The Star (Nairobi)

19 November 2012

Kenya: Background Check and the Vetting Process

opinion

Background checks are becoming a routine part of public sector hiring. It is no longer enough to be in the right place at the right time or to know someone in the right place. Being like-minded, though not necessarily with each other, stereotyping and clichés are a big part of the way we construct and manage our lives.

This helped in the past because of the uneven development of Kenya, a person's name could be used as an indicator of their job suitability. Things are changing. Your qualifications and what you have done up to the time of the interview are becoming more important. There is a problem though.

There are many people, prominent in public affairs who are not subject to interview or vetting at all. Then there are people who appear to cook papers. It is a little like watching your favourite sports team going through a process of rebuilding the team, but still having some really dodgy overpaid, under-performing 'stars'. Good examples are found in football.

If you follow football keenly, you will know that each team has 11 players. For tactical purposes they are divided into a defence, midfield and attackers. Strikers and defenders have clear mandates. For the striker, it is to score goals, for a defender to stop goals going in. Midfielders on the other hand can be defensive or offensive and holding.

Their job description is much more varied depending on the team's overall tactics. Which is why the best place to become anonymous on a football pitch is to be part of the midfield.

But there is one midfield player who traditionally should stand out - and that is the number seven, right midfield, or right-winger. Theoretically he should be close to the right side touchline and so be close to the fans. Over the course of the game it should be easy to vet his performance as he plays.

But what about the rest of the midfield? It can be difficult. Is there some way to monitor their performance? Rugby may help. In the game of rugby there are 15 players divided into two groups, eight hefty forwards and seven backs. While it is easier to rate the performance of the backline as each stands on their own with a clear job description, it is a lot harder to assess the forwards.

Even though if a team is playing well it is always the forwards who provide the platform. Crucial in the modern game is the role the number six and seven, the flankers, play in securing the ball for their team.

So just like in football, watching the number seven can tell you how well you team is doing. The problem is that vetting the number seven alone cannot assure you of a win.

It is possible though that understanding and applying a little medical knowledge can help. The number seven in rugby when part of the scrum binds on to the back of the leg of the appropriately named prop.

If you looked across the team, the prop being the heaviest member of the team has potential to be the unhealthiest. So if the prop has poorly conditioned hamstrings then the number seven along with the rest of the scrum and therefore the team will struggle.

Therefore good number seven equals a good prop in front of him and therefore a healthy team? There are some parallels in football. A right-sided midfielder will spend a good part of the game crossing the ball to give his forwards a chance to score. It is mandatory if you want to kick a ball to have good quality hamstrings.

However this does not mean that interview panels should ask to see candidate's hamstrings. There is an easier way. The average adult has difficulty touching their toes. Flexibility lose is common especially for desk bound people. We often blame our hamstrings, because that is where you feel the tightness and pain.

But that is not the origin of the problem. Lack of flexibility usually originates with weak lower back muscles. A common cause of such weakness? A pot, or large waist circumference. The back muscles then strains carrying this enormous stomach in front. Remember the back muscles are at work even when you are seated keeping you upright.

At that point the desk in front of you holds your stomach so the strain is always to the back. A big pot even if you are otherwise skinny predisposes to heart disease.

How can you tell if you are at risk? Check your waist-hip ratio. It should be less than 0.95 for males and less than 0.80 for females. A person who has had a rapid deterioration in this ratio is eating too much too quickly. A comparison photo can prove this.

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