Simple qualities top employers look for when hiring

Centum, KRA and Unilever managers share tips on what they consider important during recruitment

When employees are choosing an employer they consider a number of things, which include: job security, pay and welfare benefits as well as learning opportunities and career advancement prospects. Flip the coin and the equation changes. Employers will tell you they are looking for talent but within the individual, there are a number of things that matter most that everyone want to work for top companies need to have.

Three leaders from three of Kenya’s top companies – Centum, Unilever Kenya and KRA – share their preferences when picking a candidate for employment. They give insights into hiring procedures that are helpful for anyone looking for a job in a serious company – from lowest level to middle managers and CEO.

JAMES MWORIA, Centum CEO

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We pay closer attention to the simplest of things at the workplace that can influence the attitude of employees. Things like provision of meals. We serve both breakfast and a nice meal for lunch. Most of the company’s important issues are discussed over meals in a cafeteria where we all share work experiences.

Part of what we do to enrich each other in the job is assigning complex tasks and achieving them through team work. This means that to get someone on board, they must prove their ability to work in a team. One must also have self-drive and such soft skills as communication, leadership and critical thinking.

It is just unfortunate that learning institutions miss the opportunity to inculcate soft skills like self-management and critical thinking in learners. It is also evident that some learners don’t equip themselves with IT skills, which happen to be a requirement by the industry these days.

And in line with the new competency-based curriculum, assuming that institutions of higher learning have started testing it, even though they are not required to practically teach it, it is important for graduates to note that we in the industry have also started to test on competency.

Importantly, we are keen on knowing if the graduates can learn and have the adaptability that comes with it. We will be thrilled to have engineering graduates who can work at the customer service desk and in accounting, just by observing other do it.

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SALOME NDERITU – HR DIRECTOR, UNILEVER EAST AFRICA

Key to what we do to make the workers life comfortable is encouraging open plan offices for better collaboration and communication that isn’t hindered by hierarchical requirements. We also allow employees to work from different locations and take up flexible working hours. We provide special rooms for nursing mothers and allow people we report to work in non-official dress code.

It is hard to ignore the missing links between academic qualifications and what we are looking for in recent graduates at Unilever.

Theoretical outlook of graduates into the practical working environment is always evident when they show up for interviews. These are young people who come prepped for the interviews in a manner similar to what they learn in class, and find it difficult to bend to the particular company requirements.

And there is an obvious need for stronger partnerships between learning institutions and the wider industry to better understand the ever-changing skillset requirements. I don’t know who should make the first move but the need is hard to ignore.

It is interesting to note that fresh graduates look out for opportunities for quick vertical growth in their careers. They want to spend short periods in the various roles before they seek career advancements. That is why they are always looking for such opportunities as career progression, especially outside the country.

NELSON MUKURIAH, Deputy Commissioner, Human Resource Department, KRA

KRA has systems in place for staff training and staff welfare. For wellness and fitness, we have a gym where employees have a perfect unwinding opportunity. This also helps keep them in shape and healthy.

But much as employees say they are satisfied, they are always looking for another level of challenge. This is the challenge that most companies grapple with while trying to meet the needs of employees. This is a normal human trait, even explained in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But we always try and there is accomplishment in employees seeing the management try to achieve their next level of satisfaction.

SEE: How to get a job straight out of college

And these are the people we like working with. People with the right attitude above everything else. Apart from the relevant qualifications, a candidate needs to demonstrate a positive attitude and willingness to learn as well as possess high integrity. KRA upholds high values of trust, ethics, competence and usefulness and imprints them in employees. A candidate should be able to identify with these values as an aspiring employee of KRA.

It is unfortunate that graduates these days suffer the negative outcomes of poor teaching methodologies in school that do not equip them with the right attitudes and skills. If students are taken through programmes to pass exams, they are sometimes unable to translate the book theory into practice.

It is important for educational institutions to connect theory to practice to adequately prepare students for the work environment.

Most companies solve this problem through management trainee programmes where a candidate is equipped with knowledge through training. I urge graduates to hunger for these programmes more than they look for jobs. It is the only place you can be taken in with your inefficiencies and curved into something that the industry is looking for.

“And as a recruiter, I must point out one habit portrayed by job-seekers that really annoys recruiters and dims their chances of getting considered for employment. This is sending out generic CVs and a failure to do some homework on such basic things as the company profile before they show up for the interviews.

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