28 March 2014

Zambia: Employers Should Treat Job Applications Seriously


THE story I am going to tell you today is shocking because most of us are using wrong methods of applying for jobs; and that some organisations are not taking our job applications letters seriously.

Such an approach leads to most right candidates not getting jobs.

The socio-economic challenges some top management officials are facing, they have become too busy to do some of their functions so they delegate some of the critical functions which determine the success or failure of an organisation to the juniors.

Such an approach is not only done in Zambia but also in other countries. With economic hardship attacking every human being, people are so busy trying to make ends meet for their families that certain official functions are ignored or just delegated to juniors for whatever results will come out.

The situation is so bad that even functions like short listing job applicants has now, in some organisations transferred to clerical officers and office assistants or to even those on industrial attachments

The top management spends time and resources to hire or recruitment agencies at a high cost to formulate effective and tough job descriptions with respective job specifications for the right candidate who should fill up such vacant positions when in real sense they won't scrutinise the job application letters of candidates responding to the same advertisements.

What is shocking is how each job applicant spends time and effort to write an effective job application letter with a good curriculum vitae (CV) to prove that one is the right candidate to fill that vacant position when no one will seriously scrutinise and evaluate such

details to effectively and efficiently determine who should be short listed for job interviews for further determination on whether one is really suitable for a job or not.

Is this fair to potential job applicants and to the organisation that is in dire need for expansion?

Reading any good job hunting book, one can find that a job application letter and the accompanying CV are sales tools for successful job search.

This is why each one of us has been trained in the fine details of how to write effective job application letters and CVs.

As a result, we bring all our knowledge and skills in one place; and spend time to assemble such knowledge and skills in an irresistible job application letter and its CV so that when someone who understands the functions and important details of the respective job description

and its job specification of the advertised vacant position reads them, one can objectively, honestly, factually and fairly short list you for interviews.

Now, how can some top management delegate such critical functions that facilitate selection of the right candidate in the right job; and the possible development of an organisation to workers who might have little or no capacity to evaluate each job applicant against the

respective job description?

Such approaches to short listing job applicants is done on senior or top management related vacant positions which are supposed to propel an organisation to greater heights.

Someone said in some organisations, to short list job applicants, a decision-maker just tells some junior staff, and says: 'Just pick the first five on top of that mountain of job application letters; then another five in the middle, and five at the very bottom.

Ensure that such and such a name is there. Short list six candidates; including such and such a name.'

To make matters worse for some job applicants, it is reported that in some cases, among the short listed applicants, some aren't invited for personal interviews; and later someone is employed in that advertised vacant position.

The background of whole story was like this.

Firstly, I was reading a very good book on job hunting in preparation for writing an article in this column. Yes, I have heard some whispering in the background saying: 'Tell us. Tell us the title of the good book on job hunting.'

The book I was reading before preparing this article is: The 1999 What colour is Your Parachute? A practical manual for Job changers' by Richard Nelson Bolles

Are you happy now? Good.

Secondly, and this is the reason why some top management officials surrender such important functions to juniors, one of the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Engineering student was telling me that his friend who decided not to go to school; but started an auto-mechanic

workshop in one of the Lusaka' compounds had advertised for a vacant position of an accounting officer for his small workshop.

This position was just for book-keeping purposes.

Surprising, within a week, thousands of job applications arrived at his office; creating a mountain of job applications for the same position.

He was surprised and overwhelmed with the heap of job application letters and their CV. He didn't expect such an overwhelming response to a small firm like his.

This could be a bit exciting for him. But what can bring sadness and tears in one's eyes is that among the applicants for the stated accounting officer's position , were applicants with CIMA, ACCA and some with MBAs.

This is not a joke. It is a reported speech. So if you think I am telling lies. This writer can't tell lies in an important paper like Times of Zambia which is read by many people from all walks of life in all parts of the country and beyond both through hard copy and online. If there is any lie in this accounting officer's vacant position advertisement, it is from the one who told me. Not me. Ok.

The serious points are that such revelations expose a lot of challenges in our society. One, it is unfair to job applicants to allow juniors who might have little or no capacity to evaluate job applicants effectively on vacant position far above their levels to

short list such applicants.

Two, it doesn't help an organisation to short list anyone just for the same of it; and consequently employ anybody; leaving more qualified citizens out there who also applied for the same job when most of the organisations are literally struggling to keep their heads above water; and contribute to both job creation and national development of this country

Three, for such an accounting position to attract even CIMA, ACCA, MBA holders proves that we still have serious high unemployment challenges in this country.

But if we have people with CIMAs, ACCAs and MBAs who are willing to be accounting officers, why do we have Grade 12 school certificate, accounts certificate or diploma holders as accounting officers?

Are those with higher qualifications, some experience and skills rotting in the streets while those with lower qualifications are holding good positions and are earning monthly salaries in some organisations?

What is it that those with such higher qualifications don't have which those with lower qualifications holding good positions in some organisations have?

Let's share such knowledge for those who have higher qualifications; but are out of employment to also get jobs for more job creation in this country.

But going round all such stories, the same Bolles' book says that such situations prove that the methods of job hunting most of us use limit our success in job search because, as a result of such huge heaps of job applications that respond to such advertised vacant positions; and such approaches to short listing candidates in some organisations,

chances of one being employed are very slim despite having good qualifications and having written an effective job application letter and its CV.

Bolles suggests that good preparations, investment and visiting each decision-maker in organisations you want to work for are more effective ways of job hunting than responding to vacant positions' advertisements in the Press

But it is also acknowledged that although sound preparations, investing in right training, experience and skills; and talking to each decision-maker in an organisation is more effective in job hunting, such an approach takes long and is tasking.

Therefore, while one can request organisations to be serious with the vacant positions they advertise in the press through allocating high level personnel in an organisation to honestly, objectively, fairly and effectively go through each job application letter; and evaluate the suitability or not of each job applicant, it is also advisable for

job hunters to prepare adequately and invest in the right qualifications, experience and skills before one responds to a vacant position in the press.

Using more effective alternative methods in job hunting is highly advisable or else it might take you too long to get the job you want.

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