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The inside story: how to get a job improving lives through affordable housing

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 Jenny Woolley, Human Resources Manager at Bridge Housing — a community housing provider delivering long-term accommodation for people on low to moderate incomes through their portfolio of 3,500 properties, housing 5,000 people across Sydney.

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, many industries are doing it tough, but housing remains a sector that still needs staff — in fact, safe and affordable housing is even more essential than ever. 

See all our jobs working in housing and homelessness here.

Hi Jenny – thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what Bridge Housing does?

Bridge Housing services encompass housing people who are street homeless, social and affordable housing, as well as the purchase and construction of properties through our Development team.

We have a dedicated maintenance team who maintain our properties. We also have a Community Building and Engagement team to support our tenants to work with Bridge through our Tenant Advisory Groups, and develop programs to build resilient tenant communities. Our Support Services team works with our support partner agencies – youth homeless, street homeless, domestic violence – to ensure that we meet the needs of the most disadvantaged people who require assistance to maintain a sustainable tenancy.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to work for Bridge Housing?

Bridge Housing has a clear purpose which shapes our great culture. Our mission is to improve lives through affordable homes and quality services.

It’s the Bridge Housing culture which provides the foundation of how we treat each other. Each employee is a valued person who helps deliver our organisation’s outcomes. At Bridge Housing we invest in building a values-based positive culture that is founded on trust.

In 2019, Bridge Housing was awarded Best Workplace by the Voice Project. We have a very diverse workforce across gender, cultural identity, sexual preference, and religion. We have developed a three-year Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and we were awarded The Diversity Councils Inclusion @ Work Award in December 2019.

This is underpinned by Bridge Housing’s great employee benefit program including massages, reflexology, fruit, a day off on your birthday, twelve weeks parental leave, 10 days domestic violence leave, study and career opportunities and genuine flexible working conditions.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process there at Bridge Housing?

Recruitment at Bridge Housing is a two-way conversation. We want to make sure that we fit with you as well as you being a fit for us. We advertise all our roles internally, as well as externally, to ensure we create career opportunities for our existing staff.

Once you have applied, you can expect either a call or an email. During the phone call we will have a chat about your aspirations and experience, and talk to you about the Bridge Housing culture and the role. We will ask a few short questions to asses if we are a match. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions as well.

If we believe you are a match you will be invited to an interview, which may be done virtually while the COVID-19 restrictions are in place. At Bridge Housing we use the STAR Method in the interview, which is a structured manner of responding to a behavioural-based interview question by asking you about the specific situation, task, action, and result you achieved.

The purpose of this interview method is that your behaviour in the past reflects and predicts how you will behave in the future. It may help to practice how to respond to behavioural questions with specific examples of how you have previously handled similar situations in the workplace.

Answers to behavioural interview questions should be in the form of a brief example that illustrates your strengths and skills as a worker. Provide background on the situation, the specific actions you took, and the results.

You may be asked to complete a challenge as part of the interview and this assessment will differ depending upon the role. It’s designed to be realistic, to get your insight into the great work we do at Bridge Housing.

We aim to get back to you within 24 hours with feedback on the interview, the outcome may take a little bit longer depending on reference and police checks.

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

We look for candidates who come prepared to the interview and that have a positive and can-do attitude. If you can show us your great attitude, energy, and optimism in the interview you are off to a good start. Moreover, someone that can communicate well and provide examples to demonstrate their experiences.

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

The most common mistake is not responding to the essential criteria in their written application, as well as spelling mistakes.

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

At Bridge Housing a minimum of two staff sit on the interview panel and the hiring manager is always part of the process, so they are likely to meet a member from the HR team — or alternatively a senior member of staff — and the hiring manager.

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

Do your research; check out the Annual Report and resident and staff videos available on our website, look at our social media channels — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Make sure that you include a cover letter letting us know why you want to work at Bridge Housing and include a response to the selection criteria in the advertisement.  Practice behavioural questions before your face-to-face (or virtual for now) interview.

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

It depends on the role and the area that you want to work in but my best advice is to reach out to our HR team and have a chat!


COVID-19 Update:

Bridge Housing is an essential service but is operating under updated Service Delivery Protocols and new Work from Home procedures. These protocols and procedures have been adopted to keep residents, staff and other stakeholders safe while ensuring compliance with all NSW and Federal Government social distancing and health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 situation. Both the Goulburn St and Brookvale office continue to be staffed by small teams, while the majority of the staff work remotely from home. The teams rotate each week to minimise the risk of transmission.

You can read more about Bridge Housing response to COVID19 here.


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