Caution for the uninitiated

finding a suitable candidate can be a trial in this region, with some countries
insisting on a valid work permit just to attend an interview. Then there are
doubts about nepotism and valid credentials, as Alan Hosking reports

experienced HR executive is aware that recruitment is something that needs to
be approached with caution at the best of times, and preferably handled by
someone with the necessary expertise and experience.

when it comes to recruiting in and for the developing regions of Africa and the
Middle East, the need for caution is even greater, as the majority of the
potential workforce is often illiterate and unskilled, unemployment rates are
high, and political, religious and personal agendas can play significant roles.

are generally two levels of recruitment: recruitment at "local"
level, of unskilled locals by locals; and recruitment at
"multinational" level, of expats and skilled locals by multinational
companies. Local-level recruitment is somewhat less formal and more prone to
emulate the political environment of the relevant country. If the government is
authoritarian, local businesses are often run on the same basis. Multinational
level recruitment, however, follows a more formal route, operating according to
appropriate labour legislation of the country or generally accepted practice.

recruiting in and for Africa and the Middle East are therefore well advised
either to have a staffing/recruitment company assist them or to acquire the
services of a legal firm which has a knowledge of the local legislation,
customs, language and work environment. In Africa, for example, Lex Africa, a
network of law firms, covers 17 African countries and is administered by South
Africa-based Werksmans Attorneys.

that tolerate nepotism and favouritism when recruiting create a political
environment which filters through to the private sector. Because power tops
other priorities on most Arab executives’ list of real priorities, nepotism is
frequently used as a means of acquiring authority and influence. It is
therefore regarded as common practice by locals in both Africa and the Middle

legislation can be a problem as well, either because of its absence or due to
its complexity, making it a dangerous path for the uninitiated or
inexperienced. In South Africa, for example, the Labour Relations Act was
introduced in 1995, after the first democratic elections in 1994. This changed
the law governing labour relations in South Africa in order to advance economic
development, social justice, labour peace and the democratisation of the
workplace. It prevents any form of discrimination on the basis of race, gender,
religious or sexual preference, and during the recruitment process, any actions,
questions, tests or statements which fall foul of legislation can result in
costly consequences should the applicant (to whom legislation grants the same
rights as an employee) decide to take legal action. This is happening more and
more frequently as previously disadvantaged people have become increasingly
aware of their legal rights.

in Africa and the Middle East generally require foreign nationals to possess
valid work permits. Pretoria-based Julian Pokroy, who is regarded as one of South
Africa’s leading migration attorneys, says that obtaining a work permits
requires skill and experience.

points out that temporary permits are often required for a potential employee
just to enter a country for an interview, and delays in securing these either
for the interview or so that a successful applicant can subsequently start work
can result in applicants losing interest and "going cold".

claims that the majority of rejected work permit applications are the result of
inadequate preparation, and says that when the documentation is right and the
correct procedures are followed, work permits are generally granted. As
evidence of this, he claims he has had only one application declined in six
years. He also believes that the South African Department of Labour has been
"getting its act together".

recently, for example, a foreign national spouse on a spousal permit was not
automatically entitled to take up employment. He or she would first have to
compete with other South Africans. Only if a South African could not be found
to fill the position could the foreign national acquire a work permit. This
restriction has now been changed.

executives in Africa and the Middle East are agreed that an important part of
the recruitment process in these regions is verifying qualifications,
competence and experience. They point out that, sadly, while it is all too
common for candidates to falsify their resumes, they sometimes also get someone
else to handle telephone interviews for them. Recruiters therefore have to use
some means to assess technical or professional competence. But this can be a
double-edged sword.

professionals who are highly skilled and experienced may object to being tested
and may claim they have been approached by other companies who are prepared to
acquire their services without subjecting them to these sorts of test.

a recruiter feel that there may be such an objection, he or she can always
involve someone with the necessary expertise in the interview process to assess
the applicant’s level of skills and experience. For example, should the expert
ask the candidate to explain how to perform a particular task where there are
four accepted ways of doing it, and the candidate mentions only one or two, the
interviewer can assume that the candidate’s skills level is fairly low.

is generally handled in one of four ways. Companies often place advertisements
in the local or international press and/or trade publications. They then handle
the process themselves. This is considered the most risky approach.

second way is to have a recruitment company handle the process on your behalf.
This minimises the risk, as the recruitment company does all the groundwork of
finding and interviewing suitable applicants, and also completes the legal
processing once a candidate is hired.

third method which is expected to increase in popularity is on-line
recruitment. Employers can register on recruitment sites and gain access to
resumes of job seekers, indicating which applicants they wish to interview.
Employers can also profile the type of candidate they require and request the
site to do a search for them. Egypt-based HR First International, which offers
recruitment as one of its services, claims to translate a CV into a scored
application for comparison purposes.

fourth method is by word of mouth or personal referrals. This is regarded as a
fairly unscientific method and the bigger companies generally do not use it.

a further safeguard, where possible some companies may offer newcomers a
short-term contract first, before committing to a longer period of employment.
In this way, they can avoid being locked into employing an unsuitable person in
the long term.

methods in Africa and the Middle East

Using a recruitment agency. First establish what a recruitment company’s
services include or exclude, how they charge and what their policy is regarding
candidates who do not live up to expectations.

Via on-line recruitment, narrowing down the choice of suitable candidates using
particular criteria.

Via advertisements placed in local, international and trade journals.
Considered risky.

By word of mouth. Regarded as unscientific and can lead to charges of nepotism.


out the following Websites for the Middle East region:

Websites for the African region:

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