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 speak to Meagan Downie Knowles, Human Resources and Organisational Development Manager at Windermere. Operating throughout south-eastern Melbourne and Gippsland for more than 160 years, Windermere is an independent community service organisation that focuses on family wellbeing, community strengthening, and childhood education and support.
Hi Meagan – thanks for chatting to us! Can you tell us a bit about what Windermere does?
Windermere provides a range of services that work together to support children, young people, individuals and families to live their best life.
It’s not just about services being run specifically for children, individuals and families – we also provide schools and the broader community with a range of services. The amount of stuff we do is really broad, and all of our modelling for our programs really focuses on working together with the consumer, putting them at the heart of everything we do.
So can you walk us through the recruitment process at Windermere?
First, we spend time thinking about the design of the job and therefore the ideal candidate – we don’t necessarily replace like for like.
We’ll then work out what our advertising channels will be – 99 percent of the time we use EthicalJobs.com.au!
From that point, people will apply through our website and we will assess applications as they come in.
We don’t just screen out people who don’t meet all the necessary criteria – we weigh things up, particularly when we’re not sure of someone’s fit, and might undertake a telephone screening to help us determine suitability.
We try to wrap things up pretty quickly; we want to make sure we fill the role with the right person within a set period of time so that we aren’t adversely impacting the workload capacity of the other members of that team. That means you’d usually hear back from Windermere within two weeks of your application, if not sooner.
You’d then be invited to attend an interview. We always conduct one face-to-face interview, sometimes two for leadership positions. It really depends on the role.
We also have number of safety screening checks that we require, including a police check, Working with Children Check, at least two professional reference checks and a check against the disability worker exclusion list. All candidates also undertake a pre-employment medical assessment.
Then once we have our preferred candidate, we have a very comprehensive online induction and simple onboarding process, which is now largely paperless. This makes it a quick and easy process for our new starter – and for us!
What are the top things you look for when assessing a candidate at the application stage?
We can’t ignore fit and matching with the key selection criteria – with particular roles there are just some non-negotiables.
So we look at these when assessing suitability for the role, the team and the organisation and we also try to think about how someone’s transferrable skills might be used creatively in a new position.
And what are some of the most common mistakes candidates make in applications?
The most common mistake candidates seem to make is not actually reading the application details and instructions carefully.
Quite often, we get applications that’s just a CV with a generic cover letter that is not tailored to Windermere or the actual role, and doesn’t make any mention of the key selection criteria referred to within the position description.
You can see the applicant hasn’t taken the time to consider the role or their own suitability, which is a bit of a red flag for us.
Who would a candidate most likely meet at an interview panel at Windermere?
They would normally meet the team leader or the manager of the program, and another person – we always have at least two people on the panel.
Depending on the level of the role, it might be the team leader and the manager, or a manager and a member of the HR team. If it’s a senior leadership position it might be two of the directors, or a director and CEO.
And what are some of the main mistakes candidates make in interviews?
Not doing research on Windermere and not understanding the basics of what we do. I don’t expect people to be able to tell us about every one of our programs, but I do expect that they’ve looked at our website and had a read of what we’re about.
Also, a big mistake is when there’s no engagement about the specifics of the role, or actively asking questions – when it’s a very passive interview.
We like people to see it as a two-way process where candidates have the opportunity to interview us back; about the culture, specifics of the role and anything else you might be thinking about.
It’s good to always have a couple of questions; it shows you’ve thought about the organisation or how this role might work for you and what the fit might be.
What roles are generally the hardest to fill at Windermere, and why?
There is a skills shortage in the allied health space at the moment, so we have been finding it challenging to source allied health practitioners. For us, that means speech therapists, occupational therapists, physios and psychologists.
The NDIS is creating a huge amount of competition for good people. So we are trying to find ways to reach candidates who aren’t necessarily actively looking for jobs on job boards but who could be swayed to potentially move from their current roles for the right reasons.
Just finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work at Windermere but perhaps doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?
My best advice would be to find an organisation where you can gain some experience in whatever your vocation might be.
Apply to volunteer or approach them about a placement or an internship – it’s mutually beneficial because it gives you some professional experience, but it’s also helpful for the organisation in having an extra pair of hands to help with the work.
Having that experience can go a long way to help you develop your skills and to secure employment later on!