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Recurring Mistakes when Job Hunting – Henry Ajayi

Appreciation

I would like to express profound gratitude to Engr.  Dele Idris for the opportunity to share knowledge through this platform. I do not take it for granted.

According to an article by Stears Business, an educated Nigerian is more likely to be unemployed than the average Nigerian. In 2018 the national unemployment rate was at 23% (this has most certainly increased due to COVID-19).

In summary, Nigeria is producing fewer jobs compared to population growth. Nigeria produces about 500,000 graduates every year and only 53% can secure jobs leaving 47% unemployed.

In a country like Nigeria, where the supply exceeds the demand exponentially job seekers need to be creative in how they approach their search.

 

We will talk about five (5) mistakes applicants make while job hunting, and I will share an experience I had recruiting for a position recently.

  1. Lack of Job-Hunting Strategy:

Looking at the statistics shared above it is evident that many graduates are chasing fewer jobs. This was apparent in the last recruitment I handled where we were recruiting into two junior-level positions and we received over 8000 applicants where half of them shouldn’t have applied at all.

Applicants should have a plan of how to approach job search rather than the conventional ways of applying to any and every job. I have heard people say they have sent in 100s of applications and have been rejected or no response on the application. The impact of these rejections on a young graduate can be very challenging which is why it is important to have a strategy to increase your success rate and reduce the rejections.

Applicants need to have a list of the industries they would like to work in and where they feel their skills will give them slight advantages over other applicants. After making a list of the industries, you make a list of the companies after you have done your research covering the company itself, the employees and its core values.

Another important factor to consider is the recruitment pattern; how have they been recruiting in the last 3 years, what information can you harvest online and if possible, from current or past employees. Take time to read the career page and the “about” section of the websites and their LinkedIn page. Also, don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up.

2.Error-Ridden Resumes and Cover Letters:

Not investing the time to ensure your resume and cover letters are error-free is another recurring mistake when job hunting. Little mistakes on your resume and cover letter can stand out in a long way and can impact on if you will be invited for an interview or not. During the recruitment process, I found a lot of candidates with bizarre applications, some send cover letters for a different job title, others sent in resumes that look like it was prepared by a primary school student, it was appalling. When job hunting, you must get into the habit of proofreading your resume and cover letter. There are several free sites to run through and point out errors or do it the old fashion ways, print out and give to a few people to review for you. In another recruitment I was managing, candidates were sending me an application forwarded from the previous job they applied, others just did me an “FYI” in the body of the email (I did not bother to look at the application, I pressed the delete button).

 Not using your Network Adequately:

A lot of job seekers think their job search should be a private process, at the early stage of your career this shouldn’t be the case but as you grow professionally, you will want to keep it private and use headhunters for specific roles. As you start your career, there is nothing wrong in asking your network to support you on your journey. Your network can be from your school alumni, religious organizations, LinkedIn, friends and family. However, I must send a word of caution here as the tendency to misuse your network is very high and will cast aspersion to your credibility. You should never become a pest that people would start to avoid, rather you should use these networks strategically. No one likes to be hounded constantly by an unrelenting stranger. Don’t spend your valuable time calling the same hiring managers over and over to stay on top of an application. One phone call to follow up is acceptable; anything beyond that gets you too close to the “annoying” pile.

An example is using your network to research a company or an industry you are interested in and they can, in turn, refer you to people that work in those companies or industries. While I was recruiting into those two junior positions I mentioned earlier, the first set of people that got to know about the position were people within my network. Informed them of the vacancies and told them to read the instructions very well, this is the benefit of using your network as you would be the first to know of opportunities. Unfortunately, out of the 50 people within my network, I sent the advert, only 1 person went through and followed the instruction on the advert.

 

  1. Relying only on Job websites for vacant positions:

Job websites are great places to find vacancies, sites like LinkedIn, getjobs.ng, Ngcareers , jobberman, (maybe Nairaland) to mention a few. Most job seekers tend to focus their search on jobs that are posted externally. A lot of multinational organizations run employee referral schemes, the employees know what the organization is looking for and would be able to refer you.

Brief Story

14 years ago, while I was starting my career, and at that time it was mostly the Banks that were hiring consistently. While applying to Oceanic Bank I got an insider intel to select locations outside Lagos when applying as this was discussed internally that the Bank was expanding to regions outside Lagos. I applied with 3 of my friends despite telling them of this intel they still went ahead to choose Lagos while applying. Those of us that selected outside Lagos were contacted for the assessment in Ibadan, subsequently interviewed and then posted to locations in Lagos. Never underestimate the power of internal intel.

 

  1. Lack of Personal Branding:

This is the overall perception of you as a candidate. This comes with the type of email address you use, the content of your cover letter and resume, the quality of your overall application and the way you carry yourself into an interview. I have experienced where candidates appear completely different in person compared to their resume both good and bad. Invest in your personal development, attend grooming and personal branding sessions to help improve yourself. Clean up your social media presence as some organization do check how active you are and what is the content you put out there as part of the background check.

In closing, I will like to share something a former boss of mine and a current mentor shared in one of her sessions.
She used the acronym GRACE and I will like to leave you with this as you go on this journey.

GRACE

God Factor: There is always the God factor when job hunting, never forget that. This is a phase that will pass one day, and you will be able to share your story with others. We have all been a product of the God factor in our careers and I am certain it will apply to you too as you believe.

Relationship: Invest in relationships, stop hanging out with only job seekers like you. Spend time with people that are doing better than you not to worship them but to understand how they are progressing professionally, and this will give you added motivation.

Attitude: Have the right attitude as you job hunt. Do not lose your self-confidence and self-assurance. The situation you are in now is just transient and you will overcome. Do not have a defeatist attitude and walk around like the weight of the world is on your shoulder. Be positive and be prepared as better days are ahead.

Centered: Stay on your lane, know what you want. Sometimes in life, there are several ways to get to the top. Know what works for you and go through it.

Excellence: In everything you do strive for excellence. You might be in a job now, where you are underpaid and overworked, and you see people not putting in their shift. I recommend you ensure you put in excellent work. You will be surprised how connected we human beings are and how someone that respects your work ethic can connect you to a dream job.

Finally, I always tell people, there is absolutely nothing you can do about people that compete with you for a job, but you are in control of the impression you leave with the hiring manager. I have offered people jobs for different roles they applied for after interviewing them and coming out very impressed.

 

Why do employers not give feedback after the saying we would get back to you?
 I can not speak for every employer but most times there might be a change internally, the business priority may change. The role might have evolved. They might have identified an internal candidate but having said that it is bad judgement not to give closure to the candidate. I have gone through a recruitment process that lasted 13 months.
If  someone has an employment gap like 2-3 years, what advice will you give the fellow? Because some people fill the gap.
It depends on what happened during the gap year. Some people go for further studies, some decide to try their hands on some entrepreneurial endeavors. Some simply unable to find a job. My recommendation is to be truthful if its meant to be it will be. I have gone through a redundancy period and was out of work for some time and I never hid it from my future employers.
Can you share a sample of the body of an application email?
An application email should be tailored to the skills and selection criteria on the job advert. It should not be generic.
When it comes to salary negotiation during an interview (fresh graduate) what should be the answer the fresh graduate should give if asked salary expectation? I have been to interviews recently and if I try to dodge this question, they bring me back and asked for a figure. In fact one of them said, so anything below this, we shouldn’t call you? I was startled!
Honestly, I find it very strange that candidates are pressed into a figure and threatened with no call back if the salary offered is below what they quoted. I can assure you that most structured organization have a pay range per grade, regardless of how much you quote they will not pay you below the range. How high you go up the range is determined by your current salary, skills and experience but typically all entry-level get paid the same. I would recommend you do some finding and give a range when pressed.
Why is it that after interview  the recruiter(employer) do not get back to at least inform if the interview was successful or not? I find it so sad to hear from other parties that they have been contacted and you still waiting to get a feedback from the employer.
If you recall my experience in recruitment recently that over 8000 people applied. The process is concluded when a candidate has been identified, offered and accepted the job. It will be premature to send a notification in the middle of recruitment.
Is it wrong for one with HND certificate to apply for a job for only those with OND certificate?
I can answer this question in two ways:
If the job specifically says only OND should apply and then you have HND and you apply without presenting your HND, it is an aspersion on your integrity. I know someone who did the same and after resumption presented a Masters certificate. Even though his employment wasn’t threatened he was viewed very negatively and when a case of fraudulent representation was levied against him, it was not difficult to see why not.
The second way is to be open at the interview, it would go both ways but at least people on the panel will remember you for your uprightness.
I’ve tried being open in some interviews but wasn’t so lucky… while friends of mine who denied having HND got the job… what’s your take on that sir?
I always believe in the saying that things come to him that hustles while he waits. Why aiming for OND jobs? You should beaiming for Graduate jobs. Don’t sell yourself short!
What advice do you have for those who don’t have the professional qualifications but have undergone series of certifications and voluntary vocations to keep body and soul together ?
Sir what do you mean by “keep body and soul together”, One thing I will advise you Nigeria millennials is to stop acquiring certificates and get skills!
What would you say about rescheduling of an interview appointment.. especially if the hiring manager/company put a provision for rescheduling. Does it still put one in a negative spot light? What’s your opinion generally about interview reschedules?
It depends. I say this because when you are starting your career and you get called by a major corporation to attend an assessment center or an all-day interview, you have to find the time to attend. They will not move the assessment because of one candidate. But as you advance in your career and your skills become very much sought after, you can reschedule interviews as long as it suits you. My current role I rescheduled twice as I was in the middle of wages negotiation. It gives you credibility in the eyes of your prospective employers that you take your job very seriously.
Concerning social media presence, I’m active on social media because I use my page to advertise the products I sell.  Is anything wrong with that?
There is no problem with that unless you are selling a rival product or substitute products. You see my point. Some companies go through actual tweets to know if you have a view that is in contradiction with the culture of the organization.
I have 5 years working experience using my ND certificate, having acquired a degree certificate, youth service is the only employment experience I have. How do I go about getting a suitable job asides graduate trainees opportunity as the age is quite above most graduate trainee opportunities?
It is not everyone that will get into a management trainee program. The earlier you make your peace with it the better for you. It is easier to get into multinationals with 3-5 years of experience than going through the trainee program. You should consider that.
Please Sir,  can you expatiate on this? Most trainee programs are for age limit of 26 years, I am older sir.
Sir, I am saying you don’t have to apply to management trainee programs. You can get experience in your field and apply as an experienced hire.
Is it advisable to apply for Bsc. Jobs with HND Qualification? Whats your advice for applicant; should they apply for job they have experience in or the ones they hold a certificate for?
In your recruitment process which do you consider first, experience or qualification?
I personally hire people for their experience, not for their certificate. So many people have the same certificate what is the differentiating factor.
I’ve been out of job for over a year. Is there anything I can do to enhance my chances of securing a job?
I will recommend you go over the presentation again and see areas you can improve.
What career path or Job opportunities will you advice a Sales promoter in a mobile industry to focus on, if they want a change in career.
 Know the industry you want to switch
 Understand it might come at some personal sacrifice like a pay cut if starting from the bottom.
Can one who have 10years+ experience in a certain field apply for jobs in a minimum 2- 3 years experience job in the same field especially when the person seeks to relocate to another state?
This is quite tricky as most times overqualified candidates are screen out. Perhaps you should state your motivation for applying in the cover letter.
Should I state the point of my relocation? I feel stating this point has been a setback for me in interviews.
Trust me, if you aced the interview and will be relocating at your expense, the company will jump at it. I think you should have some self-reflection on your past interviews
I studied Animal and Environmental Biology. But my specialty is parasitology and I have experience in laboratory activities. But obviously bases on the course of study I should be working in zoo which is something I know nothing about. I don’t have money for PGD. What professional course can I take to help.
You should focus on getting experience. Certification can be a hindrance sometimes. It is not all of us that is working in our field of study. Focus on getting that experience if it is something you enjoy doing.
I don’t really understand your what you mean by “being active on social media”. I’m not used to posting contents on social media. You might say not very active. Could this be a barrier for me?

Clean up your social media presence as some organization do check how active you are and what is the content you put out there as part of the background check.

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Compiled for Getjobs by :
Awoyeye Doyinsola R.
Awoyeyedoyinsola@gmail.com
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