Who has better advice for job seekers than the hiring teams?
SolidarMed LogoThis time we interviewed Eric Anderegg, that shares with us interesting information on SolidarMed selection process.
SolidarMed regularly advertise their jobs on AidBoard, you can check their open vacancies here.

Eric, can you give a short introduction about SolidarMed?

Eric Anderegg - SolidarMedSolidarMed is the Swiss organisation for health in Africa and improves health care for 1.5 million people in Lesotho, Moçambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SolidarMed strengthens and expands existing medical services sustainably and meaningfully by concentrating on five thematic focal areas:

  • Protecting mothers, children and newborns
  • Combating infectious diseases like malaria, HIV/Aids or tuberculosis
  • Improving the quality of hospitals and health centres
  • Training and further education of health staff
  • Sensitizing village communities to improve their health

The health of mothers, pregnant women, newborns and children is a central concern and receives particular attention in the projects. In cooperation with local partner organisations, hospitals and villages, SolidarMed promotes help for self-help.

Tell us a little about your background – how did you get into International Development? And what’s your role in the organization?

With a general background in Business (B. Sc. HSG in Business Administration and work experience in the fields of Marketing & Event Management in the private sector) I decided in winter 2012/13 to apply for jobs in the NGO sector and this is how I got in touch with SolidarMed. I am primarily involved in SolidarMed’s Communication/Public Relations efforts and besides I am responsible for certain tasks in the fields of Human Resources and Fundraising.

What are the most common work opportunities in SolidarMed?

In five project countries (Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania Zambia and Zimbabwe), SolidarMed employs between 15 and 20 expatriate staff and around 80 local staff. Expatriate staff are responsible for a country program (country coordinator) or for a specific project (project manager).

How is the selection process?

In a first round, our HR team reviews every application and suitable candidatures (who meet at least our minimum expectations) are being forwarded to our program managers. In a second round, the program manager responsible for the job offer takes a closer look at the applications and appropriate candidates are being ‘short-listed’. The remaining short-listed applications are usually reviewed by all the program managers together with the head of international programs (and CEO) in order to decide who is going to be invited for an interview. The same people will decide after the interview sessions which candidates could be eligible for the job and who will be our ‘1st priority choice’.

What are the key elements you check on a candidate resume?

Relevant education and work experience – at best in a (public) health context in Sub Saharan Africa – that is what we are focusing on when ‘screening’ the applications in a first round.

What are the key skills that you look for when you are hiring someone?

We are usually looking for applicants with an advanced university degree in health, public health, health economics etc. Depending on the job offer they should have a good understanding of issues related to HIV, TB, Malaria, maternal health, primary health, health system strengthening and show the willingness to stay ‘up to date’ regarding relevant international developments in health. Furthermore, applicants should have experience in a (public) health context in Sub Saharan Africa. Apart from education/work experience we are looking for dynamic and ‘hands on’ people with a high social competence, intercultural sensitivity, communication skills and the ability and willingness to live and work in an African context.

How difficult is to find good candidates? What are the challenges?

In general it is really challenging to find well-trained health professionals with a broad experience in Sub Saharan Africa (at least that is what I experienced so far while working for the HR department at SolidarMed) and it is especially difficult for us to find the right people for ‘senior management’ positions (i.e. country coordinators or project managers in our project countries).

Getting personal: tell us something you absolutely dislike in a candidate application or interview.

Considering the mass of applications we are usually receiving it is absolutely necessary for every candidate (no matter how well-qualified he/she is) to hand in all the documents required: applicants should make sure to include all the relevant information in their CV (personal data, education, work experience etc.) and send it together with a short motivation letter (including a portrait picture of the candidate) to SolidarMed.
When it comes to interviews we would certainly not like to observe a candidate’s lack of adequate social skills and/or the missing ability to work in an African context.

What tips would you give to someone interested in working for SolidarMed?

If you have the required qualifications/work experience – just give it a try and send us your application. If not, you may want to consider gaining some experience by working for another organisation (possibly with relations to health in a Sub Saharan African context) or completing a relevant academic program. I guess there is no ‘special tip’ I could give at this point.

Have you worked in the corporate/profit sector before? If yes, what are the main differences you encountered?

Yes. Well, the strategic focus of players in the non-profit sector can be significantly different compared to those of the private sector: While companies in the private sector usually have to focus on being profitable (hopefully without forgetting about their social/ecological responsibility) and measure performance by how much money is left by the end of a certain period, NGOs are (or should be) focused on output/outcome numbers/indicators and – at the end of the day – on ‘delivering impact’. Also, NGOs are always confronted with the (public) pressure to keep administrational efforts as low as possible (which can be counterproductive at times). Nevertheless, it seems to me that NGOs are influenced more and more by the approaches/attitudes of the private sector – which does not surprise me at all as they are in need of a strong and professional management in order to accomplish their aim of ‘doing good’ effectively. PersonalIy, I am a supporter of this tendency – as long as the focus of NGOs stays on working for ‘impact’ in a cost-effective manner.

Do you have any other career tips for the AidBoard readers that are seeking a job in International Development?

Take some time to prepare your application and make sure it has got all the relevant information in it when you are applying for your dream job – I am sure that it is worth it.
Otherwise you take the unnecessary risk that your documents will be sorted out by HR representatives in the first round (maybe only because some required information is missing) and disappear in the mass of applications NGOs are usually getting for international jobs.
In general I would like to encourage AidBoard job seekers to stay focused and keep on trying to fulfill their career wishes in international development – I am sure that there are suitable positions available for everyone. The relevance of the NGO sector is constantly increasing and I am convinced that this trend is not going to reverse as governments/companies/people are becoming more and more aware of their responsibility towards the poor/environment/animals in the context of a global (social) inequality and negative ecological implications considering their production/consumption patterns.
People who are striving for getting a job in international development are committed to make this world a better place. Personally, I can only hope that this ‘supply meets demand’ – the sooner the better!

Many thanks to Eric for this interview and for being open to share those valuable information. Great energy and the passion for what you’re doing is really coming out of the screen!