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Life Without Barriers reveals what makes a candidate stand out from the 40,000 applications they receive each year

Have you ever wondered what hiring managers are looking for when they recruit for Australia’s most sought-after NFPs?

In this series on the Ethical Jobs Blog, we interview the people who hire at the organisations where you want to work – and we’ll give you the inside knowledge you need to make your next job application amazing.

This month we spoke to Tracy Donnarumma, Senior Recruitment Adviser at Life With Barriers. Operating since 1995, Life Without Barriers is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit organisations, working in more than 440 different communities across Australia to help people participate in society and live life to the fullest.

Hi Tracy – thanks for chatting to us! Can you tell us a bit about what Life Without Barriers does?

Life Without Barriers is a social purpose organisation working in more than 440 communities in Australia. We support 18,000 people including children; young people and families; people living with disabilities; older people; people with mental illness; people who are homeless; and refugees and asylum seekers.

We are a values-based organisation and believe in changing lives for the better. Last year our Talent and Attraction team facilitated the recruitment of 1,844 positions across the country.

These roles incorporate both client service roles such as support workers, case managers, allied health and operational management, as well as corporate services positions like HR, finance and HSE positions.

So what’s Life Without Barriers’ recruitment process like?

Depending on the role you apply for, the recruitment process may differ.

For frontline roles, we hold group interview sessions that take place nationally and conclude in one day.

For other roles we sometimes conduct video interviews, which might take place before a face-to-face interview, or we go straight to face-to-face interview with a panel.

Life Without Barriers is also committed to having an inclusive approach towards candidates with a disability, and we can make any adjustments needed to facilitate this.

What are the top things you look for when assessing a candidate’s application?

Obviously qualifications and experience are fantastic! But as Life Without Barriers is a values-based organisation we also look for candidates whose values align with ours.

You may be looking to enter the industry and working towards qualifications, meaning you could also be considered for other roles.

We also encourage candidates with ‘lived experience’ to apply for positions, as the value for our vulnerable clients can be a fantastic addition.

And what are some of the most common application mistakes you see?

I think the main one would be attention to detail. We appreciate that candidates may be applying for multiple roles across different sectors, but please ensure that your cover letter is aimed at our role.

We also have a lot of applications for ‘Life Without Borders’  – we don’t own planes; that’s not us!

Please remember to sell yourself. Be clear in your application and let us know what you are looking for. Last year we had over 40,000 applications. We read ALL of them, so make yours stand out!

Who would most likely sit on the interview panel?

Our panels are usually made up of two to three people. This would be the hiring manager (your direct line manager, should you be successful at interview), another senior manager, and sometimes one of us from the Talent and Attraction team.

For identified roles we ensure we have a panel member of Aboriginal descent present, and for some other positions a client may be also present.

So what are some of the main mistakes candidates make in interviews?

Probably a lack of research on the organisation would be the main one.

Also, we are hugely passionate about our values and will always talk about these in a face-to-face interview, so have a look at the website and find out about us!

We also appreciate nerves can get the better of you and we allow for this. We will make you feel as comfortable and welcome as possible, but the more prepared you are the more confident you will feel.

Take some time before the interview to practice some questions with a friend and ensure you review your CV. Think about your achievements and sell yourself!

Remember: we know nothing about you – tell us!

What roles would you say are generally the hardest to fill at Life Without Barriers? Why?

We find roles in rural areas are probably the toughest. We work across 440 programs and some are really remote so these can be difficult to fill.

We assist candidates with information on relocation for this, should they wish to move for a position.

We know moving for job can be daunting and expensive, so we have resources in place that offer salary packaging for the cost of moving, connection of utilities and even stamp duty. This really assists us in getting amazing talent in rural areas.

Just finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work at Life Without Barriers but perhaps doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?

If you are looking to work directly with clients, I would suggest starting by volunteering or working in a support worker position and working your way up.

We have senior managers in our organisation who started in a frontline role and are now running client services as operational leaders.

If you are in Victoria, you may be eligible to apply for the free TAFE courses in community services, which are available from January – and then you will be well on your way.

Working with clients with disabilities or children in out-of-home care is incredibly rewarding and the career opportunities at Life Without Barriers are truly endless.

We really pride ourselves on supporting our staff to maximise their career potential – not only are there multiple programs to choose from, we can also offer roles all across Australia so if you fancy a change of scenery, you don’t have to job hunt, too!

You can always call someone in our Talent and Attraction team for some assistance if you see a role you are interested in but aren’t sure you can apply. We will always try and help with information on other roles that may be suitable.

Thanks so much Tracy!

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