Cover Letters, LinkedIn, Resume

Landing Your First Job in Australia as a Migrant

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Australia has long been a country filled with great opportunity, and if you are prepared and understand the job market, you will likely succeed.

That being said, the job market today is as competitive as ever. At my employment consultancy O'Byrne Executive, we have noticed that every year, applications for professional roles have become more cutthroat. Hiring Managers often tell us that they need to disqualify candidates quickly, as they don't have time to read through all applications in detail.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you have properly optimised your resume/CV and LinkedIn profile, you should be receiving at least some interview requests. However, most people cut corners and give busy Hiring Managers reasons to reject their applications.

So, whether you're fresh off the plane or been in Australia for a while, there are 3 key points that will help you stand out. Of course, if you can pay a professional like myself or others, you will get the absolute best results. However, for those on a tight budget, I promise the below advice will help out a lot.

1. Make Sure Your Resume is Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Optimised

A.I technologies are growing at a crazy pace (great job opportunities in this space by the way). Back in the day, a Hiring Manager would read through each application, weigh up the strengths of each candidate and make a well-informed decision on who to interview. They could also pay off their mortgage on a single salary, backyard and all.

Fast-forward to 2022, and well, things have changed. That Hiring Manager is either renting or sharing a mortgage payment for a 1-2 bedroom apartment, and A.I powered applicant tracking systems (ATS) are scanning resumes to give them an idea of who is worthy for an interview.

Each ATS is different, though all have the same purpose - to help Hiring Managers organise potential candidates and quickly weed out those unsuitable for a particular role. How accurate are these systems? Well, they are improving, but of course aren't bulletproof.

Many will score your resume out of 100, and the newer ones will scan your LinkedIn profile too (which you should be including on your resume). The key is to understand how these systems work, and how you can score at least above 80/100.

The most important factors for having a high score are keywords, content quality and the resume's structure. I will break these down:

Keywords - You need to properly read a role's job description and ensure your resume's keywords align with it. This is particularly the case in the professional summary, skills section and technical skills / software section (example in the resume structure point below).

For example, if you are applying for a Mechanical Engineer role where mechanical product development is a core responsibility, then the above sections should mention this. Also keep an eye out for specific software that the role requires. Not mentioning such software will be a huge disadvantage. Many clients at the O'Byrne Executive have experience with software like Solidworks, and forget to properly highlight it in their resume.

You need to ensure every core keyword/responsibility is mentioned on your resume. This alone will significantly boost your score.

Content Quality - Content quality can be tricky to nail if English is your second language. In fact, this is the most easily missed issue with resumes completed by migrant workers. This is understandable, as not only is English likely your second language, but Australia uses UK English, whereas the majority of clients write in US English.

When writing a resume, you should stick to being clean and concise. Long sentences and filler content is not only ugly to look at, but doesn't help a Hiring Manager quickly understand if you're a suitable candidate.

When outlining your current and past role responsibilities, trying sticking to 1-2 lines per dot point. I recommend sticking to 7-10 responsibilities and 2-4 achievements if possible.

I also highly recommend you have a native English speaker proofread your work. They will be able to spot obvious spelling and grammar errors that will lead to a quick rejection.

Resume Structure - This is another area that can hurt your chances of receiving a high ATS score. One of the most important things to understand is that an ATS doesn't have artistic preferences. By this, I mean that job applicants in general worry too much about a resume's style and design, instead of how well an ATS can analyse it.

The key things to include are a brief professional summary, a skills section, and a technical skills / software section. The example below has the technical skills / software section lower down.

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As you can see in the above example, the content is professional, clean and scannable. While the styling would change depending on the role, in principle it does not matter for an ATS.

Notice how the responsibilities and achievements are concise, allowing for a Recruiter / Hiring Manager to quickly get an understanding of your skills and experience?

There are of course exceptions to this (if you work in academia), however this is outside the scope of this article.

2. Don't Use Photos in Your Resume

A common question asked by migrant workers at O'Byrne Executive is ‘should I put my photo on my resume?’ For the Australian job market, the answer is going to be no 99.98% of the time. So yes, that snazzy headshot you have been waiting to show off isn’t going to enhance your chances of landing a role, in fact it will likely do the opposite. There are several reasons for this, which I will outline below:

It can be Used to Discriminate

This is one of the key reasons recruiters and employers do not want photos included on resumes. To ensure they are not being biased or discriminating based on race, age, gender or other factors, they will discard resumes with a photo.

You also don’t want to come off as if you are trying to harness any of these factors to land an interview, rather than your skills and experience. In many organisations, HR departments have policies in place that prohibit resumes with pictures in them from being considered.

I was speaking about this topic with a client the other day who raised and interesting point – ‘But everyone has biases, you may as well just let them see your photo instead of wasting time in an interview that won’t go anywhere.’ I appreciated this, as in some cases, this could be true, however from what we have seen, such discrimination is far less common than it once was.

While there is sometimes discrimination based on the university you went to (certain Lawyers will understand this well), or the perceived calibre of companies you have previously worked for, you should be less worried about the potential discrimination factors previously mentioned, and more about what you can bring to the table skills wise.

I have had a couple of female clients who said that leveraging their attractiveness for customers service / receptionist roles would help them stand out. While this could possibly be true in some cases, including a photo still sends the wrong message to a hiring manager.

Even for roles where factors like attractiveness may be a factor, you don’t want to lead with it. You also don’t want to encourage toxic managers to hire you for superficial reasons, as that likely won’t end well.

Poor Applicant Tracking System Compatibility

Photos confuse many applicant tracking systems (ATS), as these systems are designed to analyse text. This often results in them assuming there is a formatting error with your resume, and will downgrade the score given to it. This could lead to a recruiter or employer overlooking your job application, even if you were a great candidate for the role. While you may get away with it if you bypass an ATS by emailing a recruiter directly or printing out your resume, issues around biases will still apply.

A client I worked with a little while ago made a good point on this topic which was – Tom, if I include a link to my LinkedIn profile, won’t they see what I look like anyway? This is a good point, however it does not negate the fact that an ATS still does not like photos and your resume quality will suffer because of it. As LinkedIn profiles become more prevalent among professionals, this may change in the future. I say this, because LinkedIn itself may make resumes obsolete.

It's Unnecessary and Unprofessional

As mentioned in the first point, having your photo (even a professional headshot) is unprofessional and sends a bad message to employers. Not only that, but it takes up valuable space (usually in the contact section), which means potentially less room for more important details.

One of the hardest aspects about writing resumes for most people is ensuring all your relevant skills, qualifications and experience fit within two-four pages (two-three is optimal for most professionals).

Always remember that the purpose of a resume should be to address your experience and skills in a clear, concise and professional manner. It does not take long for an experienced recruiter to spot errors or poorly structured content, so don’t give them a reason to dismiss you with an unnecessary photo.

At the end of the day, it is about showing as much value as possible, and allowing your strengths to shine through and be striking and obvious to employers and recruiters.

If you need any more convincing, a top recruiter at Facebook famously posted on the popular social question-and-answer website Quora that –

‘We just want to know about things that pertain to your work history. So please take your photo off your resume. If we want to see what you look like, recruiters can just stalk you on LinkedIn.’

3. Have an Optimised LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn has become the 5th most used social media platform in Australia. Only 3-4 years ago, I told clients LinkedIn was optional. Today, you would be crazy not to be on it.

This is especially the case if you are looking to land your first job in Australia. Recruiters and Hiring Managers are not only actively looking for roles, but can be contacted directly.

By having a properly optimised LinkedIn profile, you will be taken more seriously, as well as appear higher in the LinkedIn search engine.

Here are some tips you should implement before applying for roles:

Taking advantage of the ‘Label, Keywords & Interest’ Headline Formula

Unoptimised example – Digital Designer and Freelancer

Optimised example – Senior UX Designer at Australia Post | Wireframing | A/B Testing | User Research | Animal Lover

Let me explain what's going on here:

Optimising your Label

A crucial mistake people make when writing their headline is being too general about who they are. How you label yourself will have a direct impact on whether you are contacted for employment or networking opportunities.

For example, if you state you are a ‘Digital Designer and Freelancer’, this will confuse the LinkedIn algorithm as well as recruiters and employers. When a recruiter searchers for potential job candidates, they will look for them by using a role title first.

So if the above professional is a UX Designer, and the recruiter was looking to fill a role in this field, the candidate’s profile would not even be listed in the search. By using a specific job title, you are significantly more likely to be discovered and taken seriously on LinkedIn.

Even if you are using LinkedIn for networking purposes, it’s important label yourself correctly in order to attract the right clients or potential business partners.

Think about the kind of professionals clients or business partners are looking for, and ensure that your label and keywords are tailored to it.

Primary & Secondary Keywords:

The next important element of any LinkedIn headline are keywords. Like your label, these also heavily impact whether you are discoverable. Keywords are the next most important aspect of your headline after your job title, so it is important to choose them wisely and in the correct order.

Selecting your primary keywords is vital to being found by the right people on LinkedIn. For example, if you are a Finance & Business Development Manager who specialises in mergers and acquisitions, then ‘Mergers & Acquisitions’ would be the first keyword following your job title. This will allow recruiters, employers or potential business partners to find you quickly through LinkedIn’s search.

If accounting is a central aspect of your role as a finance professional, then you could put ‘CPA Accountant’ to highlight your expertise in the area, while also keeping your job title.

As you would expect, secondary keywords are designed to complement the primary keywords. These can be keywords related to a job you are interested in, or attractive qualities that you could offer to potential business partners.

To build on the example above, the Finance & Business Development Manager may have experience in financial reporting and budgeting, both of which could be used for secondary keywords.

It is important to alter all keywords depending on the role you are targeting, as you won’t be able to fit all your abilities into the headline given the 120 character limit.

Interests:

This part of the headline is actually optional, and won’t improve your standing in the LinkedIn algorithm. However, I am including it because I believe it’s important to inject some personality into your profile, rather than keeping things 100% professional. As used in the optimised example above, this could be mentioning your love for animals.

Optimising Your About Summary

About summaries are one of the most important aspects of your LinkedIn profile. This is where potential recruiters and hiring managers will start to get a sense of your personality and what drives you.

One of the common mistakes with this section is to copy and paste dot points from your resume. This is not a good idea. You should be telling your story, and make people excited about meeting or even hiring you. While there is a lot to say about this section, I will add some crucial points below.

Tell Your Story/What Makes you Tick:

Combining passion and structure is the best thing you can do with your About Summary. Instead of just listing your achievements and responsibilities, talk about what drives you and how your passion helps the companies you’ve worked for. This is a great strategy regardless of your level of work experience.

Talking about how your passion has led to successful outcomes at work is a key way to garner interest and intrigue. This is because hiring mangers want to get an idea of whether you’ll perform and stick around in a role.

For example, if you were applying to be a Lead Sales Consultant at a pet supplies business, you could talk about your love for animals from a young age, and mention how that’s led to the ability to form genuine relationships with pets owners and achieve high sales numbers.

It’s important to communicate your drive, as it will give hiring managers an idea if you’d be well suited to a particular role and company culture. Many HR professionals / Recruiters have told me privately that LinkedIn profile summaries has become a key way of deciding whether someone will be interviewed. While still not as important as your resume, it’s growing relevance can not be denied.

Providing a Short Intro as a Hook:

This is straightforward but effective. If you check out my LinkedIn profile, you will see that even if a browser windows is reduced in size, the reader can still see the intro line, followed by LinekdIn’s ‘see more’ prompt.

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Some people choose to be a bit more creative with their intros, however I have found being clear and concise is more effective (unless of course you’re in a specialist field such as comedy).

Uploading Professional Photos

Your profile photo is the first impression hiring managers and recruiters are going to have of you. The good news is that a relatively recent smartphone, a freshly ironed shirt and white background will be enough to take a great photo. Here are some examples of optimal LinkedIn photos:

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4. Taking the Initiative and Contacting Hiring Managers (Bonus Point)

Calling / emailing a Hiring Manager is something not many job applicants do. However, it can really make you stand out.

I recommend you prepare 3-5 questions, and just show genuine interest in the role. After speaking with the Hiring Manager, just remind them of your name and that you will submit your application.

This strategy is so effective, that it sometimes surprises me. In many cases, it can be the reason why someone received an interview, and someone else didn't.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, hiring a qualified and proven professional will always provide the best results. However, by following the above points, you will have more success with your job applications.

Remember that finding a professional role in a foreign country isn't easy, and anybody who claims it is either got lucky or had help from connections.

Keep applying and optimising your documents until you land that first role. After that, you will have a much easier time finding other work.

Landing Your First Job in Australia as a Migrant

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