What Kenyan Employers Want from Job Seekers

Do you know what Kenyan employers want from job seekers?
It is no news that the level of unemployment in Kenya is relatively high as more than 5 million young Kenyans are currently unemployed. With the number of people searching for jobs in Kenya, getting one is not a work in the park.

While thousands of job seekers chase the few available jobs in Kenya, Kenyan employers have become strict and picky about the kind of job candidates they would love to hire.  

Gone are the days when getting a University degree was all you need to land a job in Kenya. These days, employers in Kenya look beyond your degree, in fact, a survey shows that nearly half of Kenyan employers are dissatisfied with the skills level of university leavers joining the job market.
No doubt, the Kenyan job market has become more difficult, but we know there are questions you would love to ask like:

  • What do employers in Kenya want from job seekers?
  • How can I prove to Kenyan employers that I am the candidate they are looking for?

What Kenya Employers expect from job seekers

Considering the increasing number of unemployable job candidates in Kenya and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, employers in Kenya are not ready to hire unqualified job candidates.
Getting a new hire sure comes with a cost. Employers in Kenya are not ready to bear the cost of hiring a job candidate that will end up being a bad hire, so they expect job seekers to have the following:

1. Relevant work experience

A relevant work experience still stands as one of the factors that employers in Kenya consider when deciding on hiring a job candidate. A candidate that has work experience that is relevant to the job that they are applying for will always be a top pick for employers. 
Most employers look forward to hiring candidates with relevant work experience because it assures them that the candidate can do the job they are going to be hired to do. It also helps them save the time and money they would spend to train someone that does not have relevant work experience. 
A degree used to be a determining factor as to who gets a job in Kenya, but now employers are more concerned about the level of success that a candidate has achieved performing a particular role. The CSI survey revealed, “a majority (84.8%) of employers consider work experience as a crucial asset for new graduates…”

What you should do

  • Discover your career path, and then get relevant work experience along that path. If you are just leaving school, you can consider taking up internship and volunteering opportunities. 
  • If you already have a skill, you can look at taking up free gigs to build your portfolio.
  • Always remember to highlight your experience in your CV so that employers know what you can do from your CV at a glance. 

2. Learning Potential

Yes, employers prefer to hire job candidates with relevant work experience, but they also recognize job candidates with great potentials. Skills can be learned, so many employers don’t make their hiring decisions based on the candidates’ skills or work experience.
Many employers consider a candidate’ enthusiasm and learning potential. From our years of recruitment experience, when we discover the great potential in a candidate, that candidate ends up get hired even when they don’t have professional experience.
Many employers in Kenya believe that when a candidate shows some level of competence (however crude) stands a chance of getting the job, especially if they show potentials that may impact the company in the future beyond the job description or the role they are applying for.

What you should do                                                                                                                                            
Since some employers believe that a candidate’s employability can be measured by the candidate’s potential to become a great asset if equipped with the right skills and placed in the right environment. 
It is up to you as a job seeker to:

  • Show your potentials through some activities that you have participated in (in your CV and even during the job interview)                                                  
  • Always emphasize your future value in addition to your accomplishments.

3. Cultural Fit

Many organizations especially small and growing businesses (SGBS) are taking cultural fit as one of the major factors when hiring. These companies are concerned about creating a sustainable work environment and business strategies that help them stand out as a brand.
This is why they often prefer to hire job candidates that can fit into the already existing culture that they have created. 

What is a company culture all about?
A company’s culture is simply the way an organization functions. A company’s culture is often formed from a variety of things like; the organization’s value, vision, work environment, set of behaviours, belief systems, etc. Employers always look forward to hiring a job candidate whose personality and work ethics aligns with theirs to enhance the strength of the organization. 
A survey reveals “ 84% of recruiters said that cultural fit has become a prominent factor in the selection process” (CUBIKS survey)

What you should do
It is obvious that companies are already embracing the slogan “hire for culture, train for skills”.  Since top companies like Netflix and LinkedIn are already hiring for cultural fit, see what you can do to show that you fit into a  company’s culture:

  • Research the company you want to work with to have an idea of their work ethics.
  • Follow the company on their social media pages to learn more about them.
  • Study the job description of the role you are applying for to have an idea of the kind of hire the company is looking for.
  • Study the company’s vision and mission.

4. Career stability

Even if many employers don’t find career instability much of a problem, some others do. Some employers in Kenya are not looking to hire candidates that have not decided on the career path they want to follow and candidates that job-hop. 
New research conducted by Indeed revealed, “65% of employers said they opted not to interview someone who has a short-tenure job at other companies”
Employers in Kenya want to hire a candidate that has shown a good amount of career stability from their work history. They are willing to hire job seekers that are ready to use their skills to build the company and at the same time willing to grow alongside the company.
No employer in Kenya wants to spend time and money to hire someone that might leave after a month or two.

What you should do
Yes, recruiters want to hire someone that will stay in the company, but how can you show that you are that person. You can show career stability by:

  • Building your work experience in a chosen career/job field.
  • Critically considering a job offer before accepting it.
  • Spending some time in your current job before leaving.
  • Avoid adding work experience that is not relevant to the role that you are applying for in your CV.

5. Relevant skills

The job market in Kenya has changed tremendously; employers no longer consider a candidate’s course or university programme as a criterion for selection. They put more emphasis on the candidate’s skill and ability to do the job.
Even if a candidate does not have a university degree but is skilled enough to do the job, then the candidate stands a chance to be hired. Most problems that many job seekers in Kenya have (especially recent graduates) is that they rely so much on their university degree which does not help them acquire the necessary skills to land a job.
 Dr Gitau Ngigi, a human resource consultant based in Nairobi reveals “most universities are still focusing on programmes which are not cognisant of the fast-changing job market skills-set requirements”.
Kenyan employers (especially SGBS) want to hire job candidates with the right skills, candidates that can come on board and get the job done as soon as possible. They want candidates with skills that can be used to grow their businesses.

What you should do
The best way to get access to the few available jobs in Kenya is by acquiring in-demand skills that Kenyan employers can’t resist. When we talk about skills, we are referring to both hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills you should acquire if you want to get a job in Kenya
Here are some of the top hard skills you should prepare for to land a job this year in Kenya:

  • UI/UX Design
  • Business Analysis
  • Software Development
  • Web Development
  • Mobile App Development
  • Digital Marketing
  • SEO/SEM Marketing 
  • Data Analytics
  • Video Production/Editing
  • Video Animation

Soft skills you should acquire if you want to get a job in Kenya

As much as certain hard skills are high in demand in Kenya, employers in Kenya also look forward to seeing some soft skills in their prospective hires. 
The research titled State of Graduate Employability in Kenya’ by CPS International reveals how Kenyan employers rank basic skills. 
The survey mentions the top soft skills job seekers in Kenya should acquire in descending order based on the percentage of each skill.

  • Ability to work in a team (65.2%)
  • The right attitude to work and life (65.1%)
  • Communication skills (60.9%)
  • Planning and organizational skills (54.3%)
  • Decision-making skills (45.7%)
  • The ability to adapt to a new situation (39.1%)

Quick note: (Employers consider these soft skills as important factors for hiring entry-level candidates and interns). 

The research also ranked (numeracy, writing, reading and ICT skills) as the most important skills for graduates to get employed at 78.3%.
What you should do
No doubt, the demand for candidates with relevant skill-set is high in demand. So if you want to get a job soon in Kenya, then you should look at acquiring in-demand hard and soft skills. 

Getting a job in Kenya can indeed be challenging, but knowing exactly what employers want will make your job-hunting journey less challenging. 
As much as you would love to work for a good company with great benefits and perks, employers also look forward to hiring A-class job candidates with the right skills, experience, and work ethics. 

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