Newly arrived migrants are more likely to be jobless than Australian-born workers. Career coaches say the biggest hurdle many newcomers face is their inability to secure an interview despite their qualifications. So, what are the strategies job seekers can employ to get a job interview?
A recent ABS data reveals the unemployment rate for recent migrants and temporary residents is at 7.4 per cent and for those born locally is at 5.4 per cent. Lakshmi Bettadapura Shankar is a highly skilled job seeker having worked ten years as a project and mechanical design engineer with General Electric in India.
“So I came here with a lot of confidence and expectations as well. After applying for many jobs, I’ve seen only rejections without any personal discussion or any follow ups or any feedbacks.”
It’s a story career coach Ray Pavri from Job Transition Strategy is all too familiar with.
Instead of hunting for opportunities through mainstream search engines like Seek and Indeed, career coaches' advice is to tap into Australia’s hidden job market where around 70 per cent of the roles aren’t advertised.
“There are anywhere from 400 to 1400 applicants per job ad. If you’re following the same pathway as every man and his dog, and if you’re one among 1400 CVs being supplied to a job ad, there’s very little chance that someone that doesn’t have local experience is going to be able to differentiate themselves.”
AMES English language lead teacher Luke Treadwell runs employment workshops for people new to the country. He suggests overcoming the lack of local work experience through volunteering.
“If they have any opportunity to volunteer work, I think it's a fantastic way of getting that experience in the Australian work place culture. In most cases, because you’re willing to give a bit through volunteering, usually the people in that work place are very happy to share their knowledge and experiences with you.”
Treadwell says when applying for work, job seekers need to understand that their applications are often screened by computer programs rather than by the recruiters.
“How your resume is read - it’s being screened for keywords. So, if you haven’t tailored your resume or your covering letter to the specific requirements of the applications, it’s going to be quickly screened out." - Luke Treadwell, AMES
Ray Pavri recommends networking to penetrate the hidden job market, and being very strategic about how you approach potential employers at these events.
“I’ve seen migrants get into the room and the first 30 seconds, the first thing that’ll come out of their mouth is ‘have you got a job that I could apply for?’ And what tends to happen is in that first 5 minutes, people back away. They haven’t used the time to develop a dialogue or a relationship.”
Luke Treadwell agrees it’s crucial to develop the soft skills to relate with people.
“So things like being able to engage in casual conversation is very important, and to be able to do that to have a few common touch stones. One of the things that I’ve got my students interested in is actually the footy, particularly, living here in Melbourne, particularly during the finals. Just to be able to say something that people living and working in Melbourne know and have an interest in, I think is very important.”
And understanding what to do say, how to say it in the right tone of voice and body language also helps with scoring extra points at the interview.
“In some cultures, you show respect to the potential employer by appearing very serious; whereas, in Australian work place culture, that would come across as either being somewhat insecure in your abilities, or not being truly interested in the job you apply for. Things like eye contact, smile, having an enthusiastic tone of voice, and all the things that are in our body language are very very important.”
This is precisely what Ray Pavri had to work on when he first came to Australia over 30 years ago.
He joined Toastmasters to develop his communication skills, and went as far as to recording his own voice onto a dictaphone to polish his speech. He’s since developed a series of processes to guide job seekers in their search for work.
“In some cultures, you show respect to the potential employer by appearing very serious; whereas, in Australian work place culture, that would come across as either being somewhat insecure in your abilities, or not being truly interested in the job you apply for." - Luke Treadwell, AMES
“The first thing would be figuring out what are your strengths? What makes you tick as an individual? The second part of this is understanding enough of the market and developing a game plan - a strategy so that you can benefit given your strengths, given the market, and an entry point - so it's a market entry strategy. Identify mentors or people that can guide you. Making sure that your communications are good, your listening skills, ability to negotiate. Which companies are hiring? Which companies are winning projects? Which companies are retrenching? So, being targeted.”
Once you do get to the job interview stage, Luke Treadwell advises treating the meeting like a sales pitch.
“In any effective sales, you need to understand the needs of the buyer, and the buyer in this case is the employer, so the more you can present to the employer that you really understand their business, you really understand their needs, you understand their values, you can fulfil those needs, and you share those values; I think that puts you in a very strong position.”
It’s been over a year and a half since Lakshmi Bettadapupa Shankar began applying for jobs. She says she’s finally started to see results after switching to a more targeted approach.
“Now, at least I am talking to people, who are like a kind of potential hiring managers, and I felt that if I talk to at least 20 to 30 people, at least 1 or 2 will go ‘yeah. we can give a chance and see potential’. If I could prove to them, then it's a different story.”