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The inside story: How to get a job improving indigenous health

Ever wondered what 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 give you the inside knowledge you need to make your next job application amazing.

This month we spoke to Emma Cahill, Program Manager – Outreach at Earbus FoundationEarbus launched in 2013, with a mission to reduce the incidence of middle ear disease in Indigenous and at-risk children in Western Australia below the World Health Organization benchmark of 4 per cent.

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Thanks for chatting with us Emma. Can you tell us about the work the Earbus Foundation does?

Aboriginal children suffer from the worst ear health in the world and the Earbus Foundation of WA works to address this by delivering mobile ear clinics in Aboriginal communities across WA.

The Earbus teams travel regularly in the region – with a team consisting of a nurse, GP, audiologist and ENT (plus support staff) – identifying and treating children suffering from Otitis media (aka middle ear disease).

Our aim is to provide something of a clinical ‘one-stop-shop’, taking the services to families, rather than expecting them to travel hundreds of kilometres to access ear health services, or navigate complicated referral pathways.

The team hit the road each month and reach Aboriginal families across the Kimberley, the Pilbara, the Goldfields and south-west regions of WA.

As you can imagine it takes a lot of work to keep the clinics on the road, so we also have a team of administration and logistics staff based in Perth who do all the behind-the-scenes tasks that keep things humming along!

In addition to our outreach programs, Earbus has a Perth-based audiology clinic – Hear Today – and also delivers a newborn hearing screening program in private hospitals in the metro area.

Wow – sounds like an amazing mission! Can you walk us through how you recruit staff at the Earbus Foundation?

As a small not-for-profit, Earbus doesn’t have a dedicated HR team, so all recruitment is led by the departmental manager.

Initially, applicants are shortlisted according to their cover letter and CV. From there shortlisted candidates are invited for a first interview.

Successful candidates then have a second interview, which the CEO always attends. The second interview tends to be less formal and focuses on identifying a values alignment and cultural fit.

From there the successful candidates’ references are called and their Working with Children Check and Police Clearance are obtained – working alongside vulnerable children means we take this element of the process very seriously.

After this an offer is made (and hopefully accepted!).

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

At the heart of Earbus are our values: be open and honest; loyal and supportive; and be brilliant. So the first thing we try to identify in all candidates during their interview is their alignment to our values.

You might be the most qualified candidate in the room, but if you can’t demonstrate that values alignmentto us throughout the interview then you won’t be the right fit.

For candidates applying for roles in our outreach programs we have very specific attributes that we look for.

Given that we work so closely with Aboriginal families and communities we look for a degree of self-awareness and sensitivity, so that we can be sure that non-Indigenous team members can learn to work well cross-culturally.

We also look for good humour, resilience and a sense of adventure – days on the road can be long and tough, so it’s important new team members can handle the rigours of travel with a smile on their face!

And what are some of the most common mistakes candidates make in their applications?

It is always so obvious when someone has sent through a generic cover letter without tailoring it to the role for which they’re applying. It gives the impression that the candidate isn’t truly passionate about securing the role and will generally give a bad first impression.

Another common mistake is failing to use your cover letter to your advantage, to really paint a picture of you as a person. Your CV demonstrates your experience but it is fairly impersonal – a cover letter is where you should convey your passion for the role and give us an impression of who you are as a person!

It’s also where you can explain how various elements of your experience mean that you are the best fit for the role.

Who is a candidate most likely to meet on an interview panel at the Earbus Foundation?

Depending on the role and the area in which they would work, they will meet their prospective manager, along with our director of clinical services, Lara Shur.

If the candidate successfully secures a second interview then they will also meet our CEO, Paul Higginbotham. Paul and Lara are the founders of Earbus and take an active interest in making sure all new recruits are a great fit for the team.

And what are some of the mistakes candidates make in interviews?

A common mistake candidates make is not researching the organisation prior to the interview. Don’t show up to an interview without having even been on the organisation’s website!

Some simple knowledge of the organisation will always give you a good understanding of the types of things the interviewers could be looking for and will allow you to tailor your interview answers accordingly.

While it is easier said than done, it is also important to take a deep breath and relax! Sometimes candidates are so nervous that it really does prevent them from showing us their personality or making a connection.

It is not unusual for us to select a candidate with slightly less experience if we can see that they are a really good fit for our culture and values, so the interview is the time to relax and let your personality shine through.

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

We are always interested in hearing from people who are excited by Earbus and the work we do.

We have a whole range of roles at Earbus, some of which require very little specific experience, and we are always willing to train people for certain roles if they seem like they would be great prospective team members.

If you are passionate about helping improve the ear health of Aboriginal children, get in touch! We are always happy to accept expressions of interest from people with all types of experience.

Thanks for your time, Emma!

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