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The inside story: how to get a job at Youth Advocacy Centre

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 Janet Wright, CEO at Youth Advocacy Centre. The Youth Advocacy Centre provides legal services, youth support and family support assistance and services to young people generally aged 10 to 18 years (inclusive) who live in or around the greater Brisbane region.

Hi Janet, thanks for chatting with us! To kick us off, can you tell us a bit about what The Youth Advocacy Centre does?

YAC is a community legal and social welfare agency for 10 to 17 year olds primarily, but up to 25 in relation to assistance with accommodation (depending on location). We work with some of our most marginalised children and young people: many are in conflict with the law and have serious challenges in their lives – family breakdown, abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol issues, mental health challenges, cognitive impairment, a disability (particularly those relating to behaviour or social interaction such as autism spectrum disorder). They may have a parent in the criminal justice system or who has substance use or mental health problems themselves.

Families may be struggling for a variety of reasons which has an impact on the children and home environment. These children and young people can find themselves homeless and often disengage from education or training. Not uncommonly there is a combination of these challenges.

We ensure that children’s legal rights are properly represented but also seek to address the issues which put them at risk of conflict with the law with a view to changing the path they are currently on.

What are some of the things that might attract candidates to apply to The Youth Advocacy Centre?

YAC has been operating for nearly 40 years and is well–regarded and respected for its expertise in working with, commitment to, and advocacy for its young clients. Social justice principles underpin our work. The focus is on opportunities to turn lives around, working with family where that is appropriate and possible.

YAC has a good culture as a workplace and has a history of staff being respected and their views valued.

Can you walk us through the recruitment process at The Youth Advocacy Centre?

Our aim is to complete a recruitment process within a 6 to 8 week period: up to 2 weeks for advertising, 2 weeks to shortlist and interview and make a decision and then 2 weeks for a person to come on board. However, this may stretch to about 8 weeks if the decision is not clear cut or the person has to give more notice.

We would usually advertise a role for ten days to a fortnight: the key issue is to ensure that there are two weekends within the time period to provide people with as much time as possible to prepare their application. We always provide a detailed Information Sheet for those applying which sets out very clearly the role and what an applicant needs to do to provide an application which will ensure that they will be considered for an interview. All applications are acknowledged.

Once applications close, the panel members for that particular recruitment process will review the applications which meet the requirements within a couple of days and look for a shortlist of 3 or 4 for interview. (However, if we are having difficulty deciding on whether to interview or not, we would often err on the side of interviewing). The panel is usually three people, with the make-up of the members dependent on the level of the position.

The interviews would usually be scheduled for the following week and a set of questions prepared. Interviews generally last about half an hour with the interviewee attending about 15 minutes beforehand to read through the questions we would like them to respond to. We then give the interviewee responsibility of keeping to the 30 minute time limit.

We would only follow up the referees of the person who we think is best suited to the role unless we were undecided – then we would contact the referees of all under consideration.

All applicants who were not interviewed are advised that the process is now complete. We provide a more detailed response to unsuccessful interviews.

When the successful applicant starts, we undertake a thorough induction process in relation to the whole organisation.

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

Someone who can undertake the role as described but who will also who fit with the organisation more generally and our values.

An indication of a genuine interest in the role and/or working at YAC: not that this role is an opportunity for the applicant in their personal development.

Everything has been provided as required: eg they have kept to the page limit for responding to the selection criteria; they have addressed our criteria and not a set of their own.

Examples of experiences which demonstrate how the person meets a selection criterion – not simply an assertion that the person is “exceptional” in doing whatever is under discussion.

The number of grammatical or editorial errors in their CV or selection criteria (which would often indicate that the person has not read through the material before sending it – this is particularly important for legal and higher level roles where written communication and attention to detail is important).

At interview – we look at the person’s ability to manage their time.

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

Failure to provide what they have been asked for – and failure to read through the material so that it is clear that the document was written for a role in a different organisation!

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

If it’s for a program coordinator role: the CEO, a member of the Management Committee, and one of the other coordinators or possibly someone from another service who has experience in the program in question.

For other roles: the CEO, the relevant program coordinator and someone from another service who has experience in the program in question.

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

That is hard to say because there are many different ways an interview can occur and some interviewers make the situation uncomfortable. We like to put people at their ease as much as possible so we get a sense of the person we are interviewing. The most important thing is to be honest and be yourself from our perspective. We do not want someone who is good at interviewing – we want someone who can do the job and do it well.

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

Unfortunately, as a small organisation, we have limited opportunities for people to learn on the job and “progress” through the organisation. Essentially, you will have to get the relevant qualifications or experience and apply as and when a role is advertised. If you aren’t sure whether your skills or experience are appropriate, contact us for feedback.

Thanks Janet!


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