that males in the bank sector in this country wear ties”? He said, “Yes”. I know you would have immediately asked him the question which I finally asked, “So why didn’t you wear a tie to this interview”? That guy told me one of the stories that would certainly make the ‘hall of shame’ in the labour market and since I wasn’t keen on subsidizing his ignorance I sent him out – immediately.
Wrong Answer No. 2 – I should be hired because of whom my parents know.
I used to think this was an old faded thinking but I have been proven wrong one time too many. And I am not saying that there is anything wrong with having and using your relationships. Not at all. I am talking about the reliance on relationships as the sole source of personal competitive advantage. For the umpteenth time, it is imperative that we sound the alarm loud and clear: your parents or your connections can only get you so far. And if it gets you so far it can only keep you for so long.
We have seen too much drama in this country (and beyond) for anyone to think that relationships and situations are so permanent that you can take them to the bank. In the school of life the second lesson taught after you have learnt the meaning of your name is titled, ‘No Condition is Permanent’. Though for some of us it only gets better and better. Even as I say that, I recall once in this Lagos, while staying with my uncle, that an apartment where we slept and woke up to go out that day was never returned to – we woke up with a roof over our heads and went to bed in another location without a roof over our heads.
One well connected military man, married to a judge, had gotten a kangaroo judgment against us with claims that he owned the house. In this same country an IG became a prisoner later; a governor of governors is about to be jailed overseas and the list goes on. Hassan was considered a priced hire the other day – his Dad had been appointed into an office in the military that was central to funds management (not mismanagement). Daddy gets rotated out of that office two years later as a new government comes on the block…what happens to dear Hassan?
Wrong Answer No. 3 – I should be hired because of my grade.
Let me share an unfolding discovery of mine – and that is that the possession of a first class (or even an upper) can sometimes be an impediment in itself. It could create the I-have-a-right-to-be-hired mentality. It could also deprive the person of the required drive or pursuit of larger goals or of more learning. It could cause a huge hard-crusted chip to grow on ones shoulder. Because Chikodi expected to get a job at the wink of an eye, I am certain she wouldn’t have spent time scouring the internet for information about companies and their hiring process.
She isn’t likely to have bothered to purchase and study intently books such as Getting a Job is a Job (which by the way is the most straightforward, practical, and makes-perfect-sense guide on the market today, addressing everything from career choice to discovering your true workplace value, to landing that perfect job). I have seen candidates turned back by interview panels because those candidates exhibited pride and as is more often the case, the possession of a first class (or an upper) was the reason for this pride.
Then some people feel that they are the ones, because of their grades, that deserve to work in some types of places …and as such wouldn’t even touch some firms with a 100m pole. Some youth corpers have gotten themselves into desperate-hard-to-wriggle-from situations with this kind of thinking. Or least case, some have lost opportunities to gain momentum with this type of thinking.
Obinna, Muyiwa and friends all left school as budding accountants and the prospect of working in a bank during their NYSC was too tempting not to touch. Muyiwa and others got a job in the banks, whilst Obinna gets to join one of those small auditing firms whose name could likely have been ‘Ikenna, Okereke and Co’. But Obinna bore the ‘shame’ and continued to study for his ICAN exams which he had time for and which the ‘big boys’ in the banks (Muyiwa them) didn’t have time for. Where would they get the time – they worked in banks!
At the end of the youth service, Obinna had become a chartered accountant, and was still very young. He suddenly gets a job in an investment bank that used to be the leading firm in its class in those days (this was before the series and series of consolidations) and his life turned around fundamentally. This was an investment bank that used to pride itself in hiring the ‘brightest and youngest’ and paid the most in salaries and bonuses (and remembers this were the days before private universities came to be). Obinna swung ahead of his peers because he placed value on initial development and delayed gratification until after NYSC. A good grade is a great thing when mixed with an ounce of wisdom, a bite of humility, a slice of drive, and a drink of patience.
There are a number of other wrong answers to the question, “Why Should Anyone Hire You”? Some feel they deserve to be hired because they are young; others feel that all you need around here is a foreign accent; and another group believe that all you need is a Masters (particularly a foreign one). At this junction I need to enlighten some people on why organizations hire. It is something called ‘The Universal Hiring Rule’ by Tom Jackson.
Here it is “Any employer will hire any individual as long as the employer is convinced that the hiring will bring more value than costs”. Hiring people comes at a cost, but organizations do it when the envisaged benefits outweigh the cost. And you have to remember that value is in the eyes of the beholder. What one firm considers being value would differ from what the other regards as value. Some years ago, as I recall, a haulage company decided to employ a non-graduate above other graduates just because they saw what they wanted in this person and it wasn’t the possession of a degree.
Immediately we realize that no firm owes us employment, at that moment we become empowered with the soberness of heart that is required to help us better answer the Ultimate Hiring Question. Imagine that this question is like a thermometer – helping you to gauge your acceptability on the job-search scale and whatever result it throws up is meant to help you re-calibrate your efforts. Therefore answering the question, properly, helps us to refocus our best efforts on the most value adding spots and activities. So “Why Should Anyone Hire You?’.
Find out the right answer to this question in the concluding part of this article!