16 May 2010

Lessons for job seekers in #Tanzania

We've just completed three days of recruitment, looking mainly for staff to deliver our forthcoming local newspaper. A tiring week, but - fingers crossed - one that has produced results. As before, we went for an innovative approach, putting the applicants in two groups and challenging them to produce a four page local newspaper in two days. As you would expect, the finished product was not as neat and tidy as a professionally produced paper, but for teams that had only just met each other, it was a pretty good effort.

I can't say anything about particular applicants, since we haven't yet made our final decisions about job offers, but I can make a few general comments that might well be useful to young job seekers in Tanzania. Some of it may seem obvious, but apparently not to everyone!

First, what not to do:
  • Don't turn up with fake bus tickets trying to claim three times the usual fare. If you do, don't expect to be refunded anything, and certainly don't expect to be offered a job.
And with that crazy example out of the way, on to something more constructive:
  • Do some proper research about the organisation you are applying to work for. A website is the most obvious place to start. If you know very little about the organisation, it looks to the interviewers like you are just lazy. But if you know something, it makes you look interested.
  • Even if you have very little work experience, think about whatever relevant experience you do have and talk about it as much as possible. Everyone has some experience to talk about, even if it's only university field placements, research projects and any clubs or societies you have been involved with. They all involve things like taking responsibility, working with others, meeting deadlines, etc.
  • Nothing makes an interviewer happy more than finding an applicant who is just as excited about a project as they are. Again, research about the job is important, but even more than this, make sure you show your excitement. Tell people what you're excited about, and show your enthusiasm too, by being as active, bright and full of energy as you can.
  • Remember that being able to work with other people is just as important as technical skills. If you are put in a group and asked to perform a task together, don't just think about what you can do to show off you skills, but how you can make sure the group as a whole is performing well. 
  • Remember that from the moment you arrive for an interview until the moment you leave, you are on show. You can't just be on best behaviour for the interview itself and not worry about the rest of the time. Some of the most interesting things I learnt about people this week were learnt while chatting over lunch - both good and bad.  
  • Make you CV look professional, but real. Its easy to find CV templates online, which can help make you CV look smart, but if you use one of these, think about whether all the sections on the template are really relevant to you and get rid of anything that you don't properly understand. We had lots of very smart-looking CVs with odd sentences that looked out of place. It must be your CV - make it look professional, but make it yours.

Let me leave it there. If you're applying for a job, good luck and I hope this is useful.