Rules of recruitment


Or a lack thereof in the Pakistani job market



Pakistani students fresh out of university dream big; armed with a degree and lots of ambition, fresh graduates set their eyes on nothing less than the top few names in the job market – some selling beverages, others boxes of milk. A few have their hearts set on international and local nonprofit organisations working in women empowerment, education, and healthcare among other causes, for the greater benefit of Pakistan. Usually, there are more qualified candidates than there are jobs and that is the bitter truth in Pakistan.

One would presume that multinational corporations and other international organisations in Pakistan have praise-worthy and model-worthy international best practices for human resource recruitment. One of the key attractions of joining an international organisation is the good practices of human resource management that are generally expected to be implemented in Pakistan as well, especially during the recruitment phase.

HR is the first impression that a prospective employee will have of the organisation. During an interview with the head of human resource management at a milk/beverage packaging multinational giant in Lahore, I was asked if I planned to stay single all my life – perhaps as a response to my current marital status stated in the curriculum vitae. Thereafter, I was shortlisted for the assessment round, and before this litmus test actually commenced, I was promptly told to ‘act more corporate’, since I hailed from the development sector unfortunately. Later, my employer started belittling the development sector in which I had experience in, implying that there was a world of difference between those working in the corporate sector compared to the nonprofit field. I would have never taken the offer, even if this multinational company’s president begged me; my initial impression of this company had already gone down the drain given the profile of professionals (or lack thereof) running the local show.

Recently, a friend was interviewed for a local section 42 nonprofit company, where the chairman started off by not introducing himself and instead began shooting off a series of quick questions. This lasted five minutes until he asked about her current remuneration package, to which she answered as honestly as she could. In the very next moment, she was asked to leave.

An example of a good interview that complies with best practices would perhaps be one which begins with introductions, followed by the recruiter delivering a brief on the job description and questions for the candidate; a good interviewer will always give the interviewee a chance to ask their questions towards the end as well. A good company will also be courteous enough to inform candidates if they have not been selected for a particular position that they applied for.

Candidates who are new to the job hunt must be aware of this existing mechanism. While the excitement of landing a high-paying job at a large company is extremely enticing during the initial years of employment, there are certain signs that may be a red flag for an employee who feels they might not be a good fit for unprofessional environments where compliance is a general issue.

Seasoned candidates who have had the displeasure of sitting through job interviews complain that it is a norm for organisations to advertise vacancies that have already been filled, in order to comply with ‘transparency’. Some organisations go as far as interviewing a large pool of candidates who arrive at the venue after travelling long distances, even while the position has already been filled by an internal candidate or through reference. Obviously, no travel allowance and accommodation is given to these shortlisted candidates. If this doesn’t speak about the volumes of unprofessionalism and shady recruitments, what else does? According to Peter Orszag, vice chairman of corporate and investment banking and chairman of the financial strategy and solutions group at Citigroup Inc, companies have reduced their “recruiting intensity”. They advertise jobs but don’t have much interest in filling them.

Lou Adler, bestselling author of the book ‘The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired’, believes that applying for jobs in this day and age is an absolute waste of time. “Networking is the entry-point into the hidden job market, it is hard work, but necessary work for those that want to get a job they deserve or a better job than the one they have now.” This draws attention towards referral-based hiring, which has been a trend in Pakistan for too long, but creates a problem for fresh graduates who have very few contacts in the job market. Moreover, referred or recommended candidates are judged on their past performance, so fresh graduates inevitably have to apply for jobs and maybe it is not a waste of time for them as Adler would really like to believe.

My experiences with employers during interview sessions might reflect a certain gender-bias and I wonder if this is an issue of direct relevance. For instance, most job advertisements encourage Pakistani females and minorities to apply for a certain position, which is fantastic. The trend is encouraging, but it is often strange that in Islamabad, for instance, many organisations are virtually packed with males from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with average competence, poor skill set and ordinary educational backgrounds. Some of my friends, who have applied for international fellowships and scholarships, are confident they have an edge over others only because their domicile belongs to KP.

World over interview durations have doubled, more vacancies are cropping up and employees are usually held for not one but marathon interview sessions and assessments. Competition is cut-throat, the search for the ideal candidate is eternal, and job hiring is often delayed. While both the employer and employee are looking for perfection, some basic standard operating procedures during recruitment should be implemented, those which reflect transparency, good values and strong ethics.


  1. Thats very true. Its only in Pakistan they ask stupid question about your marital status.
    Well done Ms.Pasha

  2. Referral based recruitment is all we have in Pakistan right now.Even for an internship ,let alone a job,you have got to have a chachoo with horrific moustaches who has links inside these organisations.

  3. While I agree with most of the points outlined in the above article, I would like to take issue with the comments about "males from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa". Hailing from the KPK province and on my third stint as a Recruiter for Islamabad-based companies, I often find a bias against individuals from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Without wanting to turn this into a racial issue, I'd like to point out that several capable candidates are, indeed, overlooked simply because they hail from or have been educated from universities in KPK. My point is that while even I may give testament to many incapable "males from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa", I find a prejudice against the same too obvious to ignore typing this comment.

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