Monday, November 28, 2016

What It Takes Talent: Finance Sector in Kenya

What it takes to make it: Finance. Join Duma Works for monthly events that bring together entrepreneurs, HR and Talent Managers, and Professionals to discuss how to connect with top talent and jobs in Africa

Our monthly #WhatItTakes Talent Event focused on the Finance Sector.

We brought in amazing panelists to lead the discussion about how HR and Talent Managers can recruit, train, and retain top talent in the Finance Sector in Kenya, and shared insights with professionals on how to position themselves for their career in the Finance Sector.

Our partner for the event was Invhestia, and our panelists were Stephen Gugu, Director of Invhestia, Kate Gathii, Marketing Manager at Direct Pay Online, and Joel Macharia from Abacus.

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  Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why Leveraging a What It Takes Screening Approach Leads to Better Hiring

Get Top Talent in East Africa and get a better hiring process by having candidates prove they have what it takes during the application process.

Photo credit:

“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

What Lou Holtz, former football coach and lifetime motivational speaker, did not realize is that he was describing the core challenge and opportunity of recruiting:

How do you figure out what candidates can do, how motivated they are to succeed, and what kind of attitude they bring before even meeting them?

Based on our last 4 years in Kenya building a digital recruiting platform from scratch with a local team and local recruiting partners, we strongly believe in and recommend the “What It Takes” approach for better hiring.

We find that this practical assessment based method gives Hiring Managers the ability to objectively measure skills, motivation, and attitude candidates bring before a face to face interview.

What is the “What It Takes” approach and why does it lead to better hiring?

Instead of wasting your time looking over CVs, trying to use grammar and formatting to understand a person’s ability, try something else.

To create a better hiring process, we recommend basing all of your decisions on a systematic, objective screening process that makes job applicants show you they have the skills to do the job, instead of just telling you.

At Duma Works, we do this through a rigorous analysis of the job opening with our clients, and the creation of a customized set of screening tests to put applicants through.

For this article, I’m going to skip through the job analysis and get right into the screening process, but if you are interested, I’ve built a case study that can help you think about how to analyze your job openings more deeply here.

Step 1: Identify the Skills the Job Requires

The first step is to understand what the day-to-day at work activities look like for your job opening and the skills (soft & technical) candidates will require to get the job done.

Examples of soft and technical skills include:

  • Proficiency in a specific language
  • Knowledge of Salesforce software
  • Proficiency in Powerpoint
  • Understanding of SPSS
  • Itinerary planning on a budget
  • Client relations
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • etc.

The next step is to create specific questions to evaluate each one of these skills, along with a grading rubric to assess the candidate’s performance on each question in an objective, consistent way.

N.B. Creating a grading rubric is HUGELY important, do NOT skip that step!!

Step 2: Build a Screening Test To Assess Each Skill 

This step consists of a rather tedious and creative process to build case studies that a candidate will need to complete.

When creating the case studies, you should think about what skills you are assessing and how concretely you will be able to judge a candidate’s ability based on response.

I think the best way to illustrate our process is based on examples (again, showing, rather than telling! :))

Case Study 1: Junior Level Field Sales Manager

Imagine you have a job opening for Junior level Field Sales Manager. The day-to-day activities they will engage in include responsible for (a) recruiting a sales team, (b) managing a sales team, and (c) reporting back to HQ in Nairobi. The skills they require include: Recruiting, Managing Sales Team, Creating Reports, Communication, Leadership.

To test candidates for these skills, we would do the following:

  • Issue a basic questionnaire to check to assess their interest in the role and confirm they have the right specific experience level, educational background, and communication skills
  • Issue an advanced technical skills test with a practical case study to test for the 3 skills above. For example:

Imagine you are managing a team of 5 field sales staff in a rural area of Kenya who are approaching micro and small enterprises to begin accepting mobile money at their kiosks and shops.

A – When recruiting for your sales team, (a) Describe 3 methods you would use to source for candidates in the rural region, (b) What 5 key experiences or skills would you look for in candidates, (c) Describe 3 questions you would ask candidates during the interview to assess these skills.

B- Create a report template that you would use to keep your management in HQ in Nairobi up to date with sales targets for your team.

(a) What KPIs would you track and how would you prioritize those KPIs? (b) What anecdotal information would you include in the report, (c) how many times per month would you issue a report and why?

Do you see how practical testing is a way of having candidates prove to you that they have what it takes to do the day-to-day activities that will be required of them on the job?

Case Study 2: Entry Level Monitoring & Evaluation Officer (NGO)

Imagine you are hiring for an Entry Level Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at an NGO responsible for (a) data collection and data entry, (b) community organizing, and (c) basic data analysis. Skills required are therefore: Data Collection, Data Entry, Organization, Community Organizing, Leadership, Data Analysis, Knowledge of Excel.

Here’s how we would test for these skills:

  • Again, issue a basic questionnaire to assess education level and skills. I would also throw in some multiple choice questions to test their knowledge of functions on Excel and basic logic questions.
  • Issue a technical test to assess for the three skills above. For this, I would include an Excel file with some data points to assess both their ability to analyze on a quantitative and qualitative level.
    • On the quantitative side, I would include some incorrect formulae and calculations in the Excel file and ask them to find the mistakes.
    • On the qualitative side, I would ask them what other data points they might need to collect from community members to make a viable recommendation to the NGO. I would ask them what types of questions they might ask community members in order to gather these data points.
    • For community organizing, I would ask them to give me an example of potential partners in the community they would approach to work with to gain better access to the community.

For all these screening tests, I would create a grading rubric with grades from 1-5 for each question, pegged to different levels of excellence of answers.

Creating a grading rubric isn’t hard, it’s just another step you need to do to create this systematic recruiting process. To make things easier for you, I’ve created a template for how to build your skills tests and grading rubric here.

Step 3: Assign someone responsibility for managing this process 

Whether you want to do this in-house or hire someone else to do it for you, that’s up to you! Every organization is different and sometimes it is helpful to begin creating the process internally so you get a deep understanding of how it works and its benefits.

Despite being more time-intensive to set up, we’ve found the What It Takes approach definitely pays off in the end and yields a better hiring process. For us, this is mainly because of the following:

  • You gain an objective standard for all job applicants in your recruiting funnel
  • You begin creating a systematic approach to recruiting that can be scaled and delegated to other team members
  • By creating a standard, you give yourself the ability to reflect on your hiring process so you can analyze and improve it as your company grows

Most importantly, you assign someone responsibility for managing this process. If no one is responsible, it will not get done, and you will find yourself hiring by CVs and relying on gut instinct again.

This approach to recruiting does take a bit more time to set up, and requires a deeper understanding of the job type you are hiring for. It is difficult to build this process while you are in the middle of handling compliance, culture, payroll, and all the other things you manage.

If you don’t want to do this in-house because you’d rather focus your energy on actually running your business, I would encourage you to try using Duma Works.

We’ve built a system that’s a blend of human touch and digital as well as customization and scalability to help you create a What It Takes-based, systematic recruiting system for your organization.

Duma Works already has a database of screening questions to use for specific roles, and our amazing Placement Success team can offer you guidance as you think through what strategic goals your job opening will seek to fill.

Another benefit of using us is that we’ve created a software to execute this recruiting process at scale. So instead of you personally looking through a thousand screening tests, our software and Placement team can do that for you within 5-10 business days.

In Summary

I hope this article and the resources I’ve included are helpful to you.

If you have any questions, want to chat about your recruiting process, or want to learn more about Duma Works, please visit our website or reach out at [email protected]. I’m always happy to meet new people, exchange new ideas, and build new partnerships.

You can also check out other articles I’ve written about What It Takes based recruiting like this one here.


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  Monday, September 5, 2016

A New Era for Duma Works

Apply for our Chief Technology Officer position and join one of the fastest growing startups in the recruiting space in East Africa

It’s official: We are recruiting for a Chief Technology Officer at Duma Works!

After what I presume was an excruciating and tearful thought process, our amazing, funny, talented CTO, Linus, has decided to move back to Sweden. He will therefore be stepping down from his operative role at Duma Works.

Given that Duma Works is growing and generally killing it, this move for Linus is not due to any doubt in the inevitable world domination of Duma Works as the recruiting platform for growing companies in emerging markets. For him, this was a personal choice due to family, lifestyle, and a deep longing to experience Swedish winter again.

“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.” – Orrin Woodward

I think it’s safe to say that Linus, embodies that leadership quality, and Duma Works has certainly become a better company for it. Linus’ agile, humble leadership, and wise presence as the resident FOG will be greatly missed.

We wish Linus the best of luck with the move and are packing him many boxes of tissues for the flight home.

Onwards and upwards!

PS. It goes without saying that rockstars who are interested in applying to fill Linus’ very large shoes as CTO of our humble rocketship should certainly cast their luck and check out what we are looking for here and then contact me directly at [email protected]

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  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What It Takes: Talent in the Energy Sector

What It Takes Talent in the Energy Sector with Duma Works. Join our event to discover new ways of talent acquisition, staff development, and staff retention in one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa.

First of all, a big thank you to all of our panelists and guests who so graciously attended our #WhatItTakes Talent in the Energy Sector event last Thursday! It was a huge success and I think we all learned a lot.
Thank you Elizabeth from M-KOPA Solar, Tim from Sanergy, Patrick from Skynotch Energy Africa, and James from Brands & Beyond.

As the panelists were fielding questions about the various challenges and opportunities the fast growing energy sector has in the Talent space, I was furiously writing down some of the key insights for them. I didn’t manage to catch everything, but I did write down the responses for a few questions.

I’ve taken a moment to compile them in more legible format than the initial Evernote draft. Admittedly, my notes are quite dense and I’ve lifted some things verbatim from the speakers (so apologies for colloquialisms and informal sentence structure). However, Brave readers! Fear not. There is a lot of information here so keep reading.

I hope you all enjoy and for those who weren’t able to attend the event – be it Talent Managers in the Energy space, or professionals looking to grow your career in that sector – I hope these notes are insightful for you.

What It Takes Talent in the Energy Sector with Duma Works. Join our event to discover new ways of talent acquisition, staff development, and staff retention in one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa.

What is the biggest challenge you face in terms of hiring people for technical roles and do you offer in-house training to address that gap?

Patrick: One of the biggest challenges for technical roles is the budget. Another one is that we don’t have any training schools for independent training programs that meet the needs of the changing energy sector. We are thinking of setting up a small school in the energy sector to address this but it’s a work in progress.

There are a lot of people who are coming up with workshops. We identify what makes sense to us from third parties for our team. We wouldn’t take the same training that a multinational would. Also as a new frontier, recruitment or third party might not be the best solution for every training because we don’t have budget for day to day specialized training.

We are still far in training institutions for offering market relevant solutions. KenyaPower and KenGen offer courses but they aren’t always relevant.

Also, we would want more support in legal and financial tools for the sector.

James: KEPSA knows the government is trying to break through to help with standard energy agreements. My biggest challenge is the engineer that is going to do a master’s or MBA in what. That is what is killing us. Especially the technical guys who want to be promoted and then are told that without a Masters, they can’t be promoted. We are not improving in maintaining the skills in a certain area.

If you do a technical MBA, make it so that you become the best geophysics or transmission skills. Not some sort of management.

Tim: A challenge we have is that in our organization, we don’t have as well defined roles. We have around 93 unique roles. We have micro-business units within the company. Training can’t be done at the same scale as a parastatal. What we focus on right now is underlying skills that can be spread across the board.

In terms of development and training, we believe the classroom setting is not the way to go. The better way is to interact with people of different experiences and get thrown in the deep end. This guy doesn’t know about civil engineering, but he is experiencing the work and learning from people who have that experience. Learning on the job is a much bigger part of the learning experience on our team.

Elizabeth: Kenya is a place where someone has a degree in biophysics but is in HR. Someone with a degree in psychology might be doing SQL. Our problem is that in high school, you select analytical chemistry but then you realize you are a sales person. We need to understand people’s key skills from a younger age and make sure those teachers teaching your kids are actually the best people to be teachers.

M-Kopa is really open. We focus on understanding a person’s talents. Someone can come in entry level at a certain place, but then we can move them over into another department if that is their strength. So it is on us to channel them in the right direction.

We push employees to engage in higher learning courses and focus on up-skilling our people. We show people with management potential how to be leaders if they have that passion for people. We try to identify those traits early on. What are your key strengths? Let’s develop that. It’s a wide world in M-Kopa, Let’s see where you land.

We also have M-Kopa University to help people more formally with career advancement.

What It Takes Talent in the Energy Sector with Duma Works. Join our event to discover new ways of talent acquisition, staff development, and staff retention in one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa.

How do you scale your teams rapidly? Are there any best practices in recruitment that you can share with us?

Elizabeth: We realize we can’t do it alone. Some of the people best for the job have a bad CV. I had one person with a CV who wrote “employee” on their CV for all their past positions. So we use other platforms to assess people outside of their CV. I want platforms to assess what promise this person has. To tell me that this guy is in accounting but he should be in sales. I prefer to find ways of doing more bulk recruitments and working with partners to help us grow our team to where we need to go.

I also think it’s about continuous recruitment. Trying to make each and every time you bring something on a new experience. Tweak process to see how you can get the right fit. How do I get better candidates on board? Also, don’t rely on CVs. Im recruiting for a Data Analyst. How do I assess these people aside for them knowing things about SQL? It’s all about asking ourselves how to get our process better.

Tim: Best practices…We tap into the networks we have laid down. We have a good fellows program 3-6 month internship. Lots of fellows stay on as full time hires. That’s a great pipeline from university for us.

James: We have a challenge in measuring what we do. The other day, we were recruiting for an energy company in Djibouti. I had guys from polytechnics there who were able to show what they have done. The other guys were just showing what they were monitoring.

When I was leading the change program at KPLC, you couldn’t quantify what the engineers do. For a cashier, you can manage. For an engineer who underperformed and so a transformer blew up, how do you monitor that? So we sat with the customer to see what they were focusing on – namely, getting power.

We went to Nyeri and started measuring numbers. One substation had constant shortages. The cost of that was calculated and we started breaking down what the engineers were doing by measuring how much money we were losing when engineers didn’t have discipline. Then , a new CEO came in with an HR background and started enforcing it. For the first tine, we saw engineers going home. If you start measuring what you do, that’s a best practice to help improve the sector itself as well as the recruiting.

Patrick: I agree with James, we need to ask ourselves after 4 years what we are doing in the sector. Even engineers aren’t asking themselves, but even generally in the sector, we also don’t do it.

Even if I am looking for a business analyst, if I operate in a sector without information, what do I do? How can I measure this person. We need people head hunting in the sector to get information about the sector to help the companies understand as well. Also, I’m not an expert in everything. Maybe I don’t know everything about making a Job Description.

I also don’t know how to give points that will help make is guy understand why he was picked for this job or not. As we narrow down to the person, also give the guy feedback on the Job Description that fits their background versus the job that hey are applying to.

What It Takes Talent in the Energy Sector with Duma Works. Join our event to discover new ways of talent acquisition, staff development, and staff retention in one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa.

Any advice for job applicants?

Elizabeth: A tip for job seekers – Your CV is your first interview. If you can tell me who you are on on paper, that’s amazing. I have a favorite CV from an engineer. He had included lines for how many times he got electrocuted and how many products he has innovated. He went through hobbies and said he cycles for causes and I really noticed that all his hobbies had to do with engineering. That guy is hired right now. So thats your first interview. If you can’t put your skill set on a CV, don’t bother.

If you feel you are in the wrong place, try to leverage on your strength and experience. Don’t be afraid to take a few risks. Don’t be scared to start at the drawing board. It’s never too late to make a turnaround. It’s all about self realization. Engineers make the most amazing performance managers. It’s process! A friend of mine is now a big guy in government and he is an engineer. My degree is in analytical chemistry, so I didn’t finish it because I didn’t want to get stuck in a lab with chemicals. And now I’m in HR. It’s never too late, figure out what you want and go for it.

Tim: As an outsider looking at Kenyan CVs, I can say a few things – I don’t care about your marital status or religion. I care about grades but not as much as you think. If you show you have drive and can take it to the next step, that’s amazing. It’s showing me he hasn’t just gone to university and is now here. People can develop how they market themselves. That soft skill will get your foot in the door. For example, one awesome applicant had a patent for an automatic ugali cooker.

James: Jianike, go to these forums (Thanks, James!!). Most people will get jobs through their networks, and these events are the best way to get your name out there.

Patrick: One of the things I’m not interested in is reading CVs. Don’t submit an application if it isn’t a fit. Don’t start climbing the wrong tree. You may find yourself at the top but you’re not happy. It will also ruin my organization because you will be where you are but you won’t be happy.

Lastly, don’t go into the energy sector looking for a job, go to the energy sector looking for a mentor to connect you to an entrepreneurship opportunity.

Thanks again to all of our amazing panelists and guests who joined us for a great discussion and networking session! Also special thanks to the entire Duma Works team who made this event happen.

Get ready for our next event in September: #WhatItTakes Talent in the Real Estate Sector and if you have a job opening you would like to try posting with Duma Works, kindly email me on [email protected]

What It Takes Talent in the Energy Sector with Duma Works. Join our event to discover new ways of talent acquisition, staff development, and staff retention in one of the fastest growing sectors in East Africa.

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  Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bicycles and Roads to Opportunity

Duma Works expands to Dar es Salaam to connect companies in Tanzania to the best talent for their job openings.

Imagine. A simple question:

Can You Draw a Bicycle?

…Led to an incredible, epic conversation about how people can approach life in order to open their hands to more opportunity.

I was at the GSMA Mobile 360 Conference in Dar es Salaam this month and had the pleasure of speaking with an excellent gentleman by the name of Nyangu Meghji, the Chief Technical Officer at Raha. For those who haven’t been to TZ, those are the guys with the free Raha Wifi Hotspots in practically every coffee shop and meeting place around the country!

Duma Works expands to Dar es Salaam to connect companies in Tanzania to the best talent for their job openings.

Nyangu aka. “the Pathfinder” …And you thought your business cards were epic?

Nyangu and I were speaking with another colleague of his, Edson, from Infinity Africa, about the practical screening tests we give people at Duma Works to link job applicants to career opportunities. Suddenly, Nyangu turned to Edson and asked him if he could draw a bicycle. We quickly produced a napkin from the lunch table, and brought out a pen.

When the drawing was finished, Nyangu held up the napkin (and I, of course, snapped a photo, pictured below), and asked us what we thought was missing. It took a while, but eventually is dawned on us that there was a missing component…a chain!

We immediately kicked ourselves that we had forgotten this crucial component. Of course, a bicycle is useless if the pedals can’t connect to the wheels and move forward!

Then, Nyangu made a point that I won’t ever forget.

People can build anything as beautiful they want, but at the end of the day, they need to include that practical element where form meets function in order to create opportunity.

When Nyangu tests engineers, he looks for people who can show they can actually do something that is relevant and useful, not just build something that looks nice.

Of course we all vowed never to forget the chain when drawing a bicycle again, but the point stands.

Duma Works expands to Dar es Salaam to connect companies in Tanzania to the best talent for their job openings.

Edson with the (now, definitely) famous bicycle

People go for the showmanship, but when it comes to the actual practical application, all goes to hell.

Let’s take a look at Kenya. Kenya is the place to do a case study on the Culture of Certifications with a lack of regard for where the certificate came from. An inability to lift up the dirty rug, so to speak.

We work with a lot of companies that are trying to change this mentality and test out new, innovative ways of finding amazing talent and matching them to opportunities. And I am hoping more companies will follow suit over time!

In the meantime, I just wanted to break it down here for people looking for jobs. If you truly want to demonstrate you are an amazing fit for a job, you need to build the chain as well as the bicycle frame.

When writing your CV, think about how you can show the HR or Head of Talent that you are the man/woman for the job.

Do creative things like including pieces of your portfolio, attaching business models you have built for friends, including writing samples or links to your Twitter handle or Github repo.

And don’t be afraid to break out of the standard CV box that you think is “professional.”

An example that I like using: In the “Interests/Hobbies” section, don’t be afraid to write a paragraph, or full sentences about what you like doing. After all, the interest section is literally the only place on your CV to talk about who you are and not just what you do professionally.

How much more interesting does 1 sound than 2?

  1. “On weekends, I take my bike to Karura forest with friends and cycle. We are trying to cycle 1,000 km by the end of the year between all of us to raise money for breast cancer awareness.”
  2. Interests: Cycling

…That’s what I thought.

Catch the eye of the person skimming your CV in 6 seconds by showing what you can do, and showing who you are. This will help you get more opportunities.

It’s also why we use practical screening tests at Duma Works.

To fight this notion that a good CV or Resume is “enough.” Sure, you need good documents to get your foot in the door. But what next? How can you show someone you can put in the work to get the job done, instead of just telling them.

One of my favorite screening tests is the social media intern test that we issued out a few months ago. For the test, I asked people questions like:

1- Use the following words in a (longform) social media post to describe the MOST thrilling experience you just had at an event: (1) Holy umbrellas! (2) Boxed wine (3) Spiderman (4) Under the doormat (5) Wangari Maathai (6) And that’s when I stole the stop sign (200 words max)

2- If you were to give career advice in a blog format to a colony of ants (ants, NOT Aunts), what would the first paragraph look like?

Duma expands to TZ with practical screening tests to match companies and job candidates to opportunity

Did I have the best time ever grading this screening test? YES!

Also an interesting insight: When I asked people to put in some work up front, I didn’t get too many responses.

Usually for an internship position, we will receive hundreds, if not a thousand applications for any role. Social Media Intern role? We will definitely see some accountants and IT people…even civil engineers in that applicant pool. Which is fine if the person is awesome, but usually it’s just someone applying for 1,000 jobs a month.

Second insight: Recruiting doesn’t have to be lame! Recruiting is like dating. Going on bad dates is the worst. But good dates? We look forward to those. We really have hope of finding our soulmate in that new experience. Recruiting done well can be like going on a sequence of good dates. I don’t know about other founders, but I usually cannot wait to find our startup’s next soulmate.

When I read the responses for this test, I wound up getting insights into the candidates that I absolutely long for when I go over CVs. I got to know people – their humour, creativity, favourite colours, unique life experiences. It was incredible. And when I followed up with a phone call, my impressions from the written test were mostly spot-on! Coincidence? I think not.

In the end, we got an excellent intern, who not only put in the work, and could execute like hell, he was also an amazing culture fit for our company and gelled with the rest of the team from day 1.

Put in the time to show you have what it takes.

So, if you are a self-proclaimed social media expert with vast knowledge on your CV, back it up with a killer social media account. Prove that you are up to date with the latest trends and sharing tools. Demonstrate not only a natural talent for extroversion and sharing life, but also the ability to grow your following and skills.

If you are a sales person without work, get a side-hustle. Prove to that future interviewee that you can sell anything through quantifiable achievements from your past experiences.

If you studied International Relations at school and its your true passion, then put in the leg work. Attend the conferences hosted at the UN, KICC, Parliament, Pawa254, KEPSA, or even international gatherings at AIESEC, Goethe Institute, or Alliance Francaise. Learn a new language on DuoLingo to show your openness to other cultures and the time you are willing to put in to accomplish your goals.

If you are a mobile app developer, develop some apps! Prove you have the grit, creativity, and tenacity to put your head down and code code code for a few hours. Build something relevant. Or join Moringa School or Andela and learn how to be a better developer. Attend meetups, like the one with just had in our office with the Python Meetup in Nairobi. Nairobi, especially, is such a hotbed of opportunities to hone your developer skills. Grab onto those!

Legal student? Get involved in companies like Uwakili, or join the Law Society of Kenya to get a mentor that can jumpstart your career and broaden your understanding of your field. Attend the startup meetups with Nest or Nailab or iHub where speakers from top legal firms come to discuss the evolving field of law. Corner someone after and get their card. Follow up and make sure your email has no spelling & grammar mistakes…that is the first interview, after all. 😉

Wrapping this up with an excellent anecdote from a conversation I had this week.

I had an incredibly interesting conversation with Evan at Andela about the evaluation of job candidates, not based on their initial test results, but on their proven effort to put in the work and achieve a higher result on the next assessment.

This is just one of the interesting ways people are beginning to approach hiring in the world. Be it practical screening tests, finding ways to startle candidates out of their shell during interviews, and looking at the learning evolution of job candidates, all of us are just looking for the ways to get a peak into someone showing they can do the work, rather than just telling us about it.

The future of hiring is certainly not dependent on a CV or certificates, or years experience. It’s about job candidates crafting a compelling portfolio of experiences online and offline that show they have what it takes.

Food for thought next time we apply to jobs.

Duma Works expands to Dar es Salaam to connect companies in Tanzania to the best talent for their job openings.

In short: Show you have what it takes, draw that bicycle chain.

And to get plugged into our amazing world of career opportunities, create your professional profile online at

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  Friday, July 1, 2016

How We Test for Company Culture Fit at Duma Works Interviews

Company culture is just as important to screen candidates for as technical abilities. Find out how we do it at Duma Works

Photo: SnapStock

What is Company Culture

We’ve been really fortunate at Duma Works from the start to have built an incredible company culture centered around taking time to help each other grow, pushing ourselves to test something new everyday, and upholding a collaborative workspace so no one department is ever working on a challenge by themselves.

When we began doubling our team every year, we took the time to officially codify these standards into our Company Culture Playbook. Essentially, our Bible.

The Company Culture Playbook includes Core Values that we encourage our team to exercise everyday, Aspirational Values that we always push ourselves to use more often, and Permission to Play values that dictate our hiring and firing decisions – If you don’t embody a Permission to Play, we need to push down hard on the breaks.

For more about how to establish a fixed Company Culture, I would recommend reading “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni (thanks, Linus!).

The big question for us became how to screen people for these essential qualities to make sure they are a good fit.

You can imagine that as an innovative recruiting company, this becomes really interesting when trying to solve this culture puzzle for our clients at scale.

How to Screen for Company Culture

Here are some of the things we have done to screen candidates in our recruiting pipeline (both original ideas and credited to other colleagues in hiring) to make sure new hires fit our values and culture.

1. Questions can work if there is a clear way of succeeding in an answer

The best use of the Q&A format, especially when asking about examples of past behavior, is usually it is to understand someone’s skills and skills level. ie.

  • [Sales – Closing Clients] Tell me about the time you are most proud of when you had to close a difficult client.
  • [Retail Management – Customer Care] Tell me about a time you were in a stressful situation and had to handle multiple demanding/unhappy clients at the same time.
  • [Finance – Risk Mitigation] What is the most common tax exposure risk that companies in Kenya take and how have you advised clients in the past to mitigate this risk?

However, when it comes to assessing more soft, cultural fit questions, questions can still be useful. The difference is in the grading rubric. To assess a candidate’s skills and skill level, coming up with answers that pass and fail is not incredibly difficult. It is more difficult to create a grading rubric assigning numerical values to someone’s ability to demonstrate a cultural value.

Go ahead and ask the candidate to tell you about examples of past behavior around your cultural values. For our cultural values, we ask candidates questions like

  • Tell us about a time you took a risk to try something new and you weren’t sure it would work out. What did you learn from this? Did you have to modify your initial test based on what you learned? What results did this experiment yield?

In the grading rubric for this question, we can give a candidate a total of 5 points.

  • 1 point if they shrug and say they can’t think of anything
  • 2 points if they gave us a lame example that wasn’t particularly creative, and if they could not show any specific learnings or follow through
  • 3 points if they gave us a good example but showed limited learning or no follow-up
  • 4 points if they gave us a great example, good learnings, and good follow up demonstrating the ability to understand an analyze results
  • 5 points if they were outstanding – Use of more than 1 example, (for managers) an ability to include an experimentation loop as a systematic process they have implemented, an ability to deeply analyze learnings and be creative in coming up with subsequent tests

By coming up with a structured grading rubric for demonstration of culture values, we can understand which cultural values one candidate is strongest, weakest, or lacking altogether. This not only helps us select candidates but gives us an idea of red flags we should watch out during their probation period, and where we can offer the most coaching.

If there is no standard way to evaluate candidates for cultural values, it is really tough to use the Q&A format.

2. Role playing does work but be sensitive to different personalities by using multiple formats

Personally, I’m a theater fanatic. Being on a stage is something I crave. Is everyone like that? Absolutely not.

This is actually the basis for articles coming out about why traditional brainstorming is not always effective. Authors conclude that in order to engage introverts less comfortable with the idea of spontaneous, verbal ideation, other processes of brainstorming should be used.

Just like you need to tailor the brainstorming process for different personalities, you also need to tailor the role playing interview formats for different personalities.

Some things that we have done or heard of from peers include

A modified version of “Powerpoint Karaoke” where we have the candidates stand up in front of the panel and make a presentation on a powerpoint presentation they have never seen before.

  • The core values we typically look for during this test include Creativity, Love of puzzles, High empathy levels, Being unafraid to fail.
  • To interpret the slides while being expected to sound knowledgeable forces people to think creatively under pressure, the ability to weave seemingly disconnected slides together shows knack for solving puzzles, the ability to relate to your audience and see when they are confused or bored shows high levels of empathy, and in order to confidently speak about one slide without knowledge of the next slide to come shows being unafraid to fail.
  • I would only recommend this format for roles where you need extreme extroverts. Especially in Kenya, most schools don’t prepare students for improvisation. When you are looking for naturally extroverted person who must be able to handle any situation thrown at them with composure and eloquence, this is a great exercise

Flipping the interview so candidates can only ask you questions and you answer

  • The core values we typically look for during this test include Passion for company mission, High standards for personal performance, Innovation, and Readiness to experiment
  • To be prepared with relevant questions about the company shows a person’s passion for the company and company mission, to have done enough research about things in advance like current market dynamics, competitors, company strategy, new products, etc. shows extremely high standards for personal performance, to invent creative questions to challenge the interview panel shows innovation, and to be excited to participate in this new interview format shows a readiness to experiment.
  • This type of format typically works for both introverts and extroverts, but just remember that some people are more able to think on their feet than others. If you have someone that prefers to think long and hard before saying anything, they will probably not come up with as many questions on the spot. You can try different formats of this exercise like giving the candidates 10 minutes alone to write down all the questions they may have, or giving the candidate specific topics to ask questions about.
  • When grading this candidate’s performance, take their personality into account and don’t limit your grading rubric to things like number of questions or degree of comfort in performing this exercise. Instead, look at things depth of questions or ability to have good follow up questions in a specific niche.

Using the whole team to assess candidates on how they act when they think they aren’t being interviewed

  • This works for all types of people and is typically good to assess core values around relating to people, such as two of our core values: People who take time to help other people achieve their goals, and people who believe that helping each other grow is what will help us succeed.
  • To conduct this experiment, you need to have set up an obstacle course, of sorts, in advance, with different members of your team observing the candidate at each step of the way.
  • Types of “obstacles” we have set up in the past include putting brochures about the company on the table in front of the candidates to see who reads it, having someone from the drop a glass on the floor and see who offers to help clean it up (and how far they go), having a team member go over to the candidate with a question about something they are working on to see if they will give input, having a team member come into the room pretending to be a scared interview candidate and see if the other candidate will try to calm him/her down.
  • As you can see, all of these obstacles are geared to observing if the candidates will embody these two core values from the word go.

I hope this was helpful to you while thinking about the next important hire for your team! Using some of these tactics to test candidates for company culture fit has really helped us and we hope it helps you as well.

Happy hiring!

If your company is growing in East Africa and you are looking for rockstars to join the team, we would highly recommend you try Duma Works! You can post your job on and our Talent Acquisition Team will get started on your job opening immediately. You can also email us directly at [email protected] to get started.

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  Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Interview from Art to Science: A Recruiter’s Guide

Duma Works can help you identify top talent in Africa and Kenya through these helpful interview tips

Photo: Snapstock

What we can learn from Google’s approach to the job interview

Laszlo Bock, the Head of People Operations at Google, writes in his book Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead that people often approach the job interview and hiring in the same way that Garrison Keillor describes the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, a place where “all the children are above average.”

Laszlo comments that hiring is something we all think we are great at, but “we never go back to check if we are, and so we never get better.”

We always think we are all above average at interviewing…but when do we really check that assumption?

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  Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to Find Top Talent in Kenya: A Recruiter’s Guide

How Duma Works can help you recruit top talent in East Africa and Kenya through a kick ass evaluation process

What tools are you using to quickly find top talent in the first stages of recruiting?

Hiring Managers and Recruiters have the interesting challenge to find top talent before ever meeting the candidates.

In the past, the CV or Resume has been used as a quick way to determine the candidates’ employability for the job advertised.

When we were still using the post office and communicating via snail mail, this made sense. But in today’s digital age, we have so many more data points about candidates to explore to determine their fit and ultimately find that top talent we are looking for.

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  Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Duma Works Fights for Transparent Recruiting in Africa

Duma Works helps you get connected to jobs without a godfather, or any insider politics. Sign up for Duma Works to renew your hope in a fair job matching process


Godfathers, insiders, and chai are ruining the Kenyan economy, one incompetent person at a time

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  Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Introducing: How to take our tests online

Duma Works launches their online test portal to help job candidates apply to jobs in an even easier way

The Duma Works team celebrates the latest milestone!

We’ve been receiving a LOT of feedback from users and job seekers on social media and elsewhere about our tests. Many have felt that it’s cumbersome and expensive to answer questions over SMS. That’s why we’re launching our tests online today!

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