- May 31, 2020
“What do I do to get a job in this country?” a friend asked on a WhatsApp group. Accompanying the text was a telling meme juxtaposing the path into heaven and the path to a job in Kenya. You can guess which one was narrower.
It’s true that it can feel like an impossible undertaking when hitting the tarmac for a job search. The recent 2019 census report found that a third of Kenya’s youth eligible for work have no jobs – that’s roughly 7-8 million, mostly millennial, people. The jobs market has just gotten even more competitive at this time when droves of previously employed people have unfortunately had to rejoin the unemployment line due to the COVID-19 pandemic effects. That’s a whole island of people to wrestle with for what’s only a metaphoric handful of available jobs.
Ironically, having been on the other side of the interview table, vetting potential hires, it can also feel like the right employee is just not out there. So what gives?
My friend’s sighing post got me thinking: What qualities did we often find lacking in job candidates? Shouldn’t millennials looking for jobs get a glimpse of what was going through our minds when hiring? Here are five things we looked for in potential employees. Hopefully, it can help you drive up your chances at securing that sought-after interview and hopefully, a job.
- Can you write a professional email?
This is your first interaction with any potential employer and forms an impression of the kind of employee you’ll be. I received all manner of job application emails: ones without a subject line, ones with a screaming subject line, ones with an attached CV but without an email body, and ones with an email body but without attached documents. Professional email writing is probably half the work in any modern job. It can make and break a client relationship. Employers are silently wary of being embarrassed by an employee’s poor email etiquette. So, you may want to learn how to put together a good, solid email that represents the best of you.
- No cover letter, no love
A majority of job applications call for a cover letter for a reason. It’s good practice to submit one, even when not explicitly asked for. Good employers will consider genuinely an application with a cover letter even when a CV is light or missing. Tougher employers will toss out on sight any application that’s missing one. Don’t ask me the significance of a cover letter, we all hate to write them and they’re not exactly the best literature to read. But if pressed, I’d say employers like to know that they’re dealing with someone genuinely interested in the work and not just a paycheck. Therefore, the more personalized, the better.
- Do your spelling bees
Misspellings are a major red flag for employers. A job application is a one chance opportunity to get it right. If you get it wrong on your own application, it may hint to the employer that they can’t trust you to get it right for a client. No questions typos are a quick way for your application to get tossed.
- Social score trumps GPA
Be warned: Most employers will do a quick Google search of your name. What comes up when your name is run across the global directory may just be your ticket in or out of a job. Do you have a professional profile on LinkedIn? If not, consider curating one. Use all the best practices recommended to be on that platform. How about your social media pages? Do you come across as someone agreeable and teachable or are you unpleasant and provocative on Twitter? Your CV or university GPA cannot express these things but your online persona can. You may want to clean up the first few scrolls on your Twitter or Facebook profiles. If you’re completely helpless, consider making your online profiles private.
- Be proactive, be responsive
Approach every job opportunity like a competition against a multitude of other highly qualified people. Because, mostly it is. Employers get so many applications that sometimes good candidates get lost in the mire of a cluttered inbox. Candidates should make it a priority to follow up. If an interview is conducted, make sure to always ask the recruiter when you can expect to hear back, then follow up. Alternatively, write back with a ‘thank you’ note post-interview. Courtesy goes a long way. Not only does it keep you top of mind over other candidates, but sometimes, it can pepper over any mistakes done during the interview.
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