Graduate Recruitment in Nigeria: the good, the bad, the ugly - JIMMY BRAIMAH

This post highlights some of my experiences recruiting graduates in Nigeria. It is shocking to see how entry level job-seekers ‘look for work’ in Nigeria; a place where jobs are scarce and only the best are engaged.

The good

It is usually exciting for a recruiter to receive unsolicited resumes from qualified professionals (and new graduates) who are actively seeking new opportunities. This is very common in Nigeria. Even passive candidates are usually quite open to discuss new opportunities. Two key drivers are to note here. The high unemployment rate and very few vacancies and overwhelming supply of graduates which flood the market. Every year new graduates pass out of Nigerian Universities or complete their mandatory National Service (NYSC). For a recruiter this is ‘gold’, as there are always graduates available for work.

The bad

Too many resumes from graduates, but the excellent graduates (the real gems) are still hard to find. It is ‘scary’ to see a graduate who cannot use the computer. This is very easy to
identify. For example, a graduate sends a scanned copy (picture format) of their Microsoft word resume. It shows that the graduate has a ‘master copy’ in word format (which someone may have written for them) but chooses to scan (or take a picture of it with their mobile phone) and send to recruiters. As a rule, such candidates cannot be engaged. In 2014, some graduates are still shy of the internet, while some still insist on ‘delivering’ their printed resumes to the recruiter by hand. Most companies now utilize a web based applicant tracking system (ATS) and if graduates hand deliver a printed version of their resume, how can these resumes be kept in view? By filing? It will definitely end up in the bin at some point.
Another key point is that job-seekers in Nigeria still do not understand ‘how to search for a job’. I say this because our company receives resumes everyday with “sent from my blackberry wireless device” as the only message. No email subject, No email message. Job-seekers need to be educated on how to search for a job. I have always believed that looking for a job is ‘work’ in itself. There needs to be a plan, a strategy and target companies. Also graduates do not prepare for their interview or aptitude tests. Recently our company shortlisted 15 candidates for one of our investment banking client. These candidates were very good on paper, 7 of them had First Class Honours and 8 had Second Class Upper division. It was shocking to see that all of them failed our online numerical reasoning test.

The ugly

I received a call from a candidate who wanted to know what guarantees we have to place him with our client if he paid us. Imagine that! A candidate offering money to a recruiter for placement. I have to say, I do not blame the candidate because certain unscrupulous organisations (under the guise of being a recruitment agency) still ask candidates to pay for registration with them. This is unethical, unprofessional and should be discouraged! How can a recruiter accept money from a job-seeker? It’s strange. This practice is very common in Lagos, Nigeria and most unsuspecting job-seekers who desperately need a job will pay. We are actively advocating for this practice to stop. Recruiters like these give the agency business in Nigeria a bad name. Sometimes it is the candidate/job-seeker that fuels the dubious recruiter to extort them. Imagine a candidate’s email reading “Dear Sir, I need a job pls help”. It is laughable.


I will conclude by noting that not all Nigerian candidates are like what I have mentioned in this article. I have had opportunity to work with some very intelligent job-seekers who speak and write eloquently. Graduates who schooled in Nigeria and have never schooled abroad.
Sometimes it is easy to blame the Nigerian University system, but these very good entry level graduates also went to Nigerian universities. So where is the dis-connect? My personal view is that job-seekers (at entry level) need to do a lot more when searching for a job. They need to know how to search for a job. They need to practice tests and interviews and finally they need to work with companies who offer Graduate Finishing Schools.

Jimmy Braimah
Recruitment Consultant