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The inside story: how to get a job at the Royal Flying Doctor Service

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 Hayley Wallace, Recruitment Coordinator at the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service Victoria – one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisations in the world, providing extensive primary health care and 24-hour emergency service to people over an area of 7.69 million square kilometres.

In Victoria, employing more than 380 staff, the Royal Flying Doctor Service works in partnership with a number of community health organisations across the State to improve the health and well-being of our rural communities.

Hi Hayley – thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what the Royal Flying Doctor Service does?

Where to start! The Flying Doctors are most well-known for our aeromedical services across the country, but what many people don’t know is that each RFDS section runs a variety of different programs on top of this service. We have really grown in Victoria over the last eight years. Back then, we were mainly a fundraising platform for the other RFDS sections, whereas now we are running a host of different primary healthcare programs with touchpoints across the state from Mildura to Orbost.

Our goal is to improve health outcomes for people living in regional and remote locations, so on top of the aeromedical work we’re known and loved for we’re now also offering mental health services, mobile dental care, patient transport, telehealth, women’s GP services, speech therapy – you name it!

The Flying Doctor was founded on the philosophy that many people in remote areas did not have reasonable access to healthcare, and that problem still exists – but instead of just transporting people to healthcare, we’re now also taking healthcare to people.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria?

As the Recruitment Coordinator I work closely with the hiring managers to ensure I’m well versed on the program we’re hiring for and what they need for the role. We discuss the soft and hard skills required of the successful candidate, and based on this discussion I’ll put together an ad and a strategy to go to market. We always advertise online, but trial and error has also helped us identify when we may need to ramp up the visibility with some newspaper ads or social media campaigns.

Our recruitment processes differ slightly from role to role, however we usually work on a two interview basis with a thorough screening process beforehand. The Flying Doctor name is well known across the country so we tend to attract a lot of applications for any roles we advertise; this means that when it comes to interviewing candidates they’ve already beaten out possibly hundreds of others to make it to that point! I like to speak to potential candidates over the phone before we meet them face to face to answer any make-or-break questions they may have and to make sure they have a good understanding of the role, the hours (especially if the roles require extensive travel or shift work) and what they could expect from the position. This ensures that we’re on the same page and being transparent throughout the recruitment process from the get go is super important to us.

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

There are two key things we look for when shortlisting a potential candidate:

  1. A personalised application – we understand that when you’re looking for work it takes a lot of time and effort to put together a good application, but it’s those candidates who have obviously done their research and are able to clearly align themselves with our values and purpose and tell us why they want to work with us that stand out the most!
  2. The right qualifications – due the nature of the work our staff do these qualifications and certifications are often essential to performing the role.

What are some of the most common mistakes candidates make?

One of the biggest mistakes applicants make is not reading the job advertisement properly. If we’ve requested a cover letter or a key selection criteria there is a reason for doing so, and not providing these with your application tells us that either you don’t have great attention to detail or you don’t really care about the position at all. By not making sure you’re addressing all the points a potential employer has requested you’re essentially taking yourself out of the running before you’ve even started.

Who is a candidate most likely to meet at an interview panel at Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria?

It’s our standard approach to have two interviewers to meet with each candidate, we don’t want to overwhelm with a large panel but it’s important to have more than one person’s assessment and feedback to go on. The first person a candidate is likely to meet when coming in for an interview is our amazing receptionist Jess! Following this an interview panel is likely to include myself and the hiring manager for the role conducting the first interview, and if the candidate is successful in making it to a second interview this will generally be with another member of our People and Culture team and the General Manager for that department or another senior manager within the team. We also run group interviews for some roles in which case a candidate could expect to meet the whole People & Culture team!

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

One of the most common mistakes I come across is not actively listening. A lot of candidates let their nerves get the better of them and fail to take the time to really digest a question before responding. Speaking in general terms after being asked for a specific example is the perfect case in point. When we ask behavioural questions that relate to your own personal experiences we’re wanting to know the situation, the role you played and actions you took.

We try and encourage candidates to respond to these using the STAR method to help keep them on track.

Another common mistake is just not being prepared – we want to see that you’ve done your research on us, on the role, and on the industry! Doing your research prior to an interview shows that not only are you genuinely interested in our organisation but that you’re willing to go the extra mile, and “going the distance” is a key motto for us.

What roles are generally the hardest to fill at Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria?

Like most health organisations working in rural areas, recruiting to fill just about any role can be really hard! Our hardest areas would have to be qualified paramedics, mental health clinicians and GPs willing to work outside of the city. Most of the universities offering these educational opportunities are based in Melbourne so students travel down from across the state and never leave.

To start helping promote the concept of working outside of the city, the Flying Doctor Victoria has been offering a scholarship sponsored by the Ladies’ Bayside Auxiliary called Give Them Wings for the last eight years. This scholarship helps support three students from a regional area studying in a health related discipline through the first year of their studies. The hope here is that one day these students will take their much needed healthcare skills and knowledge back to their communities to continue improving the lives of those living regionally.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work at Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria but perhaps doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?

There are a number of roles that are essential to our organisation that don’t necessarily require a specific qualification. Administrative roles and some fundraising positions are often more about your attitude than any particular qualification you may have.

If you’re passionate about the organisation and want to be a part of what we do, you need to take stock of your own skills, identify the gaps in either your skillset or experience, and start working towards filling them!

We place a huge emphasis on a strong alignment to values so being able to demonstrate how you’ve been living those in other areas of your life will always go a long way, and volunteer work is a great way to demonstrate that.

Thanks Hayley!


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