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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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If you have a question for our Career Coach, e-mail Helen at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

Dear Helen

I’ve worked for the same employer for the last 8 years and I have to admit that I got my job through family contacts.  I now want to apply for senior management jobs outside my company.  I have been involved in recruiting people before as part of my job but I myself have never had to go through an interview.  What advice can you suggest?

                                                                           Richard W., Lagos, Nigeria

Hi Richard,

Although it may sound like a cliché, you do only have one chance to make a first impression and it is important that you prepare well for any interview to make sure that you create the right first impression.

As you have been involved in recruiting, think back to the kind of applicants who made a good impression on you and ask yourself what made them stand out from the crowd. My guess is that these were the applicants who not only had the right technical skills for the job but who had taken time to learn about your company and to understand the needs of the job you were interviewing for.

In applying for a senior management role, the prospective employer will be looking for evidence that you not only have the technical capability for the job but also that you have experience of successfully managing people in the workplace.  You should be ready to discuss your management style, how you create a productive environment for your team, how you set and measure objectives and achievements, your ability to delegate effectively, address conflict, communicate and build an effective team.  Your leadership, coaching and training skills will also be an issue for the employer and you should be ready with your success stories in relation to these essential management competencies.

You should also keep in mind the following:

  • Research the organisation before you go for the interview.  Have a look at their website, annual report or other documentation.  Research the company’s financial position, its key markets and client base, its main competitors and its business strategy.   
  • Focus your preparation on the skills the employer is looking for and make sure that you have prepared skill stories as evidence of your experience, skills and knowledge in those areas.
  • As a guide, try to prepare your skill stories to be up to 2 minutes long. The ability to summarise your experience can help the interviewer to have a rapid overview of your career to date and provide opportunities for them to ask more probing questions.
  • Try to respond naturally - being over-rehearsed can work against you, so listen to the question carefully, relax and answer.
  • Prepare questions that you want to ask at the interview.  Remember that the meeting is a two-way discussion and that you are also evaluating whether this is the right employer and corporate culture for you.
  • Be positive, show enthusiasm – and get to the interview on time!

Finally, take a look at ReConnect Jobs to find senior management jobs in Nigeria and other parts of Africa and don’t forget that we can offer you a range of careers services to help coach you through interviews and other career management skills.

Good luck!


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme’. A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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