[INTERVIEW] Sarah Fitzgerald: Recruiting Jobs for Africa
Africa Business Communities spoke with Sarah Fitzgerald, a seasoned recruiter and director at Executives in Africa. She divulges details about executive job placements in Africa from all over the world; a must-read for all prospective employers and employees of Africa.
Can you tell us about your organization?
We are an Executive Search Firm who identifies senior executives for roles based in Africa. We are unusual in the search industry in that we only focus on Africa, and this gives us a distinct advantage when searching for high calibre executives for companies based there. Our search process is thorough, efficient and tailored to the specific needs of each client, led by two Directors with over 40 years combined experience in the recruitment industry. Where possible, we like to identify African candidates for African roles. This includes individuals who are based in country and working for a competitor of our client, or candidates in diaspora. We have relocated Africans back from the USA, UK, Singapore, Middle East and also from other African countries back to their home country. We also search for expats in order to satisfy specific requirements for some clients.
In what field of work do you mostly recruit?
In terms of roles, we have covered a wide variety of senior roles ranging from Regional Director, MD, Country Manager, CFO, Finance Director, HR Director, Marketing Director, Sales Director, Chief Commercial Officer, Supply Chain Director and also some more technical roles including Packaging Manager, Head of Technical and Quality Assurance, National Manufacturing Manager. In terms of sectors, we have experience in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), Pharmaceuticals, Telecoms, Oil & Gas, Business Services and Financial Services.
Do you recruit for junior executive roles?
No, we do not. Those are better suited to ‘database’ type recruitment rather than the proactive search methodology we employ.
What countries do you operate in, specifically in Africa?
We cover all countries in SSA, but in practice much of our work over the last 2 years has been in Nigeria. Other countries we have covered include Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, DRC and South Africa. We have done a little work in North Africa including Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia.
What is the one recurring challenge you encounter in the course of your job?
There are a lot of very experienced and high calibre candidates working across Africa. The main challenge is where we are looking for skills which are relatively new to Nigeria (for example, Consumer Finance experience), which means we have to look at expats. Where we are recruiting expats, we often have to overcome concerns about safety for living and working in African countries, but this does depend on the location we are searching for. Given our extensive experience recruiting into these markets, we can usually overcome any concerns.
And how do you resolve these safety concerns for expats coming to live in, for example, Nigeria?
One way is by talking them through our direct experience of the country. For example Richard Putley, the other Director at Executives in Africa, was in Nigeria last November and specifically stayed at a client expat house, rather than in a hotel. He can therefore talk credibly about what to expect when candidates arrive at the airport, how to find the driver, traffic and directions, giving details about the accommodation as well as the working environment for that particular company.
Are your clients in the UK or are they spread across the continents?
We have clients who are based in the UK, Middle East, South Africa and also in country – mainly indigenous companies. Some are non-Africans with businesses in Africa; others are indigenous (African) companies.
If you are operating out of the UK, how do you source candidates living in Africa? Do you have on-site reps/agents that help with that?
Being based in the UK means that we are on similar time zones to all African countries and also ensures consistent communication! It is easier to fly to any African country from London than to take flights across Africa in general. We are also sourcing candidates from all over Africa and internationally, so there is no advantage to being based in any particular country. In fact due to our reliance on telephone and internet for Skype, we feel being based in the UK is actually better. We don’t use ‘reps’ on the ground – we place a high level of importance on the quality of service and would only have someone on the ground locally if they had worked with myself or Richard for a minimum of a year in the UK before transferring.
How do you conduct your interviews?
Well, telephone interviewing is obviously a much harder way to assess candidates due to the loss of ‘non verbal’ indicators, and hence why our extensive recruitment experience is so essential. We try to use Skype where possible, which is a fantastic tool to overcome the geographical distances, and all of our Executive Consultants are fully trained in advanced telephone interviewing techniques. Most of our candidates for any particular role go through a 2 stage interview process – a CV interview and then a competency based interview to explore core competencies required by the client in more detail and this ensures an extremely thorough assessment of every candidate.
Can you say which country has provided you with the most efficient executives over time in Africa?
Given the size of the country and the fast developing economy, Nigeria has provided us with some very high calibre individuals. More and more we are seeing local candidates placed in senior decision making roles, which is a significant difference to ten years ago. The talent is certainly available, both locally and in diaspora. To give a brief statistical analysis of our placements:
• 65% of all placements made have been African Nationals placed in Organisation based in Africa.
• 35% of placements made have been non-African nationals into Organisations based in Africa – of these 15% of these were Europeans, 85% coming from Asia, Middle and Far East – in part due to the skill sets available in these locations.
• 52% of all the assignments placed have been within ECOWAS Countries.
• 87% of all placements being made in ECOWAS countries were in Nigeria.
• Of the placements made in ECOWAS Countries of African Nationals - 38% of the candidates have come from diaspora – the 62% from candidates already working/living in Africa.
What is the next major step at Executives in Africa?
We continue to grow and deliver a high quality of service to our clients. Most of our work comes through referrals and word of mouth – there are not many firms out there who genuinely focus on Africa, and this keeps us extremely busy. We are aiming to hire another two consultants this year to cope with the demand for our services.
For more information on how Executives in Africa can assist with your executive level hires, please visit www.executivesinafrica.com. Follow us on twitter and Facebook too;
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