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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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Engaging African Employers, Recruiters and the Diaspora

Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses international conference on employment and skills for Africa

A packed London conference centre provided an audience for the Reverend Jesse Jackson as he delivered the keynote speech at an event designed to bring African professionals living outside Africa together with African employers.

ImageThe March conference, organised by AfricaRecruit under the auspices of NEPAD and the CBC, was opened by Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, Chairman of the NEPAD Steering Committee, at the British House of Commons.  Intended to explore the role of the African Diaspora in promoting skills development in Africa and challenges and opportunities in the African employment market, the two-day conference provided a platform for a range of speakers from the public and private sectors as well as from institutions including ECOWAS and UNIDO.

In his opening remarks, Professor Nkuhlu stressed the need to ally skills with good policies in Africa.  Pointing out that Africa needs teachers, doctors, scientists and professionals now to meet its MDGs, he urged the conference to use the occasion to create partnerships and collaboration and to identify strategies and processes for drawing Africans in the Diaspora into the African renaissance project of NEPAD.  Professor Wiseman added that the continent must underpin all the moves towards good governance by bringing in skilled people to make it sustainable.   He cited the lack of expertise and organisational capacity necessary for the major regional economic communities to play their rightful role and urged the conference to identify flexible models that would enable Africa to tap into the skills of its citizens outside the continent.

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Chair of the Africa Business Roundtable, stressed that the private sector was not just the engine of growth in Africa but the saviour of Africa. 

“Business has no boundaries,” he said.  “It goes where it is welcome and where it can add value.”

Dr. Yves Amaizo of UNIDO highlighted the impact of the African Diaspora on local culture and cautioned that the Diaspora’s involvement in transferring capabilities and diffusing knowledge should be done in a manner acceptable to local people and should not jeopardise local culture.

“Business has no boundaries. It goes where it is welcome and where it can add value.”

The charismatic American civil rights leader and campaigner, Reverend Jesse Jackson, launched the second day of the conference with an address to over 200 participants.  Central to his keynote speech were the themes of unity and action. 

Stressing that what binds us together is greater than what divides us, the former US Special Envoy for Africa urged the audience to develop new ways to leverage their franchise to open up public and private sector opportunities.


Reverend Jackson stressed that Africans in the Diaspora are now at the stage where access to capital and technology gives them a presence and influence far in excess of their physical numbers.

ImagePointing to the fact that in big elections small numbers matter, he called upon his audience to reject what he termed “a grasshopper complex” and to build a national presence by focusing on shared needs, struggles, hopes and aspirations.

Touching on debt relief, the Reverend encouraged Africans in the UK to support the efforts of the UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to secure debt relief for the continent.  “Debt relief is key to world growth,” he pointed out.  “It helps Africa and provides the West with a bigger market.”

Banking on Recruitment

“If you have ever felt under pressure to recruit, spare a thought for us when we were faced with this dilemma”, writes Vincent Owen, who contributes this case study.

ImageTasked with the job of the recruitment, induction and training of around 60 staff by a major international bank operating in Uganda, Vincent and his team were able to pull out the stops and deliver – just in time.


A local bank in Uganda found itself in financial difficulties and had, as a result, to close down. Other banks operating in the country were offered the opportunity to acquire branches of the closed bank and the subject international bank agreed to take over four branches, one in Kampala and three in other towns a distance away from the capital. A key condition of taking over the branches was that they would have to open within 90 days, offering full services to customers.

The Challenge

The key challenges faced by the international bank included:

  • Recruiting and training sufficient staff to operate the new branches
  • Refurbishing and fitting out the premises to the acquiring bank’s standards
  • Acquiring and providing appropriate technology within the new premises
  • Addressing the operational issues of acquiring new accounts from the previous bank

The Approach

A number of project teams were established under an overall Steering Committee to address the challenges indicated above. My team was specifically charged with addressing the recruitment and training issues.

The Recruitment

The staffing requirements for the new branches were in the region of 60 people of which four per branch were at the middle management level and the remainder at first line management and clerical levels. A few members of the existing staff were identified to play key roles in the new branches but the remainder needed to be recruited, inducted and trained within the 90 day period to ensure that the branches could open on time.

Following advertising, a significant number of applications were received. These were analysed by the Human Resources team and a number selected for interview.

ImageFollowing interviews, around 80 to 100 applicants were short-listed and invited to attend a testing centre to further establish their suitability. Applicants took verbal and numerical reasoning tests as well as completing a personality questionnaire. This enabled the applicant list to be refined further.  On the basis of interviews and test results, the bank made offers of employment to fill the first line management and clerical positions and the vast majority of offers were accepted.

For the managerial positions, there was a further stage of recruitment by means of Assessment Centres and around 30 candidates were invited to attend these Centres to finally determine their suitability.  The Centre, used by the bank in other African countries, was designed to test applicants’ level of capability against a number of managerial core competencies in use in the bank through a series of activities, observed by assessors.  However, it had never been used in Uganda.

A member of the Human Resources team experienced in the use of this vehicle was given the task of training four senior managers for their roles and responsibilities during the event – one day before the Assessment Centre was scheduled to run. The managers were all heads of the respective functions within the bank and, following the completion of the Centre, it was to be their joint decision as to which candidates would receive a job offer.

The Assessment Centres ran successfully and by late into the evening of the second and final day, the managers had identified suitable candidates to fill all the available positions. On the following day formal offers of employment were sent to the successful candidates, all of whom accepted.

In total, the whole recruitment process was completed within a period of four weeks.

A key condition of taking over the branches was that they would have to open within 90 days, offering full services to customers.

Induction and Training

The selected candidates were able to join the bank very quickly and a one-day induction programme was run at a local hotel to introduce the new employees to the organisation, its background and its approach to doing business.

As a good percentage of the new staff was either starting their first job or had never worked in a bank previously, a comprehensive training programme was put in place.  This needed to get everyone up to the required level of expertise, both in the technical banking aspects of their roles and the use of the bank’s systems and technology in readiness for opening.

Experienced staff from both Uganda and neighbouring countries ran a number of training programmes in their area of expertise and a number of the new recruits were sent to other countries within the bank’s African network both to attend specific training courses and to learn about their new roles by working “on the job” in branches.

The Outcome

In parallel with the Human Resources team’s activities, the other aspects of premises refurbishment, technology installation and testing and the operational activities went on in accordance with their objectives.

The four new branches successfully opened on time.

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development and has extensive experience of recruitment, assessment centre design, training needs analysis, design and delivery in Africa.

Training programme in South Africa for Human Resources Managers and International Recruitment Executives

ImageAs local skills shortages impact on business development globally, many businesses must recruit internationally to increase their competitive edge.But identifying skills that are globally transferable is only the first step. Successfully integrating talent from overseas can be the greater challenge.

In association with the South Africa Institute of People Management, the African Human Resources company Interims for Development will be delivering a 2-day training programme designed for international Human Resources and Recruitment executives as well as those responsible for talent development or graduate recruitment within their companies.

“Recruiting and Integrating Global Talent” will take place from 19-20 July in Johannesburg and will assess the business case for global recruitment and how effective integration of international skills can successfully impact on business competitiveness and performance.

Successfully integrating talent from overseas can be the greater challenge.

Recruiting internationally brings its own set of challenges and, as many recruiters will attest, careful selection processes are critical to ensure not only technical, but cultural and personality compatibility.  Once hired, integrating talent from overseas, whether of African origin or not, into companies in Africa can impact adversely on employee performance if this process is not handled properly.  New employees can disrupt the status quo while local employees can feel overlooked or undervalued.

The continuing technical and management skills shortages in many African countries leaves many companies reliant on external skills, both African and expatriate, to meet the demands of their business.  Developing an effective international recruitment policy requires line managers to work closely with Human Resources to select the right talent.  Once a company has invested in international talent, ensuring that it retains these assets will call for clear integration and reward policies for those hired, as well as continuing and positive communication of a career path within the business.

With years of experience of working in Africa, Vincent Owen, a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development, can attest to the effects of poor integration on the business.  “Recruiting into the business from overseas without taking steps to coach new recruits into the home country’s business culture is a sure fire recipe for disaster,” he says.

The South African Institute of People Management, sponsors of the training programme, recognizes that this is a timely issue for their members. 

“Globalisation has nullified geographical boundaries in as far as matters such as business location and talent are concerned”, says Elijah Litheko, Vice-President Stakeholder Relations and Interim CEO of the IPM.  “It is within this background that IPM and Interims Development are collaborating to present this two-day programme in South Africa.  This is the first of its kind in South Africa and IPM has taken the initiative to introduce something new, something innovative and timely into the South African market.”

This comprehensive two-day course will enable participants to review a range of approaches to identifying talent, improve results through building effective relationships with external suppliers and sources of talent, structure effective induction programmes and integrate globally recruited talent into the business.  A working case study will provide a practical opportunity to put into practice the approach needed for increasing performance and optimising the value of external skills to the business.

‘Recruiting and Integrating Global Talent’, 19-20 July 2006 Johannesburg, South Africa.

For further details and to book a place, click here:

African companies increasingly favour careers events for finding African talent in the Diaspora

The rising cost of expatriate labour in conjunction with the exodus of professional skills from Africa in recent decades has increased the focus of African and multinational corporations on African talent outside the continent.  Attracting Africans in the Diaspora back into Africa, once a hard sell, is fast becoming the strategy of choice for some of Africa’s top companies.

An increasingly successful approach to talent spotting, the professional careers recruitment event has become a popular route for companies looking for ways to enhance their competitive advantage by recruiting from the Diaspora.

Global Career Company

Global Career Company, a British company set up in 2002 by Rupert Adcock, has helped some of Africa’s leading companies recruit over 2,000 professionals across Africa.

“Careers in Africa has not only grown as a recruitment event but also as a brand.”

Commenting on the success of his annual Careers in Africa recruitment summits, Adcock says, “Careers in Africa has not only grown as a recruitment event but also as a brand to become the world’s leading recruitment initiative for African professionals abroad.”

The two day event held by Global Career Company in London in April 2006 attracted 40 African companies.  Applicants submit their CV to the recruiters who, along with the hiring companies, pre-select a shortlist for interview. The London event involved 700 pre-selected candidates and over 2,500 interviews took place over the course of the two-day summit.   With companies such as Coca-Cola Africa, BAT, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Nokia, Microsoft, SAB Miller and Vodacom participating, the Careers in Africa event also offered candidates an opportunity to network with recruiting executives at a cocktail event held ahead of the interviews.

By bringing together a diverse range of Africans, careers events also offer companies an opportunity to interact with those who have gained experience of working in the West and who are keen to take up management opportunities opened up by both the traditional extractive industries and the fast developing telecommunication and communication sectors in Africa. 

Cisco Systems, a new participant at Careers in Africa, summed up their experience as “an excellent channel to maximise corporate branding regionally while identifying top talent”.  For many companies, this type of event provides an excellent return on investment.  Almost 90% of the participating companies selected candidates for final round interviews after the pre-scheduled interviews. South African sponsor Eskom made 33 offers, 16 of which were accepted by the candidates, while a third of the candidates offered jobs by construction giant Group Five will be joining the company by August.

Africa is “Open for Business”

The success of Careers in Africa is testament to the fact that Africa is increasingly perceived by its Diaspora as offering a new world of opportunities for internationally trained professionals; from Engineering to Finance, Human Resources to ICT, Sales, Marketing and Professional Services.
The success of the predominantly Anglophone African recruitment event has led to the company branching out into recruitment for Francophone countries. 

Following on from the London event, the Careers in Africa Brussels Summit was held for the second consecutive year and saw a doubling in its numbers from the 2005 Summit. 

Adcock is now looking across the Atlantic for his company’s next move.  “Due to the demand for our services, Global Career Company will be launching the Careers in Africa US Summit later this year,” he says. “Our events prove that Africa is open for business.”

“Come Home” was the message from the Homecoming Revolution as it launched a major exhibition and seminar to attract South African skills in the UK.

ImageOrganised by the Homecoming Revolution, Woza Ekhaya is an initiative which took place in London and Dublin at the end of October to bring back skilled South Africans and to create jobs in South Africa.  In partnership with a leading South African -owned property company in the UK, International Property Solutions, the event was a major seminar and exhibition held at Chelsea Football Club in London over 2 days.

ImageThe Homecoming Revolution was founded by South African Angel Jones who was stirred to return home from London after listening to President Mandela speaking in Trafalgar Square.  Realising that South Africans needed to be reminded of the good things about their homeland, she began the Homecoming Revolution on her return to South Africa.  In January 2003 the Homecoming Revolution was launched across the internet to 27,000 South Africans worldwide. 

The South African Diaspora

The Homecoming Revolution estimates that a total of about 3.5 million South Africans are living outside the country, while the South African High Commission in London guesstimates that up to 1.5 million South Africans are currently living in Britain alone. 

“As a country, South Africa has as yet not taken the matter of skills to a skills revolution level.
To achieve that, we must be united as a nation in pursuit of this goal. It must be one of the indelible marks of the new, democratic order in which we all share.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka Deputy President, South Africa

With sponsorship from First National Bank, the organisation facilitates introductions for South Africans returning in respect of financial, business or skills opportunities.  In particular they provide a forum for business networking, promoting entrepreneurship and small business in South Africa by way of local networking events.

By encouraging and helping South Africans living abroad to return home to make a difference, the Homecoming Revolution works hard to change negative attitudes about South Africa and talks directly to the country’s Diaspora to facilitate homecomers in settling back in.

Returning Skills to South Africa

As South Africa’s economy continues to expand, a key concern faced by the country is the shortage of key skills across a range of sectors.  Woza Ekhaya was the first event of its kind organized by the Homecoming Revolution.  By connecting with skilled South Africans abroad and communicating the opportunities open to them back home, the organizers hope that this event will have begun the process for the return of these much needed skills. 

ImageAccording to the organizers, whilst South Africans abroad tend to be predominantly white, there are well-educated black, coloured and Indian South Africans that have lived in exile and studied abroad, there are also those that have taken advantage of the career opportunities in first world countries that offer nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers better income levels and job fulfillment.

Many of the Homecoming Revolution’s team members have themselves lived abroad.  Martine Schaffer, the Managing Director of the organisation, lived in the UK for 15 years and is a homecomer herself.  With a background in Public Relations, Marketing and Business Development, Martine has no regrets about her decision.  “I returned home in 2003,” she says, “and I haven’t looked back!”

Woza Ekhaya

With Woza Ekhaya, the organisation decided to take a practical approach. By facilitating South African companies looking for skills, to engage with South Africans interested in returning home, Woza Ekhaya was the natural follow-on from their previous events.

“We believed it was time to do something tangible,” explains Schaffer.  “Companies in South Africa wanted the opportunity to connect with South African talent abroad.  There are opportunities across many sectors and skilled individuals who have been in the UK and gained experience while living there have a lot to offer.”

“For every 1 skilled South African that returns to South Africa: 10 new jobs are created.”

With nearly 1.4 million South Africans living in the UK, London was the obvious place for the organizers to launch the event, says Schaffer.  A second event took place in Dublin to address the growing South African population in Ireland.

Woza Ekaya included an exhibition of South African employers including Netcare, Rand Merchant Bank, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Makro and Sapi, wishing to attract the skilled workforce back to South Africa, accompanied by other support services related to moving back home and property companies, including UK based HR and Career management company, Interims for Development.

The seminar involved experts in various fields who spoke openly and honestly about South Africa’s issues, from crime to the country’s economic outlook.  There were a range of panel discussions about the job market and opportunities available to returning ex-pats and property outlook and investment advice.  The event also included a series of workshops with a focus on the practicalities of starting up businesses in South Africa, BEE for Small and medium sized enterprises and how to approach the South African job market and investing in property.

With its focus on job opportunities and information on creating new businesses and finding properties back home in South Africa, the expo offered a wealth of useful information as well as actual job vacancies to people returning to South Africa.

“People need to be proud of how far we’ve come.”

“Our research has shown that South Africans’ biggest fear in returning is being able to find employment,” said the organisers.  “There are plenty of opportunities available, but this is not the message that South Africans internationally are aware of.”

“We know that ‘for every 1 skilled South African that returns to South Africa: 10 new jobs are created.  We realize that we have a tough time competing with countries in the first world category but we are confident that what South Africa has to offer is not only more than enough, but lends a life of significance instead of simply one of mere existence. With all we have to achieve, people need to be proud of how far we have come and not discouraged by what still needs to be achieved.”


Reducing the Risk in Recruitment

ImageRecruitment is a thorny issue – particularly for small organisations. In the first of a 2-part article, Vincent Owen, Senior Consultant with HR Consultancy, Interims for Development, offers some tips on hiring the best for your business.

In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by risks. We are at risk in the home, especially the kitchen, and the minute we step outside, we potentially meet other risks…every time we cross the road…drive our car. For many of these risks we can take out insurance policies; we insure our homes against theft and fire…we insure our cars against accidents. However, there is one risk we cannot insure against - and that is employing the wrong member of staff.

If your business does not have a dedicated recruitment function or Human Resources Department or you do not often employ new staff, bearing in mind some of the following will help you reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person for your company.

There are several stages in the recruitment process as shown in the following model:Image

Sourcing applicants

Even where unemployment may be high, finding suitable applicants is not as easy as it sounds. Advertising in appropriate newspapers can attract new staff to your business, but is not always successful. If using this approach, it is important that the advertisement accurately reflects the role you are trying to fill, or you could be overwhelmed with unsuitable applicants, wasting both your time and theirs. Asking existing members of staff to refer candidates from within their circle of friends and acquaintances may also be a useful source.

Having identified potential candidates, what next? It is often a good idea to ask all applicants to complete an application form as well as provide their CV. This has the advantage of effectively forcing the applicant to provide relevant information they may choose not to include in their CV. At a minimum, to facilitate your short-listing process, clarify the applicant’s education, experience and their job history, ideally with reasons for leaving each employment.  Also, check for evidence of eligibility to work in your country 

Short-listing Applications

In reviewing which of the candidates you want to take to the next stage of an interview, aim to differentiate between what they do tell you and what they do not tell you! Obviously, a CV is designed to “sell” the applicant to a potential employer and many people tend to err on the side of generosity in terms of their skills and experience. Look out for unexplained gaps in employment and numerous jobs held in a relatively short period. It is good practice to acknowledge all applications, whether or not you intend to take them to the next stage, sending a brief note of acknowledgment to unsatisfactory candidates indicating that you will not be taking their application any further. If your jurisdiction requires it, keep notes of why candidates were unsuitable to avoid any potential claims of discrimination.

Interviewing Applicants

Prepare for interviews by making sure:

  • the interview environment is appropriate and that you are not disturbed
  • that you allocate enough time for the interview
  • that you ask the applicant to switch off their mobile…and switch yours off as well
  • you put the applicant at their ease by asking some non-threatening, factual questions at the start
  • let the applicant do most of the talking
  • give the applicant the opportunity ask you questions
  • take brief notes to help you later on

Selecting your Candidate

Having completed the interviews, the key questions to ask before you hire are:

  • Who is best suited to the role in terms of qualifications and experience?
  • Who will best fit into the team?
  • Who can you and your colleagues work with?


Nobody is going to offer referees who will not say good things, so why bother to take up references at all? The advantage of taking up references is to have some evidence, however flimsy, about the applicant’s abilities. The risk of not following up references is that you subsequently find out something negative, making the hire a costly mistake. Check with the applicant before you approach their current employer for a reference and make your offer conditional upon satisfactory references.

Part two of this article will be published in the January issue of ReConnect Africa.

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with HR and Training Consultancy, Interims for Development. For further information about Recruitment and Recruitment Skills training, contact Interims for Development at info@interimsfd.com

Reducing the Risk in Recruitment


ImageHiring the right person for the right role in your organisation can be tricky. In the second of this 2-part article, Vincent Owen, Senior Consultant with HR Consultancy, Interims for Development, offers some tips on hiring the best for your business.

Putting the Offer in Writing

Having gone through the attraction and interview stages, you will finally be in a position to offer employment to someone. At this point you may well have a first and maybe a second and third choice of people you may be interested in and it is recommended that you keep alternative choices warm in the event that you first choice candidate chooses not to take up your offer.

A formal offer letter in duplicate should be sent to your first choice candidate. While legal requirements differ from country to country, it is good practice for clarity and intent to include the following information:

  • The location where the person will be employed
  • The job title
  • The agreed starting date
  • The standard hours of work
  • The salary you are offering and the frequency of salary reviews
  • Details of holiday entitlement
  • The length of any probation period – and keep the option to extend, if needed
  • The notice period required of both the employee and the employer – and if this differs during and after the probationary period
  • A clause on confidentiality to protect both your corporate information and that of your clients.

One copy of the letter is for the candidate who should then to sign and return the second copy to confirm that they are accepting the job offer.

Hopefully, having sent out the offer letter, it will be accepted! If not, you may need to approach other acceptable candidates. Once you have received acceptance of the offer, it is good practice to contact the other applicants, if you have not already done so, to inform them that their application has been unsuccessful.

Induction into the Company

To enable your new employee to become familiar with your business and their new surroundings, you should develop and implement a brief induction programme. This will give them the opportunity to appreciate their day-to-day responsibilities, your company’s procedures and, perhaps most importantly, your expectations of them in terms of performance.

Having invested time and money in recruiting your new employee, you should avoid the risk of losing them by planning a smooth integration into the company.

Making Use of a Probationary Period

If you followed our earlier advice, your new employee will have joined you based on an agreed probationary period, which could range from three to six months, depending on the level of their job.

Use this period effectively to monitor the progress in their performance on the job. It is critical to hold regular meetings to ensure that your expectations and theirs are being met. Where necessary, make training or coaching available to assist your new employee to operate at the required level. At the end of the probation period, subject to satisfactory progress and performance, you should issue a letter to the new employee confirming their appointment and remember to include any changes that may have arisen to the terms and conditions of employment.

In the event that the new recruit’s performance during the probationary period is not at the level you expect, it is important that this is discussed and, hopefully, addressed at the time. During the probationary period, if you feel that performance is unlikely to reach the required level despite discussions, training and/or coaching, subject to the employment legislation in your jurisdiction, you may have no option but to terminate the employment.

If you consider at the end of the contractual probationary period that the level of performance is not at the required level, but you also feel that within a short period the performance level can be brought up to the required minimum through further training, you may wish to extend the probationary period. Take this option only after discussion with the employee and confirm the extension to the probationary period and any targets agreed in writing. During an extended probationary period, you should aim to hold regular meetings, at least monthly, with the employee to review progress. At the end of the extended period, you can decide whether to confirm or terminate the employment.

Ongoing Employment

Once you have confirmed employment, you should review your employee’s performance on a regular basis. While each company will operate its own performance management systems, regular discussions between employees and managers are a key requirement for offering feedback – whether positive or not. At a minimum, such discussions should take place every six months with a full review annually. It is good practice to record the outcome of these discussions in writing and for both employee and manager to agree to the record. Use this review process to consider any training or development the employee might need.

As an outcome of a performance review, you may wish to consider the employee’s remuneration package and, if appropriate, offer an increase or bonus.

Finally ……

We suggested at the outset that employing staff is one risk that you cannot easily insure against. I hope that some of the processes and tips discussed in this article will go some way to alleviating some of these risks.

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with HR and Training Consultancy, Interims for Development. For further information about Recruitment and Recruitment Skills training, contact Interims for Development at info@interimsfd.com

Making the Write Choice

ImageCan examining someone’s handwriting give you insights into their personality and whether they will fit into your team? 

Graphology goes back to the days of ancient Greece.  However, argues leading British graphologist Margaret White, it has a powerful role to play in today’s recruitment mark

When reading this article you may well argue, ‘I rarely write, I always use the computer - text or e-mail my messages’ - but in order to be able to do these things you must, as a child, have learned both to read and write.

Have you noticed the amount of pleasure and warmth of emotion that a handwritten note or card gives you? The written word is still considered to be a more convincing means of communication and to make the greatest impact on the degree of recognition and of the importance of the message that it conveys. Writing by hand is the only method of communication we have left when we cannot speak directly one to the other because the technology required for electronic communication has broken down. So in an age where handwriting is said to be going out of fashion, it is as well to remember that handwriting is an essential skill of contact between people, if their history and remembrances are going to be certain to survive

An accurate picture of who you are

Today more and more people are becoming aware that handwriting is not just a means of expressing oneself on paper. It paints an accurate picture of who and what you are to the professional graphologist who carefully measures every mark placed upon a sheet of paper by the writer, and the way they have adapted the ‘copy-book’ they learned as a child to suit their temperament and purpose. From this, the graphologist will be able to build up a detailed picture of the writer as a unique human being. Indeed, there will be very little, if anything, that the analyst does not learn about the writer.

This knowledge forms the basis of a totally objective assessment of the personality of the writer - the insight that it gives to the reader is invaluable. It can often play a guiding role in the development and growth of confidence, potential and ability in the writer, enabling them to define the aims and objectives that they may have, and to find fulfillment and understanding of both themselves and others. Certainly, the effects of outside commitments and influences are not immediately recognisable, either to the writer or even to those who know them well, as they occur gradually over a period. Very rarely do they happen overnight. The Graphologist can chart the course of such changes and the overall effect they may have had, not only on the writer, but also upon their immediate family and friends.

Assessing the Writer

A professional graphological assessment of the writer can also give definitive guidance to others, when assessing or seeking to develop their current abilities, potential to grow/learn and their joie de vivre. Many companies, worldwide, have found that employing a graphologist is an unobtrusive, practical and cost effective method of providing an accurate and objective assessment of a candidate’s ability, integrity and personality. The assessment may also give a sound indication as to whether the writer will work well with the colleagues and associates already in place within the company, eliminating the prospect of personality clashes. Graphology, therefore, encourages a good mix of co-operation, energy, knowledge and ability that should produce outstanding

It is unnecessary for the graphologist to be able to speak or read another language for them to produce accurate assessments of handwriting. Provided they are given the gender and information of where a child was first brought up and went to school (and when recruiting - a detailed job specification) - the graphologist is then able to produce an assessment with the same degree of accuracy as when analysing a handwritten document in their own language. For in this global village of ours, the myriad of alphabets, traditions and words are gradually becoming integrated into every society.

Margaret D White MBIG [dip] FRSA is one of the UK’s leading graphologists, a Founding Member of the British Institute of Graphologists (1983) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (1992). Margaret practices as a consultant graphologist under the name Graphocentric. Her areas of expertise include recruitment and short listing of candidates, team building, senior management training, career change and vocational guidance for students and graduates. Prior to her career in graphology Margaret worked in several areas of commerce, industry and the service sectors. For further information visit www.graphocentric.co.uk or margaret.white@graphocentric.co.uk

By Tina Boadi

ImageAs new research reveals that almost half of London’s employers rely on migrant workers to plug skills gaps, the UK Government has taken steps to limit new migrants to those with the type of skills the British economy needs.

In an effort to ensure that only individuals who will benefit the United Kingdom through work and study are allowed to enter, the UK’s Home Office is reforming the country’s entire immigration system. Under the new policy, all migration and immigration routes into the UK will be based on a merit-based point system. The first set of revisions rolled out saw changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) scheme in November 2006 and processing under the new rules began on 6 December 2006.

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme

Instituted in January 2002, the HSMP scheme has provided talented foreign nationals with exceptional skills with the opportunity to enter into the UK to seek employment or to become self-employed Consultants.

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme is different from the work permit arrangements because, as a points-based immigration scheme, applicants do not need a specific job offer in the UK to apply. Points are scored in four main areas: qualifications, past earnings, age assessment and UK experience.  There is also a specified required evidence to meet mandatory English Language requirements.  Applicants need to score 75 points or more and meet the English language requirement in order to qualify as a highly skilled migrant.

Under the scheme, applicants are initially permitted leave to remain in the UK for two years, after which an extension can be sought for a further three years.

The key changes in the recent revisions to the HSMP scheme include:

  • Points for previous work experience have been removed. However, one can now gain 5 points for UK work experience or if their academic qualification was gained in the UK.
  • The maximum number of points one can gain under the previous earnings section has gone down to 45 points from 50 points. The earnings are scaled to the specific region of origin for the applicant.
  • The age assessment has been modified on a sliding scale. If one is under 32 years of age, possible points can be gained as follows: 27 years or under (20 points), 28-29 years (10 points), 30-31yrs (5 points), 32 years or older (0 points).

Academic Qualifications

To gain points from academic qualifications, one must hold at least a Bachelors degree or a professional qualification, as follows:

  • PhD – 50 points
  • Masters Degree (e.g. MA, MSc or MBA) or Professional Level Qualification (e.g. Chartered Accountant) – 35 points
  • Bachelors Degree (e.g. BA, BSc) – 30points
  • None of the above – 0 points.

There is an MBA provision that automatically grants candidates who have graduated from an eligible MBA programme, since December 2004, the minimum 75 points.

Proficiency in the English language is a must. To show English language ability, one needs to hold a bachelors degree that was taught in English, or possess an International English Language Testing System qualification that is no more than two years old.

All supporting documentation has to be submitted at the onset with an application as there is no longer an opportunity to submit any missing relevant documentation at a later stage.

Should an HSMP application be refused, applicants can request a maximum of one review on the decision. There is no fee for the review of the decision. However, it remains the case that reviews can only be considered based on the information already provided. If one wishes to produce any new information or documentation a new application will need to be submitted along with the relevant fee.

Visit www.workpermit.com/uk/hsmp_calculator.htm to calculate your HSMP points for entry into the UK.

Managing the Interview

ImageFor managers with little or no formal training in the subject, interviewing candidates can be a daunting task. In this article, Trainer and HR Consultant Vincent Owen offers some useful tips for the more occasional interviewer.

Whilst many Human Resources professionals are regularly involved in interviewing and receive training on how to interview effectively, interview skills training is not as frequently extended to line managers, putting them at a significant disadvantage on the occasions when they do need to interview, either for new recruits or candidates for internal transfers.

The following tips are offered to help the occasional interviewer.

Be Prepared!

The key to a successful interview is to prepare thoroughly in advance. When interviewing a new recruit you should have at least a CV and probably an application form. These will give you some factual information on which to base your first few questions.

Before the interview it is a good idea to prepare the first few questions you will ask, based on what they have said about themselves and the requirements of the vacancy.  To help you evaluate different candidates, aim to be consistent by using the same questions for all the candidates you interview for the position.

Check the Facts

Take time to read the CV carefully and look out for any potential pitfalls. When reviewing CVs and application forms look for gaps in employment and use the interview to establish the reasons for such gaps. They may or may not be significant but it is important to ask the question. It is also, not surprisingly, a fact of life that people tend to overstate what they have done in their CV, and part of the interviewer’s skill is to verify, wherever possible, that the CV accurately reflects the applicant’s experience.

Finding the Fit

For a new recruit you are essentially looking to find out the answers to two key questions:

  • Is the applicant suitable for the company? i.e. do you think that they will fit in with the corporate culture, would they make a good team member, and do they appear to have the appropriate interpersonal skills?
  • Is the applicant suitable for the job they have applied for or can they be developed into the role?

In certain cases you may establish that the answer to the first question is a “yes” but “no” to the second, in which case you may wish to recommend that the applicant’s details are kept in case of a future vacancy which may better suit their skills set.

Effective Interviewing

For the interview itself there are a number of useful rules of thumb:

  • Ensure that the interview environment is appropriate and that you are not disturbed
  • Make sure that you allocate enough time for the interview
  • Ask the applicant to switch off their mobile phone…and switch yours off as well!
  • Put the applicant at their ease by asking some non-threatening, factual questions at the start
  • Try to let the applicant do most of the talking – ideally at least 80%. Your objective is to find out as much as you can about the applicant and if you are doing too much of the talking, you will restrict the applicant’s ability to give you information
  • Think through the skills and competencies needed for the job and ask questions that invite the candidate to explain how they have used these skills or demonstrated these competencies in the past.
  • Ask open questions i.e. those starting with “How”, “When”, “Which”, “Where” etc., rather than closed questions which only need a yes or no answer.
  • Try to ask only one question at a time, rather than multiple questions. The risk of asking multiple questions is that the applicant may well only answer the last question, with earlier parts of the multiple question remaining unanswered
  • Where you feel that there is more information to be gained from the applicant, or you feel that what you are hearing does not ring true, do not be afraid to probe deeper until you have obtained all the information you need
  • Let the applicant ask you questions
  • Take brief notes to help you later on

Beware of Illegal or Inappropriate Questions

As an interviewer, it is important to bear in mind that that there are certain types of question that you cannot ask by law - depending on the jurisdiction in which you are working – and that you shouldn’t ask as a matter of good practice! These would include any questions that could be construed as being in any way discriminatory i.e. related to age, sex, sexual preference, race, ethnicity or creed.

Record the Outcome

Once the interview is complete, it is good practice to write up brief notes on the interview and the reasons for your conclusions about the candidate’s suitability for the job. This is not only for future reference purposes but also for your own protection in the event that someone interviewed feels that they have been unfairly discriminated against.

Interviewing Internal Candidates

The internal transfer interview largely follows the above pattern but you have additional information to go on. To start with, the interviewee will have demonstrated their suitability for the company already and will have built up a track record of performance as evidenced through appraisal reviews. A perusal of this information in advance of the interview will enable you to target your questions more specifically than with the new recruit. The key answers you are looking for in this type of interview are:

  • Whether the candidate either has the required skill set for the vacancy or whether they can be readily trained into the role
  • How well you feel they will fit into your team in terms of their interpersonal skills
  • Whether they will adapt well to any specific working conditions within your area e.g. long or unsocial hours, frequent travel, etc.

Panel Interviewing

At times managers are called upon to join an interview panel with other managers and/or Human Resources. In such cases, it is crucial that each member of the panel is clear on their role during the interview. One approach would be to split responsibilities and for HR to ask general CV related questions, whilst the line manager focuses on job specific questions.

Successful interviewing only comes with practice but these tips should give you some additional support in the meantime.

Good luck with your interviews!

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development (www.interimsfd.com) the award-winning Human Resources and Training consultancy for Africa.

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