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The inside story: how to get a job at Jesuit Social Services

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 Debbie Jarvis, HR Coordinator, and Susan O’Brien, General Manager Human Resources, at Jesuit Social Services. Dating back to 1977, Jesuit Social Services offers widespread outreach programs around Australia, working to build a just society where all people can live to their full potential. The organisation employs more than 300 staff in a range of fields spanning social workcommunity developmentadministrationcommunications and fundraising.

Hi Debbie and Susan, thanks for chatting to us! To start off with, can you tell us a bit about what Jesuit Social Services really does?

Jesuit Social Services is a social change organisation working to build a just society where all people can live to their full potential.

We partner with community to support those most in need, and we work to change policies, practices, ideas and values that perpetuate inequality, prejudice and exclusion.

In all we do, we strive to be welcoming, discerning and courageous. These values guide how we run our programs, how we work with each other, how we run our organisation, and how we work with our external partners.

More practically speaking, we provide practical programs and advocacy across five main areas:

  • Justice and crime prevention: for people involved with the criminal justice system;
  • Mental health and wellbeing: for people with multiple and complex needs and those affected by trauma, suicide, and complex bereavement;
  • Settlement and community building: for recently arrived immigrants, refugees, displaced people and disadvantaged communities;
  • Education, training and employment: for people with barriers to sustainable employment; and
  • Gender and culture: providing leadership on the reduction of violence and other harmful behaviours prevalent among boys and men, and building new approaches to improve their wellbeing and keep families and communities safe.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at Jesuit Social Services?

Firstly, our values are integral to our recruitment process every step of the way.  We communicate our vision, mission and values and provide an outline of the program or area of the organisation where the job is based in every advertisement and position description.

This way, candidates get a very clear picture and understanding of the type of organisation we are and the position they are applying for. Every position’s key selection criteria includes candidates having understanding and sympathy with the mission and ethos of Jesuit Social Services

As an inclusive employer committed to diversity and inclusion, we encourage applications from candidates from diverse backgrounds. We provide training and support regarding diversity and inclusion in the area of recruitment and selection, and we offer significant flexibility to allow our staff to achieve work-life balance.

But when it comes to the recruitment and selection process, it follows the usual steps: candidates respond to an advertisement with a cover letter addressing selection criteria, and, if shortlisted, they’ll attend at least one interview. It should be said that at the interview, candidates are asked again about our values and, in particular, which one resonates most strongly for them and why.

Following this, there are a number of other steps including reference checking and some compliance requirements; for example, completing a Working With Children check and a police check.

Once a job offer is made to the successful candidate, HR takes the driver’s seat by completing all the offer and acceptance documentation.

Finally, the HR team oversees the arrangement of a comprehensive on-boarding program, which includes elements like an organisation-wide face-to-face induction workshop that’s supported by some online learning, as well as an organisational orientation program.

So what are the top things you look for when assessing a candidate at the application stage?

It goes without saying that a candidate’s ability to carry out the role based on their education, training and experience is part of the assessment of each application.

A key factor within our recruitment process is the alignment of the candidate’s values with those of the organisation. Our values of being welcoming, discerning and courageous are so embedded in our culture and our way of working that a candidate whose own values are not aligned with those of the organisation would find our way of working very challenging.

We have a significant number of staff who leave and then return to Jesuit Social Services. When asked about what makes Jesuit Social Services stand out from other organisations where they have worked, they say the values. I often hear, “I had the same type of role elsewhere but it is how the values are so strongly embedded in the culture of the organisation that makes Jesuit Social Services different”.

Who is a candidate most likely to meet at an interview panel at Jesuit Social Services?

As part of their roles, our coordinators and managers have responsibility for recruitment. They are supported by the HR team, which develops and implements systems and processes, together with providing guidance and coaching around the process.

That means our panels are often comprised of program co-ordinators, and a manager and/or a general manager or executive director. Sometimes there is also a human resources manager in attendance.

Who is in attendance really depends on the role, but there will always be a panel.  We aim to have the panel as diverse as possible.

What would you say are some of the main mistakes candidates make in interviews?

Not doing any research on the organisation before attending an interview.

And what roles are generally the hardest to fill at Jesuit Social Services?

We generally have a strong response to all of our advertisements. Sometimes there are fewer applicants for roles that require after hours and weekend work.  At times there can be a limited pool of candidates in locations like Alice Springs, Darwin and Western Sydney.

And just finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work at Jesuit Social Services but perhaps doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?

We have a very active volunteer program – and doing some volunteer work with us provides a great opportunity to get to know our organisation and build some experience in the sector whilst studying.

Some of our programs rely on volunteers, like our Leaving Care Mentoring Program. Volunteering with us is a great way to get some experience, network and gain a deeper understanding of the organisation and how we work. All volunteer opportunities are advertised on our website.

In addition, we also partner with some educational institutions and have a strong student work experience program. This enables students to experience first hand, as part of their studies, what working in a social change organisation is really like. A number of these students have gone on to secure employment with us when they have completed their degrees.

Thanks, Debbie and Susan!


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