Have you ever wondered what hiring 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 we’ll give you the inside knowledge you need to make your next job application amazing.
This month we spoke to Alecia Rathbone, Deputy CEO at the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA). FYA is committed to creating generational transformation by improving the learning outcomes and life opportunities of young Australians. Based in Melbourne, it employs staff in a wide range of areas including research, program management, fundraising and more.
Hi Alecia – thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, tell us a bit about what FYA does?
FYA works to help unleash the unlimited potential that young people have to thrive, drive change and create the world they want to live in. We create opportunities for young people to learn the skills they need for the future.
We do this through researching what the future of work looks like in Australia, and what skills young people will need to succeed at work in this changing environment. We run programs that put the research into action – immersive learning experiences for young people to gain those skills rather than learning content alone.
Another core piece of what we do is to really back young people who are making a difference. There are a lot of young people in their communities or schools across the country that have an idea for social good, and we’re really committed to supporting them through our programs.
Our final area is around giving young people a seat at the table; giving them opportunities to contribute to strategies and ideas within large institutions in Australian – government, business or the for-purpose sector. That’s a very quick overview!
Can you walk us through FYA’s recruitment process?
The first thing we do is identify whether there’s a need within the organisation for someone to fill a role, and then look at the kind of skills and experiences someone coming into that role might need.
We have a talent pool on our website, where we get a lot of interest from people throughout the year – they’ve gone to our website and registered to say what sort of role they’d like to do and what skills and experience they’re offering. So first up, we always go to that talent pool and check who’s registered.
Once we’ve advertised we then make a shortlist. Then we conduct the first round of interviews, where we look for the fit of the person within our culture, and look at the skills they have and what we need to fill the gap.
Then we go through to second round interviews, and then through to someone being offered employment.
One of things I would say is that we always get back to people. I know sometimes people don’t hear back when they apply for a role, so that’s something we always make sure we do.
So what are the top things you look for when assessing a candidate’s application?
That’s absolutely the ‘why’ – why do they want to work at FYA? Why are they the right fit for our organisation?
At the end of the day we’ve got a team that’s working really hard to deliver big things for the community, and anyone who works here needs to be really committed to that.
The cover letter is one of the main places we look for that – it’s where candidates really have the best opportunity to sell their ‘why’, to make some sort of a statement about the organisation and their connection to our mission.
In the application we also look closely at skills, capabilities and experience – how the candidate is going to meet those needs and step into the role.
So what are some of the most common mistakes candidates make in their applications?
The main one we see is when people fail to tailor their application to the role description; they don’t address the key requirements of the job.
So if the role description calls for experience working with young people in a certain context, it’s really important that comes through not just in your CV, but you need to highlight the key areas that have been asked for in the role description in your cover letter – make it easy to see straightaway.
Similarly, I also see a lot of generic cover letters. I look at cover letters as a way to see if this person really connects to our vision, mission and what we’re really trying to do. But if someone has a really generic cover letter, it doesn’t give them the best opportunity to show that, which can do you a disservice.
Who is a candidate most likely to meet in an interview at FYA?
We have a people and culture manager who runs our recruitment, so she is always someone who any candidate would meet. Usually, she would be the first point of contact over the phone – she’ll have a quick chat about the application and if they’re still interested.
Then in the interviews, we always use a panel. That would include the people and culture manager, the person who’s the hiring manager, and also there’s always a young person – someone who’s under 30, who’s representative of the people we’re working for.
And what are some of the main mistakes candidates make in interviews?
The main one would be not preparing properly: when it becomes quite clear that they haven’t looked up the organisation and don’t really know what we do or how their role fits in. It’s quite easy to work that out.
So people might come into the interview and ask something that if they’d just gone onto our website they’d know the answer.
Also, who’s not showing enthusiasm for the reason we exist and not letting that shine through? Sometimes it does come through in an application, but when it comes to the interview the candidate hasn’t really put that forward.
Not providing enough detail in some of our high-level questions is another big mistake. Often in interviews we’ll ask those behavioural-type questions – we’ll ask, ‘Can you talk about a time when you’ve done this or this?’ Being prepared with real-life examples and showing what your contribution was in those situations is really important.
And just finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to work at FYA but doesn’t have the right qualifications or experience?
Not all of our roles are for super-experienced people who’ve done heaps of stuff before. Getting a job at FYA can often be about why you want to be here and having that commitment.
So focus on your ‘why’ – what do you want to do with your life? What difference do you want to make? That’s really important.
Not all of our roles require skills – we have a lot of roles where we can bring less-experienced young people in, and we are very open to developing capabilities in our team. Also, being prepared to give things a go and having a great attitude can take you a long way.
Thanks for your time, Alecia!