On Awkward Job Qualification Requirements


If you survived the Kenyan education system, and by the aligning of a little known planet to the moon, found yourself some enslaving white-collar 9 to 5 thing, you are a hero. You will agree (now), that school wasn’t the difficult part. The goddamn-what-the-hell-kick-a-dying-cat part, was trying to get employed. In spite of all your qualifications,  skills, abilities and unnecessary hobbies, one thing or the other had you walking into a slamming door.

Maybe it was that politician’s son who got the job despite the fact that he didn’t even attend the interview. Or the fact that your father is, well.., a nobody. And we don’t exactly get to pick dads, or steer their ambitions.

But beyond the corruption and nepotism are other interesting factors that we never take into account, say when a company proudly states that they are an “equal opportunity employer.” To me, that simply means that they have separate toilets for men and women. Pretty cool.

See there are employers with special preferences. Like the kind that would rather hire single mothers? Perhaps they secretly think “she must be suffering so much, she’ll bend-over backwards to get the job done, and when she’s done she’ll jump hoops and a ring of fire. Coz single mothers work goddammit!” 

Or companies that prefer to hire married folks: Yeah, this is a very serious man/woman. This settling down thing requires one to buy diapers and pay school fees. Yup let’s give this guy the job! Single folks are not as serious as married folks.

There’s an old lady I knew who ran a toy store in the city. She could never keep an employee for 6 months and yet, whenever she asked for referrals, she would say “make sure the girl is not too smart.” According too her, smart employees make good thieves. She eventually closed down her business. I can’t imagine why.

Or my friend who owns a bar and prefers to hire single women because 1. their hips keep the men entertained 2. if they had to steal drinks, they can’t possibly milk the bar dry 3. the fact that they are single guarantees that there is no man somewhere complaining about his wife working all night or coming home late. As fate would have it: Single women can stay up all night and entertain men. No problem there.


But we may go ahead and berate those employers when we ourselves have our biased employee qualification checklist. Don’t many women agree that ugly, single-mothers, from church-mice backgrounds, make the best house-helps?

NOTE: At this point by the way, if this single-mom thing sounds like a plan, by all means get knocked-up and ditch the guy. You never know.

Career advisers often tell us how best to design our  résumés and what not to wear to an interview – in essence, they’ll fit us into a little box we should hardly think outside of. While basic standards are important, we often forget that interviewers and employers are human and human beings will tend to be biased. For instance, which house-girl thinks of herself as ugly? Or who goes to school hoping to come out dumb and therefore deemed as “honest.” Personally, I once got a well-paying desk job simply because I helped my parents around the farm when I was younger. My employer wasn’t interested in my spruced up CV.

All in all, what does that say about job creation in our country? If we citizens are not exactly sure what works and what doesn’t and we have our own unprintable rules of what should, does the the government know exactly how to solve the youth unemployment problem in this country? And can we please stop telling kids that “ukisoma utapata kazi nzuri sana.” We all know that it doesn’t quite work that way. Can’t we instead link education to gaining common sense and building character rather than it being a lousy ticket to employment?

PS: I’m a big fan of Diego Buñuel‘s Nat Geo adventure show Don’t Tell My Mother. During his trip to Lahore, Pakistan, the (oh, so tall and handsome *fans self*) Diego encountered an entrepreneur who owns a chain of salons dedicated at employing girls who have suffered acid attacks leaving their faces completely disfigured – the acid having been thrown at them by their boyfriends, fathers or brothers. Some of these girls, having no prior hairdressing skills, are first treated and then trained by their employer, only to spend the rest of their lives behind a mirror (why, oh why?) making customers look beautiful. Sigh.., life.