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The inside story: how to get a job at Save the Children’s enterprise, Library for All

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 Rebecca McDonald, CEO and Founder of Library for All  an Australian not for profit enterprise of Save the Children, which provides innovative education technology and culturally diverse books to improve learning outcomes for children in low-literacy communities.

They are currently looking for a Program Manager – Indigenous Operations – Identified Role.

Hi Rebecca, thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what Library for All does?

We believe that education brings opportunity, and we’ve made it our mission to make knowledge accessible to all, equally. From remote communities in Papua New Guinea, to the islands of the Pacific and schools in South East Asia, we are already supporting more than 250,000 children on their learning journey.

We developed and launched a class-leading globally available free digital library application full of culturally diverse and age appropriate original illustrated children’s books that we create in partnership with the communities that we serve.

We also offer an independent learning application for literacy and numeracy that perfectly complements classroom style learning to overcome challenges such as extremely low teacher to student ratios, crowded classrooms, and lack of quality teaching curricula and materials.

We partner with many of the world’s leading education programming organisations to deliver our education technology in-field on the Spark Digital Classroom Kit; an integrated tablet-based hardware solution that operates offline to deliver a safe learning environment for children in the world’s most remote communities.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to the Library for All?

Our team has been working really hard to create a compelling Employee Value Proposition to attract incredible talent to the organisation.

We have a clear vision and mission and guiding values, and we truly live them. We have flexibility, autonomy, agility, the opportunity to innovate and the support take risks. We have a kitchen that has tea and coffee and the occasional (gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, all natural, vegan friendly) cake to eat. We allow our teams to choose their computers, have as many screens as they need, and we have a very simple dress code: “dress appropriately”. For many of our team, that’s tee shirts and jeans because it’s not what you wear, but the impact that you create that we value. Of course, we also have salaries that are benchmarked to the market and advantageous salary sacrifice provisions.

But the one thing we offer that in our opinion is a game-changer for our EVP is the ability to create real, meaningful, measurable and life-changing impact for children around the world.

Just imagine that. Every piece of work that you do, every phone call you make, every email you read, every line of code you write – it’s all laser focused on finding more ways to create impact and change the world.

So, can you walk us through the recruitment process at Library for All?

We really believe in making the candidate experience as positive and engaging as possible. We respect that our candidates are skilled, professional, and will have many other organisations that are trying to secure them as well, and we do our best to value their time and provide them as much information about our organisation as possible.

As a not for profit enterprise of Save the Children we also have the best of two worlds when it comes to moving candidates through our process. We bring our agility, flexibility, openness and speed to the table, and pair that with Save the Children’s incredible recruitment team, systems and robust compliance management.

We use a range of interesting tools to give our candidates the opportunity to engage with our team, and learn about the organisation, as well as having the chance to tell their story and connect with us around our vision and mission. We’ll use one directional video screens to get to know our candidates before bringing them in for full interviews, and we bring together a panel of experts from across the Library For All team and Save the Children team to enable engaging interview panels that cut right through to determine the suitability of the candidate, and the suitability of the organisation for that candidate. We really see these conversations as two directional, and we encourage our candidates to interview us as much as they feel is necessary to determine if we’re the right fit for them as well.

For successful candidates, we’ve been trialling a range of digital onboarding journeys and we will continue to experiment with these as we transition to a significantly more flexible working environment moving forward.

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

Cultural fit is key. We have a unique culture, one that we know makes us an employer of choice, and we know that finding that fit is key to enabling our candidates to be successful as part of our team.

After fit, we’re looking for candidates that set audacious goals, thrive with agility, love to experiment and innovate, value our flexible approach to working and are prepared to take risks to keep us at the leading edge of our field. We’re disruptive by nature, and we love it when our candidates take an unusual approach in their applications.

To be successful, our candidates will also need to prove they have the skills and experience we’re looking for; or convince us that they have transferrable skills that will add value in different ways. We’re always open to learning, we’ll do our best to find a place for great talent (even if it’s not in the job they’re applying for), and we’ve learnt that flexibility to employment history is key!

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

The biggest mistake that we see is candidates selling themselves short, or not responding to the specific skills and experience that we’re looking for! Nobody is the perfect candidate, unicorns are extremely rare (though we’re getting very good at finding them!), so we value candidates who are confident yet humble.

If there’s one thing candidates need to be doing, it’s tailoring their resume and writing a great cover letter. Tell us a story, be engaging, and be yourself! We value diversity, uniqueness and boldness and there’s nothing better than a story to create resonating impact during the recruitment process.

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

At a first round interview our candidates will interview with their direct hiring manager, as well as one of our executives, and a specialist from across the Save the Children network. Sometimes they’ll have the opportunity to meet with peers in the first or second round panels, and for our more senior roles we also have our candidates catch up for a coffee with one of our Directors as well. If we’re interviewing in person, some candidates may also have the opportunity to meet members of our broader team during a tour of the office.

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

First, practice practice practice. Interview skills fade when you don’t use them regularly (and trust us on this one… some of our best staff actually crashed and burned spectacularly during their interviews!).

Second, do your research and have insightful questions ready to ask.

Third, be curious. You should know who is on your panel, read up about them, read the company’s latest impact reports and financial statements.

Fourth – bypass the interview if you can! Get your foot in the door by volunteering. Find your niche, demonstrate value, create yourself a value adding job and have an open and honest conversation about joining the workforce. A lot of our employees were volunteers with us before we employed them!

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

There’s nothing like volunteering to demonstrate your ability to learn new skills, contribute value and get some great experience along the way. Once you’re on the inside, network and keep your ear open for opportunities that are coming up. There are always opportunities (big and small) that may not be available on the open market, and you’re in a prime position to capitalise on your investment by putting your hand up!

Thanks Rebecca!

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