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The inside story: how to get a job working towards indigenous reconciliation

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 Giselle Suitor, Human Resources Manager at Reconciliation Australia – a national independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community by building relationships, respect and trust.

See all our jobs working with indigenous and first nations peoples and organisations here.

Hi Giselle – thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what Reconciliation Australia actually does?

Reconciliation Australia was established in 2001 and is the lead body for reconciliation in the nation. We are an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes and facilitates reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our vision of national reconciliation is based on five critical dimensions: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity and historical acceptance. These five dimensions do not exist in isolation; they are inter-related and Australia can only achieve full reconciliation if we progress in all five.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to work at Reconciliation Australia?

Reconciliation Australia will provide you with a unique experience working in the not-for-profit sector. You will work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, such as The Healing Foundation, as well as other organisations ranging from corporates, not-for-profits and government departments right across Australia. You can contribute to reconciliation in Australia – a cause that countless people – Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous – have dedicated their life’s work to. Reconciliation Australia has built a high performance culture of accountability, professionalism and respect. All staff are empowered to manage and own their own projects.

We also strive to create an inclusive culture where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members feel supported and are provided with opportunities to reach their full potential.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at Reconciliation Australia?

Our recruitment processes are the same for all positions. Reconciliation Australia is well known across the country and we do attract applications from people with varied experience who are passionate about reconciliation.

I like to speak to potential candidates over the phone for shortlisting purposes before we meet them for a face-to-face interview. It helps to ensure they have a good understanding of the role and any travel requirements. This ensures that we are on the same page and being transparent throughout the recruitment process from the get-go.

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

Firstly, that the candidate has read and understood the application process, including answering the selection criteria, completing the cover sheet and submitting their CV. Applicants will not be shortlisted unless they have submitted all paperwork.

Secondly, answering the selection criteria should include examples of the work the candidate has achieved not just dot points of what they can do. Using the STAR method is recommended.

And finally, we look for candidates who have spent time making the application personal, including why they want to work for Reconciliation Australia and their understanding of the organisation.

Who is a candidate most likely to meet at an interview panel at Reconciliation Australia?

Our panels usually consist of the General Manager of the program for the position, one staff member from the team in that program and an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander staff member. We do not want to overwhelm candidates with a large panel, but it is important to have more than one person’s assessment and feedback to go on.

When attending an interview, the candidate will be signed in and greeted by our receptionist who will issue the candidate with a set of questions that they can read over for five minutes before meeting the panel.

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

Many candidates let their nerves get the better of them, so when it comes to the interview itself, listen carefully in the moment and answer the actual questions asked. I have had several people come to an interview so overly prepared with canned answers that they try to use their memorised answers, even if it is not exactly what was asked. So listen to the whole question and respond naturally.

Trust yourself and find your own words. Be conversational. It will help you connect with the interviewer, which is what you want to do.

By the way . . . if you’re nervous, don’t assume that’s a negative. We expect job candidates to be nervous. Just practice a lot beforehand, be yourself during the interview, and remember to meet the interviewer’s eyes with that warm smile. Most likely you’ll begin to relax – at least enough to do your best, which is all we ask.

Another common mistake is just not being prepared. Doing your research prior to an interview shows that not only are you genuinely interested in our organisation, but that you’re passionate about our work. One question interviewers like to ask is “What do you know about us?” Your research will help you prepare for that, too, helping you shape your answers.

Again, just be yourself. It pays off in the end.

Good Luck in your future careers, kind regards and Dhjan Yimaba (thank you).

Thanks Giselle!

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