The Interview

The Interview
Each time I conduct interviews, I
usually end up shaking my head and
lamenting about the state of
education in Nigeria. Our tertiary
institutions are churning out
graduates who are mainly
unemployable. Earlier today, I
interviewed almost 50 candidates
and by the end of the whole session,
the only conclusion I could arrive at
was that we have a BIG problem.
In one particular instance, I was
alarmed when I read the CV of a
particular female graduate of one of
the Universities in the South West. It
was full of outlandish errors and so I
asked her to spell a few words. She
spelt the word ‘redeemed’ wrongly
four times before she got it right the
fifth time. On her CV, she described
herself as one of the officials of the
church fellowship when she was an
undergraduate but she wrote the
name of the church wrongly. She
couldn’t spell the word ‘corper’
despite trying more than five times.
Yet, during her national service, she
taught pupils at a school. I
underlined about 10 grammatical
errors on her CV and showed them to
her. She couldn’t even determine
where to use apostrophe s.
A particular candidate couldn’t speak
a whole sentence without
committing serious blunders. Even
when I repeated those errors while
thinking he would correct himself,
he repeated the blunders again.
Another candidate found it difficult
explaining what he studied in
school. Some have not developed
themselves in any way since they
graduated. I had to spend some time
to talk to a lady who had her
Ordinary National Diploma fifteen
years ago but had not done anything
to improve herself since then. When
she mentioned the issue of paucity
of funds, I pointed at her designer
bag and her well braided hair as
evidence that fund was not the
problem.
I asked a female candidate what her
aspirations were if money was not a
restraining factor. Her answer left all
of us on the interview panel with
mouths wide open. “I want to live
large and live big”, she told us. One
of the candidates told us he studied
‘BSc Economics’. He made the
mistake thrice until I corrected him
that he studied Economics and not
BSc Economics. A fellow was asked to
introduce himself and he started
with ‘My names are…’. I asked him
how many people he’s introducing.
Even when I tried to correct him, he
insisted he was correct so I gave up
on him.
On one occasion, I asked a female
candidate what her husband does.
She replied, ‘I’m sorry but he’s a
driver’. I asked her why she was sorry
about the legitimate job that her
husband does. I told her that the job
of her husband does not define who
he is. His job is simply a job. I told her
I also drove a cab before. I spent the
longest time with her as I wanted
her mind to be disinfected of the low
self-esteem she seemed to carry. I
played the video of Femi
Ogedengbe, the Nollywood actor
turned security guard in the United
States and encouraged her to be
proud of her husband. Interestingly,
the husband is a graduate and I’ve
asked her to give me her husband’s
CV. She almost broke down in tears
when I told her I’d rather hire her
husband than her. She knelt and
apologized before she left my office.
A few guys had the labels of their
suit on their sleeves- at least three
of them that I recall. When I asked
why the labels were not removed,
they grinned sheepishly. One of
them told me that is the current
trend. When that same guy sat down,
I observed that he wore ankle socks
with a significant part of his legs
showing bare skin. One candidate
was particularly striking for his
naivety. He came in shaking and
stammered while introducing
himself. He could barely string a
sentence together. When I tried to
make him comfortable by asking him
to take a deep breath, he answered
by saying, “I don’t know why I’m like
this today. This is actually my first
interview”. He just finished his
national service and anxiety was
written all over him.
I made two major observations
during the interview session today:
1. Candidates who engaged in
extracurricular activities while in
school turned out better. There was
a lady who was a member of SIFE-
Students In Free Enterprise- while
she was on campus and she was one
of the bright spots. There was
another fellow that represented his
University at a competition outside
Nigeria. He was also outstanding.
Likewise, a lady who was Vice
President of her Students Union
while she was an undergraduate.
She demonstrated so much
confidence during the interview.
2. Candidates that went to private
universities performed better
generally. There must be something
the private universities are getting
right as their graduates
communicated better. They
demonstrated a far more superior
level of intelligence. I was
disappointed by the performance of
most graduates of mainstream
universities and polytechnics. One
could almost guess whether a
candidate attended a private
university just by listening to them.
If you’re preparing for an interview,
it’s in your best interest to do some
research about the company you
want to work with if you know the
company. Google is your friend. Work
on your communication skills. You
should be able to talk about yourself
very clearly and also describe what
you have done before-if you’re an
experienced hire. Your body
language is critical- no fidgeting and
no show of anxiety. All of us have
butterflies in our stomach when we
face strange people on an interview
panel but with a smile on your face,
no one will ever know. A lady
cracked her knuckles throughout the
interview today. It’s very irritating
but also shows she was nervous.
Your posture is important. Dont
slouch on the chair. Sit straight with
your back on the chair and your legs
together.
Mind your language while being
interviewed. It’s better to be brief
than to be unnecessarily verbose. By
talking too much at times, you
demonstrate that you know so little.
Pronounce words well. It can take
some practice but stand in front of a
mirror and rehearse until you get
better. Be ready to defend your
certificate. Demonstrate that you
actually earned your degree.
Maintain eye contacts. That shows
your level of confidence. Good
grooming is key to your success. No
matter the current fad, it’s safer to be
conservative in your dressing. Dark
coloured suits are best for
interviews. Stay with white or blue
shirts for men. You can never go
wrong with them. You must have a
great sense of colour to want to try
very bright colours. It’s either it turns
out so good or you turn out like a
magician’s apprentice. Ladies have
the latitude to try out more colours
but the simpler, the better. Pay
attention to your hair and hand bag.
Synchronize your colours properly.
Avoid loud jewelleries. Look your
best as the book is often judged by
the cover during interviews. Your
appearance is what we see first
before we hear what you have to
say.
We need to declare a state of
emergency in our education sector
and even start to teach intending
graduates certain life skills. Nigerian
graduates will not be able to
compete with their African
counterparts in a few years at this
rate.
By Bayo Adeyinka

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