Kenyan graduates: Here are 10 tips to get employers knocking down your door

Maintain your networks
  • Don't cheapen yourself, establish personal credibility
  • Maintain your networks, attend professional events like seminars
  • Delay the money question as much as possible

Fred Nyawade has extensively worked in the HR industry in Africa and in the Middle East. He is currently the senior HR manager and vice president of human resources at a leading bank in Kenya.

He shares 10 tips on how to get employers to hunt you down.

1. Your reputation precedes you

Personal credibility makes a lot of difference. At whichever point you are in life or work - whether going up the ladder or just getting out of college, your credibility at all those stages is what makes someone think about you when opportunities come.

The impression that you leave in someone's mind after every interaction, be it physical or online interaction – is what determines whether you to stay at the top of people's minds.

When an employer is thinking of someone to recruit for a certain role, there are people who will come into their minds and for them to look for you, you have to have established personal credibility.

2. Have a website

A website puts you in the driving seat of your credibility. With this, you are defining your personal brand. It allows you to determine how you want to be seen. It should be attractive, speak to who you are and explain your professional viewpoints.

For example, if it was my website as a HR person, I would be writing about culture, about how strategy works, stories of how I have been able to turn cultures around and how that helped the bottom lines of organisations.

Dr Fred Nyawade, Senior HR manager and Vice president Human Resources at Barclays Bank Kenya

You can have people asking questions and you answer them. It is a very personal way of determining how you get handpicked.

Once you have that, people now know you as the authority in that area, so when they are looking for someone in that area, they will definitely come to you.

3. Have a positive online presence

This goes beyond your own personal website. What comes up when someone googles your name? What does your presence on social media look like? You do not want people to see this very noble guy on your website, but when they google you, funny things come up and they wonder if you are the same person making certain comments on sensitive topics of the day.

 Today, any serious employer will check your background, google you, look you up on social media and check on your online presence and will take note of things like how you dressed and the kind of language you use.

4. Keep your networks warm

From time to time, call your former colleagues and bosses. It is all about keeping yourself at the top of their minds. Keep them up there and they will keep thinking about you, so that they know what you are doing and where you are.

Maintain your networks, so that when they realise that there is something available, they can easily pick up the phone and call you.

Attend professional events like seminars, participate in giving talks and actively participate within your profession. Volunteer. If for example, you are a marketer, there are many colleges of marketing where you can volunteer and give tips to the students or work there when there are graduations.

You never know who else is attending; who might decide that you seem to have whatever it is that they need.

5. Be personable

The kind of personality you need to have usually depends on the role and level that the head-hunter is looking for, but generally speaking, an employer would want to see evidence of some energy and drive in a person.

They are drawn to people who come across as energetic in the way they relate, in the way they speak, in how organised they are, which shows in their CVs and if they get along with people. It is a good idea to get a professional to rework your CV for you so that it brings out what needs to be brought out.

Some people just list their job descriptions in their CVs. Employers are not really interested in that. They just want to see the title of the job and the achievements that you had while in that position.

6. Don't reek of desperation

Don't cheapen yourself. You could be thinking that setting yourself up to be headhunted, when you are actually setting yourself up for disaster. If you spread your CV out there so that everyone has it that may come off as odd.

Any time a product is too readily available, people start lowering the value of that product. If you have head-hunters and they see that CV everywhere in the market, people start wondering if there is something amiss.

Do not overdo it, otherwise you will lose both value with others and credibility with your current employer. Also, do not be too bothersome by constantly asking if something has come up. The idea is for them to look for you.

8. Don't be overeager

When you get that call, most people will feel the pressure to answer immediately. A good head-hunter will call and ask if it is a good time to talk, since you are not expected to be idly waiting for their call.

 I recommend that you say 'no', not that you should give an inordinate amount of time, but reasonably ask for one to two hours to reorganise your schedule.

 Do not just drop everything because of that call that has come in. Say 'thank you' and that you would be happy to talk to them in an hour or two. If they need you, most people will not mind.

In the one to two hours, get yourself into a good head space where you decide what questions you have for them, so that when they call you again, you will be ready to ask them questions and get as much detail as they are willing to give.

Most of the time they will not be willing to give the name of the organisation as the client has not allowed it, probably because there is someone currently in that role or it is confidential for whatever reason. Ask which organisation it is, what the role is, the requirements of that role – because you need to know if the role really fits you.

Find out how the vacancy arose. Is there somebody on the role? Did someone get promoted? At this point it would be too early to ask about money issues unless they bring it up themselves.

9. Be courteous

If called for an interview, prepare well. One mistake that people often make is that they decline or decide to cancel the interview too late.

That messes up many relationships. Remember that the head-hunter has a client and they want to impress them.

You are also a product and you need to be in their good books. Even if you do not get that particular role, you are still looking for other roles. They can connect you with other roles but when you cancel too late, you lose credibility. Make sure that you set your time and go for the interview.

10. Negotiate like a boss

Do not bring up the issue of money too early. Sometimes they ask you at the interview stage what your expectations are regarding money. If you can avoid answering that question, do, because the reasoning is that it is too early.

 That negotiation should happen when you are the assured candidate. At that point you will have an advantage and will be negotiating from a point of strength because having taken you through the whole process, they obviously need you.

 Delay the money question as much as possible. However, some panellists will insist on it. If this happens, tell them what you expect but quickly indicate that it is not a deal breaker and is negotiable.

Give an answer like, "Currently, I am on x salary. Of course I would not move for the same rate because I am not running away from where I am, so I expect a reasonable compensation.

However, I also know that you have benefits, some of which I may not be having right now," or "I have some benefits but I am willing to discuss this once we are sure that I am the chosen candidate but I can assure you that will not be the deal breaker because I see the opportunities in it." The idea is to avoid looking desperate while at the same time not appear like they cannot afford you.