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The inside story: how to get a job in youth mental health

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 Brendan Pawsey, Program Manager, Primary Clinical Services at Orygen – a leader in cutting-edge research, policy development, innovative clinical services and evidence based training and education to ensure that there is continuous improvement in the treatments and care provided to young people experiencing mental ill health.

Orygen has a wide range of career opportunities and is currently advertising several roles.


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

Orygen is a world class and renowned service, research and education organisation specialising in youth mental health. We put young people at the centre of all we do, and work with families and young people to shape our future work to improve the future for young people.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to Orygen?

The why behind what we do is so important. Everything we do is about improving the future for young people. Staff at Orygen get the chance to work right across the youth mental health spectrum from working directly with young people, to being at the forefront of youth participation, to engaging with research and development, or training and educating services and organisations right across the globe. Orygen is continuously growing. Therefore there are always opportunities for career growth and development. Our supervision and training programs are highly regarded. Our people have access to generous NFP salary packaging and flexible work/life balance arrangements.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at Orygen?

Once we’ve received your application and if you are shortlisted, we invite you to interview with us so we can get to know you and you us. Generally the interview panel would include a young person. This is important as our service is all about young people. We want to ensure that there is good connection and shared values of respect, accountability, teamwork, excellence and innovation if we are to work together.

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

Our work is important and can be complex, so we’re looking for applications that demonstrate the fundamentals of qualifications and experience, but we also really want to see that future members of our team really want to be with young people, that they value being collaborative with young people and other key stakeholders, and that they are keen to work as part of a team.

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

The most common mistake applicants make is not fully completing the application process.  Some candidates neglect to include their CV, or forget to address the key selection criteria. Applicants should check and recheck they have included everything before they hit send.  Additionally, candidates should demonstrate that they know Orygen, they should address all key selection criteria (if asked to do so) and their CV should be clear and concise.

Aligning the application with Orygen’s values is also a good start (most organisations values are easily found on their website).   It’s important to show that you understand Orygen, that you have read and understood the position description and that you have applied as per instructions on the job advertisement.  Apart from those tips, some common errors in applications are writing a generic application for all jobs you’re applying for (we see right through that), misspelling the contact’s name, leaving spelling and writing errors through the application and poor formatting of the CV, which makes it hard to follow and read.

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

Our interview panels are usually comprised of a young person, the hiring manager and another senior staff member. The panel is usually specific to the advertised role to ensure we assess for good fit but also competency.

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

Candidates should represent who they really are and how they can add value and engage with Orygen. They should do their homework and know about Orygen, and what we do. They should ask some questions of the panel that demonstrate this knowledge as well as their interest in the role and the organisation – having these written down so they are not forgotten also demonstrates good preparation. Whilst it is not always easy to do, candidates should keep in mind that the interview is not a test, and letting their personality shine through gives the panel a good understanding about how the candidate could become a part of the team.

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

Orygen has many employment opportunities. It is not uncommon for staff to start in one role, whilst continuing to work towards qualifications for another role. Also if you are keen to work with Orygen but not sure what qualifications are needed you can always contact a hiring manager for an advertised role and seek further clarification If you’re currently studying you can also check with your lecturers about what roles require what qualifications.

Thanks Brendan!

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