If you have ever done some job-hunting before then you know all about Jobberman.com. An employment website set up in 2009 primarily to bridge the gap between opportunity and talent for the teeming population of jobseekers in Nigeria and beyond, it has been described by Forbes as West Africa’s most popular job search engine and aggregator. Mr.Opeyemi Awoyemi, who with two other young men founded Jobberman, speaks to The Interview on the keys to clinching a job and what jobseekers should expect this year.
With unemployment at over 20 per cent, how many placements did Jobberman make in 2015?
In 2015, we did over 36,000 placements across all sectors. We also recently moved deeper, through a subsidiary of ours, into the blue-collar space and we placed over 120 drivers as well, which is a first for us.
What are three top problems you face with applicants?
Many applicants do what I call ‘mass application’. The effect of that is that they apply for jobs they are not fit for, which means more effort, time and resources are expended to find the right candidate. Also, they do not remember the jobs they apply for and when they are called for interviews some just don't show up, without informing the hirer of their inability to attend. ‘Unemployability’ is another. Most applicants do not have the required skills to succeed in today's workplace. "But they have degrees," someone once said. It's beyond degrees nowadays. Most degree holders can't use basic software, can't send basic emails, nor can they write basic business letters. Most also lack critical thinking skills. Other employability skills you rarely find today include selling skills, ability to write a good CV, knowing how and what to say at an interview and good spoken and written communication skills. There is a looming danger in the country where many educated young people believe some jobs are beneath them, either because of the salary or because it's not an office job. We've done some key research into understanding where the new jobs over the next 10 years will come from and I hate to burst their bubble, but it won't be behind desks. As a result, undergraduates and non-graduates will get most of these opportunities and many graduates will still be unemployed.
How can the recruitment process be made more efficient?
Introduction of better screening mechanisms into the recruitment process.Sensitisation and training of jobseekers right before they get to the point of looking for jobs. Employers can't be bothered to do that work, so it's left to schools and other concerned bodies like Jobberman and the government to intervene here. Our biggest problem, from a volume of jobs point of view, is that we are not competitive globally. It is why businesses import and still hire expatriates. The government needs to focus on the birth of new and growth of existing industries, that will manufacture for internal use and for export. In other words, ‘made in Nigeria’ goods need to be able to compete with foreign goods in terms of price and volume. There are not enough white-collar jobs. We need to imbibe a culture of self-driven learning and entrepreneurship.
A recent survey of over 200 employers in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria showed that talent deficit was employers' biggest challenge. Is that a familiar problem from your experience?
Yes, as I said earlier. The Nigerian learning system is not living up to expectation where the delivery of enough employable and skilled candidates is concerned. In foreign schools, students learn critical thinking skills from class discussions with lecturers and peers. In Nigeria, lecturers spend the whole class dictating notes. Entrepreneurship and internships are encouraged, are almost compulsory abroad. Not in Nigeria. The Industrial Training Fund’s Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) requires students do internships, but does not facilitate where they should go. Entrepreneurs like us have to fill that gap, but it takes time.
What five steps must applicants take to guarantee employment?
Understand that you are competing with other candidates. As such, you need to prepare to put your best foot forward. What else can you boast of apart from that piece of paper called a certificate? What skills do you have after four years in school? Your CV is a selling document – have you written in it all the things that stand you out? Don't hide them. If you can convince people easily, write it there; it's a skill. Network; yes it's important to know people, but they don't have to be your uncle or your aunty. You just need to make sure that you connect with potential employers, right from your internship days and let them know what you are made of. Keep them updated about your progress and let them know when you start your job search. Ask them to share advice or point you in the right direction. Read beyond what you are being taught in school. You, the Internet and books are your greatest teachers, not your lecturers in the classroom. And be computer literate. You have no excuse not to be, especially if you have a phone and you are on Facebook or Whatsapp. Get involved in extracurricular activities that teach you communication, sales and leadership skills in an informal way. Religious, social, entrepreneurial, non-profit and educational groups help very well in this regard. This is where you get to learn employability skills and meet people who will be useful and powerful in the nearest future. Strive to be the best, work and walk with the best and always learn from the best. Make friends with them, read their profiles, success stories, interviews. Attend their trainings, seminars and conferences. It will rub off on you. That's the way to learn the things that you don't know you don't know.
How drastic are the demographic changes of applicants?
It has followed the same trend for the past 10 years – more candidates than jobs. Nigeria's population keeps increasing far above the rate of job opportunities being created, locally or abroad. We've also noticed an influx of Nigerian talent coming back home and these ones are very competitive and are ready to sometimes earn the same pay a Nigerian trained candidate is asking for.
Universities have threatened to go on strike over the sack of 1000 workers. It has been reported that hundreds of bank workers may lose their jobs this year. Do you think that 2016 might be a nightmare year for workers?
Yes, undoubtedly. Money is not as available as it was before. We were once a country where money flowed, but no real value was being created. The Buhari-led government has been sending warning signals that everyone should be prepared to get real in 2016, so companies will be adjusting to the reality. However, just as any wise person will say, recession is a time to plant and invest. I expect many candidates to become more employable and competitive. I expect more entrepreneurs who will create real value to emerge. How does Jobberman pay its bills?
We survive mainly on job placement fees. At Jobberman, we earn fees from over 2,000 employers on a monthly basis for different services. We also have advertising products as well as opt-in products for jobseekers.
From your placement database, which sectors hired the most in 2015? Do you think the trend will continue?
The retail/trade and services sector hired the most and in terms of specialisations, accounting, administration, sales and business development topped the rankings. I think that will hold sway for the next couple of years. It's evidence of the fact that Nigeria is getting real and is moving away from being an oil and gas country to a services-based economy. With advancements in manufacturing agriculture, we may see another welcome shift.
What are employers telling you about the kind of workers they need?
In one sentence, employees who can read and write well, sell and think on their feet. Employers are looking for excellent people not average certificate holders.
How big are your operations outside Nigeria?
We have sister operations in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Beyond that, we've recruited actively for clients in pretty much every continent, via our partnerships with some of the leading job platforms around the world.
What one piece of advice would you give a job seeker in 2016?
It's a competition; be prepared to sell yourself and show that you are better than the rest. Everything matters in the war – your CV, the way you dress, your informal experience, how you email, how you convince people etc. Don't leave anything to chance.