Technical skills are not enough, you need soft skills too - Daily Nation

Technical skills are not enough, you need soft skills too

Friday February 8 2019

Shortlist managing director East Africa Ariane Fisher.

Shortlist managing director East Africa Ariane Fisher during the interview at her office along Ngong road , Nairobi. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITO  

By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Fisher is passionate about matching talent with the right opportunities. She has worked with a number of global data and tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter.

Between 2016 and 2017, Fisher served as the Chief of Staff for the American Ambassador to Austria. She was in the list of this year’s edition of Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 for her efforts to make hiring of talent easier for employers and job seekers.

She tells us how and why the recruitment scene is changing.

What does Shortlist do?

We are changing how talent gets matched with opportunity. This approach seeks to understand your skills and abilities to connect you with the right job. We are helping Kenyan employers to use not just CVs as a recruitment tool, but real actionable data such as skills, attitudes and motivation.

We are shifting from a world of “tell me what you are good at” to “demonstrate to me what you can do”. We work with big companies with huge brand names to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and companies hiring for the first time.

How does the process work?

Through an online portal, we conduct a series of assessments based on what job a candidate is applying for. For a finance role, for instance, we would give the candidate a balance sheet and ask them to perform a series of tasks and track their work.

After this screening, we do a phone interview, which helps to evaluate how the person thinks, how they will behave at work and why they are excited about the job. This way, the employer is able to visualise the candidate at work.

Why is this approach better than the traditional recruitment process?
There are professionals who, if you read their résumé, you wouldn’t be excited about interviewing them, yet if you met them in person, you are able to spot their intelligence and motivation, qualities which would make them a good addition to your team.

A great CV does not always translate to good or bad talent. This approach emphasises on giving candidates an opportunity to show what they are capable of doing, and makes it possible to identify hidden talents that they might possess.

You walked away from a high profile job in government to work for a start-up. Why was this decision important to you? Would you advise a young person to do this?

I consider myself very lucky to have worked in various establishments in my career, a journey that has been full of lessons. But my most treasure advice is that if you have the chance to try out different work environments, take it.

You will sharpen what you are good at, learn what you are not good at, what you love doing and what you hate doing. I was also able to understand where I could contribute the most and make my career more meaningful to me.

What common mistakes should job seekers avoid?
Before presenting your credentials, ask yourself: Am I applying for the right job? Is the job a fit for my type of background? But more importantly, am I developing the right skills within myself?

Many job seekers only think about acquiring technical skills for a given job, forgetting that as important as these skills are, if you do not have good communication skills, your expertise might never be put to use.

Start focusing on transferable and soft skills such as your attitude, trustworthiness and accountability.

How different is today’s employer from that of the early 2000s?

I interact with hundreds of employers in my line of work, all who are consistently looking for professionals with the right mix of traits to add to their teams. For them, it is more about your values than about what you know.

An employer is willing to teach you how to use various systems and software at work, but they expect you to already have these attributes.

Any particular factor that fascinates you about the Kenyan job market?
Job seekers spend hours applying for jobs, never to hear from potential employers, yet many organisations are ready to hire, only they cannot find the right talent.

This mismatch of talent and available opportunities makes the job market a broken system. This scenario interests me. This is the problem Shortlist is determined to fix.

What has your work experience in Kenya been like?

I have been in Kenya for two years now. Kenya is a good culture-fit for me and I am a good culture-fit for Kenya. I particularly like how warm, welcoming and open Kenyans are.

In the streets you can speak to anyone and everyone. The entrepreneurial hustle of Kenyans and how people will have ‘main jobs’ and still run side gigs is a style of life that I love. How all these pieces fit together in their work puzzle is admirable.

Was your recognition in Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 something you saw coming?

I was very honoured and embarrassed at the same time. To me, this was an acknowledgement for the change we are creating on the hiring scene.

How would you describe the popularity of using technology to recruit among Kenyan employers?

Getting a panel to read through hundreds of CVs, sometimes for a single job opening, is a tedious, expensive and time-consuming exercise for employers. Employers are now appreciating technology, which is more efficient and cheaper, in place of low-value recruitment processes.

What changes do you foresee in the Kenyan job market in the near future?

In five years, Kenyan employers will no longer rely on CVs to determine who you are and what you are good at. They will use technology and real data to assess candidates for jobs. This will also eliminate scenarios where job seekers feel that they were not fairly evaluated.

What is your favourite pastime?

I like to read fiction and sci-fi material. I am also actively trying to learn some Sheng’ so that I can engage young Kenyans more easily.

Why do you prefer fiction to practical books?

Fiction inspires me to think creatively in how I approach different situations in my job. It also helps me to get out of the world as it is and imagine how it could be. I believe there are more inventive ways to solve day-to-day problems beyond the conventional methods.

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