The inside story: What you need to know to get a job at the Burnet Institute
Have you ever wondered what hiring managers are looking for when recruiting for Australia's most sought-after NFPs?
In this series on the Ethical Jobs Blog, we’re interviewing the people who hire at the organisations you want to work in – and we'll give you the insider knowledge you need to make your next job application amazing.
This month we spoke to the Burnet Institute's Human Resources Advisor Anita Cranwell. Established in 1986, the Burnet Institute is an independent not-for-profit medical and public health research organisation. It has around 450 staff working across fields as diverse as medical research, education and training and alcohol and other drugs.
Hi Anita, thanks for chatting to us! To start, can you tell us about what the Burnet Institute does?
The Burnet Institute is an independent Australian not-for-profit organisation that links discovery-based medical research with innovative public health action to address complex health issues affecting disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable people in the world.
Our 400+ scientists and public health professionals aim to achieve advances in treatment, vaccines, diagnostics and prevention strategies to address infectious diseases, and apply the best available evidence to inform community-level public health programs and health policies.
And what does the recruitment process at the Burnet Institute look like?
Our recruitment process can vary slightly depending on the position; however, we advertise all our vacancies on our Career and Employment website.
Once applications close, we review them and make an initial shortlist for interview. Depending on the position, we may have one or multiple interview stages – a formal behavioural-based interview sometimes followed by an informal chat over coffee, for example.
And then from the interviews, we'll identify our preferred candidate/s and conduct reference checks before making a formal offer.
So when you're assessing applications, what do you look for?
We have clear selection criteria for each job we advertise and so would assess applications against these. We are also looking at people who show a genuine interest in Burnet and what we do, and will be a good fit for the organisation.
And what are some of the common mistakes candidates make in their applications?
On occasion, we also come across the wrong job or organisation referenced in applications – always make sure you customise these elements for each job!
Similarly, what are some of the most common mistakes candidates make in interviews?
The first thing that comes to mind isn’t really a mistake, but it always surprises me if candidates don’t take the opportunity to ask their own questions about the position or organisation in the interview.
Candidates should also be able to demonstrate that they have researched about the Burnet – they should know our work.
In terms of answering interview questions, try to be clear and succinct with your answers and don’t be scared to take a moment to think about the question before answering.
Who would a candidate likely meet at an interview at the Burnet Institute?
The manager for the position would almost always be on the panel. I also sit on most interview panels in my position as HR advisor. And depending on the position, we can often have other members of the work group or the next up manager as part of an interview.
What kinds of qualities do people need to succeed at the Burnet Institute?
We look for people who are innovative and capable of undertaking high quality work to address major health issues within Australia and in low-income countries. The capacity to collaborate with others across the institute and with external partners is also an important quality.
And one quality I love about Burnet people is that they are so passionate about what they do!
What do you expect to see from a new hire within 30 days? What about within three months, or a year?
It always takes a while to settle in to a new job and organisation, particularly if you're new to the not-for-profit, medical research or NGO sector.
I find that around the three-month mark, people have usually got a good grasp on what their position actually involves. After a year I’d expect them to have a broader understanding of the Institute as a whole and have developed strong internal and external relationships with relevant stakeholders.
We also expect all our people to actively participate in our performance development framework process within the first year, which includes setting goals, reviewing performance and having longer term career discussions with their managers.
And finally, what advice would you give to someone who might want to work at the Burnet Institute but might not have the right qualifications or experience?
From time to time, we take people interested in working at Burnet and put them in contact with relevant managers to provide guidance on the sort of experience and qualifications we would look for.
But given the nature of the work we do, we often need highly qualified staff – honours, masters and PhD qualifications.
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