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The inside story: how to get a job at the Australian Conservation Foundation

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

In this series, 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 Karen Kershaw, People & Culture Specialist – Employee Experience at the Australian Conservation Foundation. ACF campaigns include: Solve the climate crisis, Connect, protect & restore nature, Nature is everyone’s business, Strengthen our democracy, Nuclear free.

Hi Karen – thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what the Australian Conservation Foundation does?

ACF is Australia’s national environment organisation committed to caring for our unique and beautiful wildlife and natural world. We’re inclusive, non-partisan and funded by the Australian community.

ACF stands up and speaks out for nature. Whether it’s advocating for the Great Barrier Reef, koalas snoozing in big old trees or for strong climate action, our dedicated community of over 700,000 supporters are constantly working to create a world where forests, rivers, people, and wildlife thrive.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to ACF?

I think it’s the opportunity to be part of solving the climate crisis with one of Australia’s most impactful organisations and, with our award-winning organisational culture and great team, knowing you’ll have fun along the way. 

ACF is proud to offer our staff a supportive workplace with excellent conditions, including:

  • Genuine flexibility in working hours and the opportunity to work regularly from home
  • Four weeks of annual leave a year plus an additional three days off over the Christmas / New Year period
  • Thirty days of personal leave a year (pro-rata) available to use immediately upon commencement
  • Superannuation contribution of 10.5%
  • Eighteen weeks paid parental leave for parents (regardless of who is the birth parent) after 12 months of service
  • Early access to long service leave
  • Ongoing professional development opportunities tailored to your individual career goals
  • Access to our Employee Assistance Program and wellbeing support

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at ACF?

We tailor the process to each role, but broadly you can expect us to ask you to submit your resume and a covering letter introducing yourself and outlining your skills, experience, and interest in working with us by a closing date. From there we will review every application we receive against the requirements of the role and make a list of people we want to speak to further. We may schedule a phone discussion or go straight to an interview at this point and often we will follow this with a second interview or meeting over coffee to confirm we are the right fit for each other. Finally, we will check references and ask candidates to complete a psychometric profile to ensure our values align before making a job offer.

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

I love to know why the candidate has applied – why this role and why ACF? I look for experience that relates to the role, and this could be paid or unpaid experience including lived experience, as well as a commitment to showing up, speaking out and acting for the places and wildlife we love. We can receive over 200 applications for a role so it’s important to be clear, succinct, and let your passion shine.

What’s the most common mistake you see candidates make in their applications?

Not submitting a cover letter that helps me understand what you’ll bring to the role and why you want to work at ACF.

And if they make it to interview, who is a candidate most likely to meet on an interview panel at ACF?

You’ll meet the person who manages the job and usually a member of the People & Culture team too. Often we invite people who are within the same team to join the interview panel and we will always let you know who you’ll be meeting prior to the interview.

What advice would you give candidates to improve their interview skills?

We appreciate that interviews can make people nervous, and our team will do everything we can to make you feel comfortable chatting to us. 

Our interview questions will be based on the key selection criteria for the role (found in the position description) and workplace culture. Have some examples prepared that demonstrate your skills and highlight your experience, and feel free to bring your notes to your interview. Listen to the question and take your time thinking about your answer before starting; what feels like minutes of silence to you is likely only seconds. We are always happy to repeat or reframe the question too – just ask us.

Finally, remember the interview is an opportunity for you to ask more about the role and working at ACF so make sure you’ve got some questions for the panel; it’ll get you more information about what it is like to work with us and demonstrate your interest in ACF too.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work at ACF but perhaps doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?

Call me! I love helping people build towards their dream job at ACF and I can provide further information about how to get the experience that you need including details about our Fellowship Program that offers two intakes a year and provides invaluable experience to help you achieve your career goals.

Thanks Karen!

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