LUCY NDEGWA: How to apply for a job

Kindly introduce yourself to us.

I am Lucy Ndegwa, a HR proffessional with over 11 years experience in Kenya. I have worked in two large corporates and is currently, the Managing Partner at Myers Group Limited, a HR Consulting Firm.

As a HR proffessional, what are your responsibilities?

This involves general HR including recruitment, training, payroll among other employee related duties. Further, HR has moved to be a core strategic function in many organisations, thus, a key component in an organisation’s success.

Now, the youth are crying. No jobs. According to you, is it true there are no jobs? Or are the youth ill-equipped for the jobs available?

Well I think the jobs are there but everyone needs to not only have the skills but also something extra e.g. passion, right attitude and of course, the willingness to learn new things quickly. I have over the years employed people who did a particular course but have since learnt other skills and moved on. The willingness to evolve is very important.

If I applied for a job as HR officer, what would you be looking at?

In Kenya right now, someone needs to have the HR Diploma as a minimum. That aside, I would be looking for the right attitude. We say hire the attitude and train the skills.

How do you get to determine an applicant’s attitude?

From body language, to the way they speak, to how they respond to questions. Lately, we check them out on social media. Some people’s social media pages have such negativity! I have seen loads of strong CV but when I meet the person I wonder! There is no match at all.

What are some of the put-offs when you go through an applicant’s CV?

Length of CV being too long or too short, poor formatting, spelling mistakes, being too fancy or flamboyant are some of the put-offs.

Are some of the details in a CV really necessary such as marital status and religion?

Well some details are not necessary. It depends on the job. However, include the most essential. Skip religion and marital status.

What is the required length for a CV?

I say maximum 3 or 4 pages

How does one bargain for a salary during an interview?

Well, this needs to happen much later. I say do your maths and homework. You need to have an idea of how the company pays. Aim for a minimum of 30% rise from previous job.

When applying via email, which is the correct format to send your applications and documents? Word document or .pdf? And should the documents be merged into one? Or they can be separate?

Make sure the documents are always PDF and separate to make it easy to decide what to print. I have received merged documents including a primary school debate club participation certificate.

What do you look for in a cover letter?

First, keep it short, then, highlight your achievements. Don’t brag or beg!

What if it is your first job applying?

State your skills. Mention things you have done or leadership positions you held. Still keep it short.

How is experience calculated? Can you apply for a job even if the required experience exceeds you? Does volunteerism and attachment count as experience?

Experience is mostly number of years on the job. This is tricky since some jobs are strict on the job experience required! Volunteering may count in some jobs too. Internship can count too but for some jobs. The challenge we have is when interns were made to only do filing.

Is it advisable to follow up through calls/email on a job you applied?

It depends on after how long. Too soon and you sound desperate. Plus, you can still follow up in discrete.

As a 21-year old student, developing my CV, should I include every bit of what I have done on my skills, interests and objectives?

You only add a few including leadership, sports, volunteering. Keep it short. When I am looking for a 21 year old, I want a 1-page CV, then I can help him/her grow into page 2 and 3. It is important to participate in various activities in school, college and community, that demonstrates a passionate, forward looking person. We look for such differentiators when we have 100 CVs.

I want every youth to remember that there are very many other people out there with your same skills… So, why should I hire you

The School Leaving Certificates. Are they also required?

Very important. There are too many fake documents hence we ask for this to add to the pool of vetting. We catch fraud from inconsistencies.

And the recommendation letters?

We ask for referees then we contact them rather than recomendation letters. Most organisations have their own format.

So, who should be included as the referees?

I say have some people in three buckets; academia, work life and personal life. Personal life avoid close relatives, keep some distance. Go for friends but focus on someone who knows you well.

According to you, what do you look for in a good application?

A good application should focus on the job profile, providing the information required to the latter. When applying for a job one should make sure they meet the requirements.

What are the do’s and don’ts of answering “Tell us about yourself” during an interview?

This is a very simple question and the expected answer is in About You, in relation to the job profile. One should focus on sharing information that aligns to the job profile e.g relevant academic, skills and experience. Also mention achievements relevant to the job. No stories about who your relatives.

Keep it short too. I have had to stop people on this during an interview. It is not necessary to tell me about the primary and secondary schools you attended. Nor is it necessary to detail the achievements in details, just simple straight answers.

What is your parting shot?

My final comment is that each one of us can make a difference. Mark your pathway in advance. Bring your A game and you will achieve it! We have got it in ourselves all the time. Also, you must want that job real bad!

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