Finding a job

What are employers looking for?

The jobs market can be competitive. Generally, employers are looking for someone with the whole package: education, experience and employability skills (i.e. personal and people skills that make an individual a good fit for a job). Depending on the skill level and the type of job, employers may be willing to compromise on some aspects, but not on others.

1. Education and training

Overall, work is becoming more skilled. The vast majority of jobs created in the future are likely to require a Vocational Education and Training (VET) or university qualification. The workforce has also become more skilled, with 61% of the working age population (aged 15 to 64 years) now holding a post-school qualification (up from 39% in 1989). Consequently, the jobs market is increasingly competitive and research shows that, on average, there are 20 applicants per advertised vacancy, of whom only three are interviewed.

Dounut charts shows that 61% of Australia’s working age population had a pot-school qualification in 2018, compared with 39% in 1989.

Completing Year 12 is the minimum requirement for most employers, however your chances of gaining a job improve substantially with a Certificate III or higher qualification.

Remember, university is not the only option. Apprenticeships, trainee-ships, diploma or certificate III or IV level qualifications will also set you up for a career. Lifelong learning is also essential. As the jobs market evolves, you will need to evolve with it by continuing education and training to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date.

If you are considering a VET course or qualification, the best type of training is related to the job you want to do. But don’t do training for the sake of it! Try to build your skills with advanced qualifications. For example, Aged and Disabled Carers require a certificate in food handling and first aid, but one Certificate I (or several of them) will likely not help very much in the long term. A relevant certificate III or higher qualification will likely include this training, along with a range of other units important for this occupation. See the Jobs and Training section for more information on education and training and employment outcomes.

2. Experience

Workplace experience is another important quality that employers are looking for in prospective employees. No matter what kind of job you have, you will gain experience and learn vital employability skills. This includes gaining an understanding of what is expected in the workplace and enables you to demonstrate to employers your commitment to work. Most importantly, it gives you a foot in the door and provides you with an opportunity to gain contacts and referees.

Experience can be gained through part-time, casual, or temporary jobs, apprenticeships or traineeships, work experience placements, internships or even by volunteering.

Pie chart shows 25% of employers are willing to consider applicants who do not have workplace experience, while 75% of employers require applicants to have workplace experience.

What if you do not have experience?

There are some jobs for which employers more frequently consider someone without previous experience, such as Fast Food Cooks, Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers, and Packers.

Proportion of employers willing to consider applicants without previous work experience, selected occupations (%)

Fast Food Cooks78
Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers77
Crop Farm Workers67
General Sales Assistants61
Pharmacy Sales Assistants53

3. Employability skills

These are work readiness skills and cover a range of qualities and skills, including personal and people skills, a good work ethic and the ability to work in a team. Employability skills are what employers often value the most as they are seeking someone who will be a good fit for their business.

While some employers will compromise on education or experience, they will not compromise on employability skills. Feedback from employers shows that they can teach someone to use a machine, but they cannot teach someone to be reliable or polite to their customers.

What methods do employers use to recruit?

Employers often use a number of methods to find candidates for their positions. Below are some of the most common methods used.

Recruitment and company websites, 58% of vacancies

Employers advertise most of their job vacancies on recruitment websites and their own company website. Vacancies advertised online typically attract many applicants.

Job search tip: You need to tailor each application to suit the advertised role to stand out from other applicants (see the top 3 tips from employer feedback section for more advice on applications).

Social media, 11% of vacancies

Usage of social media for job advertisements is rising rapidly. Platforms such as Facebook now allow employers and job seekers to interact through region-based job groups. For example, Townsville has a Facebook job group with more than 31,000 members.

Job search tip: Make your social media profile look presentable. Employers often assess applicants’ social media profiles and shortlist based on how applicants present themselves online.

Newspaper, 11% of vacancies

Employers still advertise their vacancies in the newspaper, although less frequently than in past decades. Advertising in newspapers is more commonly used outside of the major cities.

Job search tip: Don’t forget to look in the local newspaper for jobs, especially if you live in a regional or rural area.

Word of mouth, 32% of vacancies

Employers ask people they know to ‘spread the word’ about a vacancy, or if they know of anyone who may be suitable for the job. Many employers who use this method already know the successful applicant before recruiting them.

Job search tip: Use your networks to your advantage. Ask friends, family, former co-workers and past employers if they know of any jobs available. If you need to expand your network, consider joining a local club, sporting team or community group - these are great ways to meet new people.

Approached by job seekers, 10% of vaxcancies

Many job seekers approach employers directly to enquire if they have any jobs available or to drop off a résumé. Employers often consider these job seekers for their current or future vacancies.

Job search tip: Approaching employers in person is a chance to make a good impression. Job seekers who can demonstrate their enthusiasm in person often stand a better chance than those who simply drop off their résumé.

Top 3 tips from employer feedback

1. You need an excellent résumé and job application.

Do not wait until applications close. Get your application in early!

  • 22% of vacancies are filled within a week
  • 72% of vacancies are filled within a month

When applying for a job you need to market yourself, and often your résumé and application are the first opportunity to do so.

A winning application combines your work experience, education and training and employability skills, and explains how they directly relate to the job for which you are applying.

How do you do this?

  • Research the business and job.
  • Ring the employer and ask questions about the job and workplace. Doing this demonstrates your enthusiasm and the employer will remember you and look for your application.
  • Be succinct. Your application and résumé should be around 2-3 pages each.
  • If possible, give examples from your current job or work history and explain how that directly relates to the position.
  • Ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

2. Get ready for the interview: Prepare, Plan, Practise and Presentation.

Do not be late to the interview!

Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes early.

The second stage of marketing yourself is the interview. Interviews can be nerve wracking, but some preparation beforehand can go a long way.

  • Practise interview questions with a friend or family member.
  • Prepare some questions about the job and business that you can ask at the interview. This demonstrates your interest and shows that you are prepared.
  • Think about your presentation and what you will wear. Remember, first impressions count! If in doubt, check what other staff are wearing beforehand.
  • The employer wants to get to know you, so be friendly and make conversation. If you tend to get nervous, think about topics of conversation beforehand: the weather; the traffic; or something about what the business does. It is fine to be nervous, employers expect this, but do not let your nerves get the better of you.
  • Explain the skills that you would bring to the job, and talk about your personal and employability skills. Employers want to know who they will be working with. The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate this.

3. Every job is unique.

Every job is different, so tailor your approach to each job for which you apply. That means that each application needs to be written specifically for each job. Do not fall into the trap of using generic applications: if an employer sees an application for a sales representative when their position is for a refrigeration mechanic, that application will be immediately discarded. Employers want the right match for their business.

What if your approach is not working?

Think broadly. Look in different industries as jobs may not be where you expect. For example, the health sector employs not only medical staff, but administrative staff, trades workers, IT professionals, HR staff, maintenance staff, chefs and gardeners, to name just some. The Retail Trade industry employs not only shop assistants, but logistics staff, marketing professionals and IT experts.

Don’t wait for the perfect job and remember, all jobs can open doors to something better.

If your approach is not working, you may need to consider:

  • a different location
  • contract or casual work; or part-time or shift work
  • whether your expectations realistic. It is unlikely that you will start at the top; you will need to work your way up from the bottom
  • tapping into your networks or asking around.

Remember that looking for a job is hard work. Depending on where you live, there can be a lot of competition for jobs. It can take a while to secure a position and you may receive knockbacks, but persevere and your efforts will pay off.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. If asked, many employers will tell you why you didn’t get the job. With each application and interview you gain experience that you can apply to your job search. It is all part of the job search experience.

For more information and assistance

Resources to help you find a job or choose a career are provided on the Useful Websites and Links page.

The Department of Jobs and Small Business produces a range of posters for career advisers, teaching professionals and job providers as a resource to use with job seekers and students. These posters, and other information with advice from employers, are available at

Sources: Department of Jobs and Small Business, Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences, 2017-18; Mark McCrindle, The ABC of XYZ; ABS, Labour Force, August 2018 quarter (annual averages of original data); Department of Jobs and Small Business, Survey of Jobs and Small Business, Survey of Employers' Recruitment Experiences, 2017-18; ABS, Education and Work