Online support for Egypt’s young job seekers

Funny graphics and multi-coloured fonts. Incoherent structure. Selfies taken in front of the bedroom mirror. Dubious activities listed as hobbies or no ‘other interests’ at all. These are some of the common mistakes young work-seeking Egyptians make when writing their CVs. RNW Media’s Masaraat platform recently sprang to the rescue with a live stream on Facebook where a local HR expert reviewed CVs submitted by the audience and made suggestions for improvements.

Masaraat is the newest addition to the Citizens’ Voice programme and focuses on economic inclusion for young people in the MENA region. Decent work and income are essential if young people are to be able to participate fully in their societies and realise their potential. Masaraat (pathway in Arabic) addresses the issues that prevent young people’s participation in the labour market and advocates for solutions to these problems.

Programme Development and Partnerships Coordinator for Masaraat, Muhammed El-Sharebeni, explains that the Facebook initiative was inspired by research the team carried out:

We asked young people about the worst problems they faced and we also asked people working in HR what they see in incoming applications. They told us a lot of people weren’t able to write a suitable cv or a good job application letter. So we went looking to see if anyone provided a CV-checking service for young people in Egypt and found that not many places did. There are a few but they charge very high fees so are not suitable for most young people.

Constructive criticism
These findings inspired the Masaraat team to issue a call to their audience to submit their CVs for review. They then contacted Doaa Gadallah who is HR manager for a large Egyptian corporation. She offered constructive criticism and suggestions for how the CVs could be made more suitable. The next step was the live stream on Masaraat’s Facebook page where Gadallah discussed the common mistakes people made and offered tips and tricks for writing effective CVs. The live stream received a lot of interest from their young audience says El Sharebeni:

It really was great because people could see an HR manager talking about their own real mistakes – not just theory but real mistakes in their own CVs. In Egypt the problem is there is not a lot of Arabic tailored or personalised content available online about this kind of stuff. It’s mostly in English or you need to travel to attend an offline event, which can be expensive. So it’s a good thing to be able to ask an HR person directly and a live Facebook feed means anyone can send their questions live and get an answer from the HR person straight away.

Next steps
The improved CVs were all returned to the users who submitted them so they could be used to apply for more jobs. It was only possible for Masaraat to accept 100 CVs and there are many more young Egyptians seeking help so the team will repeat the activity. They called the first live feed CV 101 and plan on producing CV 102 and 3 and 4 etc. Masaraat is building a network of supportive HR professionals who are willing to support this initiative in future. The next step is to create and publish guidelines for writing CVs and for university graduates who are just starting out on their careers – advising those who may not yet have any work experience on how to write about their study and extra-curricular activities in a way that is attractive to prospective employers.

Closing the job-search circle
Masaraat is currently working on a services mapping – collecting information about all the different providers in Egypt of trainings, entrepreneurial skills, employability skills, soft skills trainings, internships and so on. The aim is to make the platform a one-stop shop for any young people looking to improve their employability – if they access Masaraat they can find out what kind of training they want or need, what kind of sector they might want to work in, what opportunities they can apply for and how they can maximise their chances with a high quality CV and application. Masaraat’s ambitious goal is to close the job-search circle. Make accessible the information people need to increase their employability and then connect them to service providers, companies and databases that have actual job opportunities and look for suitable candidates.

To make this goal a reality the Masaraat team is laying the foundations for a network of relevant partners in both the public and private sector, hoping to persuade them that an innovative digital approach can help solve many of the issues around youth unemployment. Future plans include organising a virtual job fair:

Job fairs are very popular in Egypt but only happen occasionally and they mostly take place in Cairo. Masaraat wants to do the first virtual job fair online to increase the access for young people. When we launch our digital fair you just have to click to send us your CV, you can get feedback and training via Facebook and direct contact with potential employers. We’ve found a lot of interest in the private sector for the idea of a digital employment cycle.

Since launching in April 2019, Masaraat has already engaged with 36,000 young people, grown a community of 61,500 Facebook fans and reached 67,000 pageviews. It is rapidly becoming a go-to reference for young Egyptians seeking career information and advice in Arabic.