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The inside story: how to get a job at Marie Stopes Australia

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 Sarah Lamontagne, Strategic Talent Manager at Marie Stopes Australia ­– the only national, independently accredited safe abortion, vasectomy and contraception provider helping women and men take full control of their reproductive lives.

Hi Sarah, thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off can you tell us a bit about what Marie Stopes does?

Marie Stopes Australia (MSA) provides sexual and reproductive health services to people across the country. We offer services such as contraception, medical and surgical abortion, as well as tele-abortion, vasectomy, tubal ligation (WA only) counselling, and STI checks. These services support our core mission to ensure every person is able to achieve bodily autonomy and have agency over their sexual and reproductive choices.

We’re very passionate and committed to achieving our purpose and we make sure we’re pro-active from the very beginning at a policy and advocacy level, to ensure that we provide the safest and most accessible services as well as improving the world in which our clients live. We want to ensure all people in Australia know that they have sexual and reproductive health choices, and that we are here to help them each step of the way.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to Marie Stopes Australia?

We hire incredibly passionate, values aligned and skilled people who genuinely want to deliver on our mission, and this really is quite an extraordinary thing to be a part of, and to be proud of. This is a bond that drives us all, from the support office to the clinics and you can feel it the second you walk into MSA. We help people every day, through the good times and the bad. It can be really challenging but also immensely rewarding. In addition to those two amazing reasons, we offer flexible working conditions, professional development opportunities, opportunities to develop speciality areas, an online wellness centre, a reward platform and of course, salary packaging. Let’s be honest, that is always a nice cherry on top!

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at Marie Stopes?

We are committed to recruiting the very best, passionate and skilled people, so we have a fairly rigorous recruitment process. Once a candidate has applied for a role (CV and tailored cover letter), a shortlisted applicant will have a phone screening, which is followed by two or sometimes three interviews with a variety of stakeholders. These interviews take different forms depending on the role and include a case study or activity in the second interview and sometimes a more relaxed catch up with fellow team members in the third interview. We love to include as many key stakeholders as we can in this process, including our consumer advisors, because it is critical that we hire the right people for us. And of course, it gives the interviewee a chance to determine if we are the right place for them.

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

Values alignment, skills, a pro-choice attitude and a personal story. In that order. Because of the nature of the work we do, it’s absolutely vital that we are hiring people who behave in line with our values, who have the technical capabilities/qualifications but also the understanding and the empathy. Every client that walks through our doors has the right to feel safe and un-judged. Our people are representatives of this, so this is what we look for.

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

We often see generic cover letters with incorrect information that shows they didn’t read the job ad correctly. This is generally not a good start. Another one we get a lot is people don’t understand who we are and what we do before applying. This is important for every role someone applies for. You must do a bit of research into a company before you apply, no matter how many jobs you’re applying for. If somebody calls you about a role, it’s perfectly alright to ask them to call back later so you can take five minutes to refresh your memory on the organisation.

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

You will meet the direct line manager of the role and likely some of your prospective team members. As well as this, you will potentially meet other members of our People & Culture team, a consumer advisor, a Nurse Unit Manager, or a key stakeholder from another team that you will regularly collaborate with. Depending on the role, you may also get to meet the Managing Director (MD) or another member of the Executive team. By the time you have completed the interview stages, you will have met five or six key internal stakeholders and have a strong understanding of our values, culture and expectations.

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

First of all, make sure you understand what kind of interview it will be, behavioural, assessment centre or panel based. This will give you a starting point to prepare. Try and recall some situations in your current or previous role that you could use as examples that you might be able to use and write them down. Try and familiarise yourself with these and don’t forget you can always bring your notes into the interview with you to prompt yourself in case you forget. Stick to a structure so that your nerves don’t get the better of you such as STAR (if you’re not sure how this works, remember to google it!). Be confident in your abilities and if you need a confidence boost, ask your manager or a colleague to help remind you. Remember, an interview is as much a chance to learn about the organisation, as it is to tell us more about you so that we can find out if this is the right role and organisation for you and vice versa!

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

Everyone has transferrable skills, it’s just about knowing what they are and how they might suit an organisation. Start making connections via LinkedIn and really get a sense of why you want to work with us. Keep an eye out on our job vacancies and if something comes up that you feel you would be suitable for, give us a call and we can have a chat. You can also get in touch with a member of our People & Culture team and ask to be on our talent pool mailing list.

Thanks Sarah!

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