MAKING A FRESH START…… Job Applications for Newcomers to Australia

As a skilled immigrant, migrant, refugee or asylum seeker, there are a number of mountains to climb in your new country including mastering the language, adapting to cultural differences and learning how to work and play like the “Aussies” do. So, it is no surprise that negotiating the Australian workplace and its job application processes can also be an uphill battle.

So, to put your best foot forward in relation to job applications, I have provided a few HANDY HINTS below.

BUT FIRST, to avoid disappointment, I would ask that you consider the chart below, and ensure you meet these criteria. You are applying for jobs in a competitive environment with legal and contractual laws.

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1.Stick with the same name

Sometimes when settling in a new country, you may choose to modify your name according to make it easier to pronounce for a native English speaker.

This is a personal preference but just remember that if you choose that name, it needs to be consistent across all your paperwork when applying for a position. Your email address, resume, application and interaction with all employers and services will create a relationship with you based on that name.

2. Ensure an Australian organisation has validated your qualifications.

Although you may have completed a diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in your country it may not have the same status in Australia.

It’s important to check with the relevant organisation, university, TAFE or industry body that your skills and qualifications are looked upon with the same status.

3. Religious and spiritual beliefs

In Australia, it is an offence to discriminate against any person based on religious grounds, nor to enquire about your religious beliefs in an interview.

In a very ethnically diverse country like Australia, we respect the right of all people to practice their own religious and cultural beliefs. Consequently, we do not put our religion, God or spiritual entities on our resumes or discuss in any way at an interview.

4. Marital status

Every woman and man has equal right within the home, workplace and community in Australia, whether you are married, single, or have children. Again it is against the law to ask questions about your marital status, or not hire you because you have children or are a female. That is private information.

If you feel you need to disclose information regarding your family or children to the employer that is your choice, but do not include that information on a resume.

5. Age

Again, it is an offence in Australia to discriminate by age.

There will always be those who will judge by age, and is doesn’t matter where you come from, and what your skills are, preferences are sometimes given to a younger person or someone they wish to train. DO NOT put your age on your resume; it can influence how an employer may view you as a candidate for the position.

6. References

If most of your references come from your country of origin they must be able to be contactable, by email, phone or Skype and be able to speak conversational English. A written reference is no longer an acceptable way to validate your employment history. If you have any local or Australian people you know who can act as a reference for you, in any capacity, that is most favourable. Volunteering for an organisation can also become very useful in providing you with a referee.

7. Written and Spoken English

If you are not confident writing in the English language please, please get assistance. If you are seeking a position relevant to your industry and qualifications then maybe speak to a professional resume writer, Australian industry body or Australian colleague familiar with that industry.

Despite some immigrants having exceptional qualifications and/or conversational English, errors can be made in a resume or interview that can really jeopardise your prospects. Simple spelling or grammar mistakes may betray your talents and skills.

Get to know some locals, as well as other new immigrants who have lived here many years. They can guide you and educate you on how Australians generally live and work and can be a great helping hand. Make sure you socialise, play sport, volunteer and attend community clubs, anything to give you more exposure to the Australian way of life.

Most importantly “WELCOME”, you are taking a very important step toward your new life in Australia.

Written by Erika, our Workshop Wizard. If you are new to Australia and would like some help with understanding the local job market, please make an appointment with any of our advisors.

How choosing the wrong referee can cost you that dream job

You’ve spent hours poring over the job ad and company website, tailoring your resume to perfectly match the skills and experience required. You’ve even drafted a killer cover letter that perfectly highlights what a great match you are, not just for the role but for the organisation as well.

So, time to submit? Not quite. There is one more aspect of your application to consider. Your referees. Whether you want to list them on your resume or hold off on providing them until asked at an interview, you need to pay as much attention to selecting your referees as you do to the rest of your application. Why? Because who you choose to use as a referee can make the difference between scoring the job of your dreams and having to go back to the job search drawing board.

It’s not a numbers game

When choosing referees always go with quality over quantity. Generally speaking having two referees should be enough to satisfy most company’s internal recruitment policies, however it doesn’t hurt to have a third just in case one of your referees is out of contact. Four referees is overkill, unless specifically requested by the employer.

Always provide at least one contact number rather than an e-mail address, unless your referee is overseas and then you should provide both. Generally speaking, prospective employers will want to have a verbal conversation with a referee so they can get all the information they need in one go rather than e-mailing back and forth.

Professional over personal

While your referees do not necessarily have to be previous employers (there are several reasons why this may not be possible), they do need to be able to speak about you in a professional setting. Select referees that can provide employers with the type of information they want. They are not interested in personal references so friends, neighbours and family members are out. Have at least one referee who has managed you, in paid employment or a volunteer capacity.

If you do not have a significant work history, have owned your own business or have lost contact with previous employers the following referee alternatives could be suitable:

  • Teacher from the qualification you have just completed (particularly useful if you are applying for roles in a new field)
  • Bank manager/contractor/long-term customer if you are a small business owner
  • President of your local sporting club where you are the Secretary
  • Supervisor from a community services organisation where you volunteer
  • Friend/family member/business owner that you have done work for

Choose wisely

Before starting at the Skills and Jobs Centre I worked in student administration at a university. When I decided to follow my dream and start applying for career counselling roles I had a choice to make. One academic I had worked closely with offered to act as a referee. They had a PhD so I knew any prospective employer would be impressed by their title, however in the end I didn’t take them up on their offer. Why? Because despite knowing they would have only positive things to say about me, personal experience told me they had a terrible phone manner. They would give one word responses and come across as seriously lacking in interest.

Far better as a referee was the junior lecturer I worked with on a project who, whilst having a far less impressive job title, was talkative, engaging and able to articulate the positive traits and skills they had seen in me. The moral of the story? A more senior position title does not necessarily make for a better referee. Pick people with whom you have worked closely and who have the verbal communication skills to clearly and enthusiastically express their recommendation of you.

Getting permission

Once you have decided on who you would like to act as your referees the next step is to ask their permission. As great as you rightly think you are not everyone will have the same opinion, so never assume that just because you worked with someone they will be falling over themselves to provide a reference for you.

Word them up

If you are lucky enough to be invited to an interview you should let your referees know as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to also send them through a copy of the job ad or position description so they can get an understanding of what the role entails and prepare some responses. If you have a close relationship with them, and feel comfortable doing so, it is perfectly fine for you ask them to highlight certain skills/previous experience that is relevant to the role you are interviewing for.

A thank you costs nothing

Regardless of whether or not you are successful in getting the role, if your referees have been contacted and provided a reference for you, you should take the time to thank them. Depending on your relationship with them this may be anything from a nice e-mail or card, to a bunch of flowers or shouting them a coffee. Not only have they taken time out of their own busy schedules to help you but you never know when you might need them to be your referee again.

Written by our resident resume queen, Christina Matthews. Sign up for Christina’s resume workshop for some more great tips on job applications.