In a competitive labour market, lots of Cambodian students try to fight their way to the top using every method possible.
Ability and experience are important, but many also rely on using their connections – something which is deeply unfair, according to the applicants who miss out.
Samat, 21, a fourth-year student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, has applied for many jobs in different institutions but has never been successful. The institutions, he believes, favour privileged applicants with connections over those with knowledge.
“I think I have enough ability to do the job, but they don’t choose me. That is not transparency,” he said.
The institution he applied to was an NGO which works to safeguard the rights of children. He made it to the last stage of the application but his competitor used his connections to get the job, he says.
“I think that the NGO chose network over knowledge because the person who won the job is very well connected,” he said. “Having connections is the most usual way to get a job in Cambodia,” he said.
Responding to the claim, Yim Savuth, 23, the official administrator of Protection of Juvenile Justice (PJJ) says that the recruitment policy of PJJ never takes an applicant’s network or relatives into consideration.
“Generally, those people who do not win jobs always feel it is not transparent, whereas those who do fail with job competition, always feel that it is not transparency for them whereas from the winners.”
PJJ puts job applicants through a thorough application process, he said. Jobs are announced online and on their information board. Later, candidates are short-listed, their ability is examined and finally they are interviewed.
“No discrimination on colour, sex or political views occurs here,” Savuth says. “I think that youths should work on improving their ability, morality and responsibility rather than complaining.”
Similarly, Anne-Laure Hallaire, a country representative of the childcare NGO Enfants & Developpement (E&D) said that their recruitment procedure is fair and transparent because at least two people are charged with shortlisting applicants.
The pair then decide together on between three and six candidates to interview, depending on the quality of applications. The best candidate is offered the post, but if no candidate is appropriate the position is re-advertised.
“So far there have been no complaints about our recruitment procedure,” she claims.
Sokkhon David, deputy director of information collection and advertising at the National Employment Agency insists that recruitment there is entirely meritocratic – except when filling volunteer positions.
“We do use connections when we are looking for volunteer staff, because it is very hard to find people to work in our institution without payment,” he said. “We do find volunteer staff via people who we know or people to come to seek our services.”
Some organisations follow the Western model of advertising jobs through various media outlets, including newspapers, television and the Internet.
Jobs at the Cambodian Broadcasting Service are widely published via different media agencies.
Prim Samnop, head of human resources at the company, says that hiring people on the basis of their connections would be bad for business.
“We don’t want or need staff that have connections but can’t do anything,” he says. “We have our own conditions in selecting staff: including an initial shortlist, an interview and camera test or exam.”
In order to provide more opportunity for students who are looking for jobs, the national employment agency will arrange an exhibition on 2 and 3 November 2012 at Diamond Island.
“This exhibition will provide beneficial to students such as immediate staff recruitment, and get information related to labor opportunity or demand of skills in the future,” David says.