Recruit great youth workers

7 tips for recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers

Recruit great youth workersRecruit great youth workersRecruiting Ultimate Youth Workers…

Recruiting is one of the most important jobs a youth service manager will ever have. Managers are responsible for two major tasks: results and retention. You can never get great results if you have mediocre people and you will never retain people if they don’t believe in what you are doing. So the answer is simple… recruiting the right people in the first place solves 90% of your issues.

First things First

You do not need someone so badly that you have to hire bad candidates. The absolute worst thing you could do is hire the wrong person because you feel the need to fill a spot. This will inevitably hurt your team and your ability to get the results you so desperately need to show. We all have stories of when the wrong person had a role and they tore a team apart. There is no time ever that you need to have a full complement of staff over recruiting the right person. No matter what anyone says you can take your time to get the best.

Tip 1 – Write a great position description: A great position description isn’t a fluffy document. Many HR departments have templates that have so much information and window dressing that you actually have no idea what you want a person to do, or even worse… you want them to do everything. Be clear and concise. The position description should include the duties you want the candidate to fulfill, the behaviours you want them to exhibit and the knowledge the must hold to do the role to which they are applying. If you feel like you are adding more than this it is simply window dressing. If you have the opportunity to have input into writing the position description make sure it is imperative that you make it fit your role perfectly.

Tip 2 – Initial cut down: You should ask for a resume, a cover letter and a response to your key selection criteria. Start with the cover letter. You are looking for an opportunity to weed out all those who wont fit your role. Many recruiter will spend less than 10 seconds scanning the cover letter. But, what should you look for??? Well here are a few ideas:

  • Is the document well formatted? Are there paragraphs? How are they justified (left or fully is the only way to go). Is it more than three or four paragraphs in length? Is it grammatically correct?
  • Are the candidates contact details on the document?
  • Has the candidate let you know where they heard about the role?
  • Have they addressed it to you or just used a ‘to whom it may concern’?

If a person makes it through the first round move on to their resume. Are the candidates contact details on the document? Do they have the qualifications and experience to fulfill the role? Is the document well formatted? Have they told you what they did in their roles or just put what they should have done from previous position descriptions? If they make it through these checks then you move on to the key selection criteria.

The key selection criteria should address your criteria within the position description. Have they answered your points with a clear PAR story. In a PAR story, they will describe:

  • Problem that existed
  • Actions they took to address the problem
  • Results they achieved solving the problem

If they make it this far they are OK. But, OK is not enough to fill your position. Its time for you to proceed to the next step.

Tip 3 – Phone screen interview: If you have other staff members on your team this is a good opportunity to get them to show some leadership, if not you can do it yourself. A phone screen interview is a short 30 minute interview that starts with the question ‘tell me about yourself?’ and ends with a behavioural interview question. You don’t tell the candidate your decision here (provide a good no letter if they didn’t make it). This is the most cost-effective and timely way of eliminating candidates who don’t stack up.

Recruiting to interview

Tip 4 – Interview those who are left: A day of interviews and testing and it’s what we use at Ultimate Youth Worker when we hire staff. But if your organisation can’t afford a day of interviewing then here are a few ideas for you:

  • Behavioural interviewing is a must. You need to see how a person will react to situations which will happen regularly in the role they are applying for.
  • If you aren’t getting your young people to help it’s not worth interviewing. The young people add a different dynamic that shows a lot about how the candidate works with young people.
  • An hour is not enough. Even the worst people can put on a good show for an hour. Try an hour of panel interviews, testing such as DISC profiling or a big 5 and finish with a half hour interview with the team. If you do this as a minimum you will be leaps ahead of your competition.

Tip 5 – It’s always better to have a bench: If you have a job opening and you already have a person who will fit the role you save yourself a lot of effort at the start. Most Government funding requirements expect transparent recruiting into roles, however if you have a person who will fit your role there is no rule that says you can’t get them to apply. Students who have done placements with you, former staff that you would have back in a heartbeat and casuals who are looking to expand their careers are all great people to have on your bench. If a role comes up that you think would fit a bench warmer then get them to apply. 

Tip 6 – References are not as useful as people think: If a person has put down a referee it is highly unlikely that person will have anything negative to say about your candidate. It is important to make sure they have all the credentials and qualifications they say they do. The best use of reference check is to qualify all the information the candidate has provided to you.

Tip 7 – If they aren’t excited they aren’t the right person: We don’t mean they have to be extroverts (we love introverts) but they do need to show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the organisation, the mission and the role. If the candidate doesn’t have a smile on their face and a spring in their step they are most likely the wrong person for your role. You should take excitement for the role over just about every other metric you use in hiring. Everything else you can teach or have it taught to the person who gets the job. Passion is something which can’t be given.

If you use these seven tips we guarantee you will get great candidates. These tips work for 90% of candidates 90% of the time. The rest comes down to your hard work and tenacity. If you want to take your organisation to the next level then you need to have the best staff. Recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers means setting the bar high and never settling except for the best.

 Once you’ve got the right person, don’t forget to keep them!

National Youth Week 2016

National Youth WeekNational Youth Week

Every year adults around the country set apart a week to celebrate the exciting time of life called youth! The arrogance of adults! That we would think young people deserve a week of focus and then pack it up for another year. That governments would put the measly scraps of funding towards running youth week is a telling symbol of their lack of care or respect for young people. The fact that the Federal Government still does not have a Minister for Youth is a clear indication of how inept government is at taking seriously the voice of young people.

The more adults try to placate young people the more we miss the amazing things they have to teach us. When we hear people say that “young people are becoming…” we need to remind them that young people are already fully human with all the rights that come with being so. What it felt like to not be listened too. What it felt like to be ignored except to be reprimanded. The older we get the more we forget our own youth.

[Tweet “The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth. Edmund Burke”]

As a society we pay young people less, simply because they are young.  We believe that young peoples opinions are lesser because they have less experience. We believe that one day young people will make great citizens, but not quite yet. As a society we must submit to be taught by our young people. They are not only the hope for the future, they are our hope now. If we continue with our arrogance of age the future looks bleak.

There has been some discussion in Australia over the last little while about lowering the voting age to 16. This would be a good start in showing young people how much we can learn from them. It would also go a lot further than a poorly funded week of placation.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below.

Training: The next evolution in Ultimate Youth Worker

Training for the future

Well the world turns and we are still kicking. Funding cuts hurt us as an organisation as you know. We decided that that was not ideal. We rely on fee for service work to keep going. We have most often focused on supervision sessions to meet our funding needs. Occasionally we would run a seminar or do some training but it was limited. Over the past few months we have invested into our own training and have decided that we will focus on providing training to youth workers for a little while.

Between now and the end of 2016 we will run four specific training programs:

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Introduction to Drug and Alcohol
  • Mandatory Reporting and Duty of Care
  • Intentional Self Care for Career Longevity

YMHFA TrainingThis is a new venture for us to undertake however we were very aware of the poor training that was available in the sector. We believe that if dedicated youth workers are paying good money they should get exceptional training. Our staff have been trained by Mental Health First Aid Australia to deliver the world renowned Youth Mental Health First Aid course. Two days of dedicated training for supporting young people experiencing mental health issues.

Our staff have also created three exceptional courses and seminars to support youth workers specifically. Introduction to Drug and Alcohol is a two day course design to help youth workers support young people who are experimenting with or abusing substances. Using best practice and the most recent data this course is designed by our Executive Director a former youth rehabilitation facility manager. Mandatory Reporting and Duty of Care is a half day seminar which supports youth workers to know their responsibilities under new legislation in Victoria. With public scrutiny at an all time high it is our responsibility to know our responsibilities for protecting young people to the highest standards. Intentional Self-Care for Career Longevity is a one day course which provides participants with the skills and knowledge to develop a self care plan and maintain their own self care and career development.

We will run these courses through a partnership with Eastern College Australia at their training facility in Mulgrave. We can also come to you and run any or all of these courses in your workplace.

To find out more about these courses or to register to attend click on the events tab above.

 If your in Melbourne download our Professional Development Calendar and put it up at work!!!

Returning to our social justice roots

Returning to our social justice roots is imperative As a young man I attended a youth centre in the suburbs of Melbourne that changed my life. The staff there had a mission to see me become the best I could be. They invested in my life through camps, day trips, courses and counsel. They supported…...

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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To all the amazing women: Happy International Women’s Day!

Amazing womenWomen are amazing!

Let me just state that from the beginning. I am in awe of so many women in my life. Women I love, Women I work with, Women I studied with… Women who are changing the world.

I have the privilege of working with some of the most amazing and talented women in Australia. When I first started Ultimate Youth Worker a colleague “S” provided me with encouragement and a renewed passion to see youth workers succeed. “S” was in an extremely high paced environment and was going through a difficult time as her contract was coming to an end. She faced it with amazing resolve applied to do a Masters degree and became a full time student. She works in resi care and even though the system is so incredibly broken she supports her clients with care, love and compassion.

About the same time another colleague “A” took me under her wing and took it upon herself to shower me with praise and encouragement. A Human Resources wizz who saw the potential of Ultimate Youth Worker as a business and me as the Director. This woman helped me deliver training, supported me at conferences and let me ramble on about the vision I had for a well supported youth sector. Over endless coffees “A” provided a sounding board and links to networks which helped solidify those early days of Ultimate Youth Worker.

InternationalWomensDay_0At Eastern College Australia I work with so many amazing, dedicated and qualified women. Teachers, community developers, artists, counsellors and theologians. Women who support me to do my job with admin skills I could only dream of. Women who encourage my work, professional and personal development. Women with vision to see higher education done differently in Australia. Women who are academically excellent and personally filled with faith. Women who breathe life into the lives of students and colleagues every day.

I have studied with so many amazing women. Youth workers and social workers. Women of conviction and vision. Women that study hard and get the grades so that they can provide the best service to their clients. Women who are professional and practice their skills with wisdom and compassion. Women beginning to change the world.

There are also the women I love. My daughters. Young women who give me a run for my money every day. Young women who debate me, teach me and love me back. Young women who see a future of opportunities, who strive to be better every day, who are sporty and academic and compassionate and great cooks and outdoorsy and amazing. Young women who would take on any man and win again and again. Young women who do not suffer fools and who expect the best from those around them. My Wife. A woman who is by my side through thick and think. Who stands against those who attempt to tear me down and who leads my cheerleaders when I succeed. A woman who is highly qualified and exceptional at her job. Who loves her family above all. A woman of noble character who opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. A woman of strength, wisdom and blessing.

These women.


What do youth workers need to know about sociology?

Sociology for youth workers As youth workers we draw on many different frameworks to help us make sense of the world our young people live in. One of the most used frameworks in our kit bag is sociology. Through the sociological lens we can analyse social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. From concrete…...

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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The sociological imagination and youth work

The sociological imaginationsociological imagination

As one of the main sociologists in history C. Wright Mills has contributed much to the study of humanity. Perhaps though nothing as important as the ‘sociological imagination’. The ability for people to see an issues from another’s point of view. Literally to imagine yourself in their shoes. The sociological imagination asks us to think about the world through the experience of individuals other than yourself. A core process that most people in society have never engaged in.

Currently governments around the world are spruiking the individualised perspective of society. That we are all responsible for our own destiny and the free market will even things out for us all. The big society supposedly looking out for the good of all. However the focus of these ideas is often either individual or societal focused. Rarely do we someone with an understanding of the individual and of society. This leads to things falling apart as we are seeing in the UK, Europe union and many other nations.

Enter youth work. We are trained to understand individual young people and the society they live in. We seek understanding of the societal issues which cause concern for our young people and we understand their individual concerns and wants. Youth workers have a great sociological imagination! For us it is beyond stupidity to focus on a person without looking at the context of their life. We look at the structures of inequality and the individuals strengths. We provide advocacy at a macro level and develop relationship with our young people at the micro level. Youth workers are awesome.

If you find your work focusing on one area more than the other I implore you to refocus your sociological imagination. If you are focusing too much on the individual begin to look at the societal. If you look at the societal side begin to look at individuals.

It is the only way we can understand fully.

Youth work journey

future youth sector

Is this the future youth sector?

There is a lot of talk in the youth sector which is splitting the camps into those wanting to go back to an age where we were well funded by government and able to do our own thing versus those wanting to collude with government and find a way to keep going while under austerity. At the risk of throwing the cat amongst the pigeons we think both groups have lost the plot. Infighting is neither helpful to our young people nor a way of developing the sector.

Over the years we have written extensively on the need for the youth sector to take it to the next level. The golden age is gone but we don’t have a clear framework for what is to come. So here are a few of our thoughts:

  1. We need to stop following the well beaten course towards professionalisation. There is a definite need for a more professional youth sector. But how we get there… that’s more open for debate. We need to have a distinctly youth work profession. One which involves young people as well as provides support for them.
  2. We need to  develop a path of education that students and the sector want to progress. Our framework for youth work education is 20 years old and desperately needs an update. Mental health, online work, family violence and reflective practice are areas we need more focus on as a start.
  3. We need more cooperation. We spend so much of our time in our own silos or scrambling over each other for the crumbs of government funding. We have some cooperation but it generally only comes until we might lose our funding or reputation. If we really want the sector to change we need to work together for industrial action, sector redevelopment and collegiate support.

We need to blaze a trail which fits our professional values. Because there is currently nothing that really fits. A good friend of ours used to say; any dead fish can float down stream, it takes a live one to swim against the current. At the moment it seems we are just floating. #towards2020

future youth sector

Leave a trail

Take a step on a new journey toward 2020

Journey towards 2020

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

As we journey toward 2020 there has been a lot of discussion about youth work as a dying vocation. Our numbers are dropping, we have less graduates and government funding is being slashed like never before. Lets be honest. We’ve had it pretty good over the last decade or so. But those glory days are over. We’ve been on a journey that has gotten really bumpy. Some have stumbled, others have fallen away, many are sweating it out hoping for green pastures again. The smart youth workers are taking a rest. We are checking the map. Looking at our supply situation. Reassessing our journey towards 2020.

[Tweet “The smart youth workers are taking a rest. We are checking the map. Looking at our supply situation. Reassessing our journey #towards2020.”]

Perhaps, the journey we were on has finished. Perhaps, our focus needs tweaking. We have focussed on education in the beginning, we moved to recreation  in the 70’s, in the 90’s we moved towards local government hoping to find our home and now… it looks like our journey is coming to its end. When your journey looks like its coming to an end and your left out in the wilderness its time to make a brew and plan a new journey. This is what many are starting to do across the world.

What youth work will look like #towards2020 is still up for grabs. One thing is for sure we need to stop looking at the past is a vain hope that it will come back to us. We need a new pedagogy, a new praxis and a new… practice framework. As a profession we keep looking to other professions such as social work, psychology and nursing to guide our journey. But, they are all struggling too. We need to plan a new journey toward 2020.

What do you think the first step will look like?

The youth work question

What is the youth work question?

Over the last decade I have been asked to speak with hundreds of people who want to be youth workers. Sometimes in seminars or training courses, other times I get to do it one on one. The first question I always ask is “Why do you want to be a youth worker?” In my experience there is no other question which separates those with happy fluffy bunny and rainbow unicorn feelings from those who will truly become the next generation of youth workers. It is the youth work question. Here are a few of the answers I get that cause me concern:

  • “I just really love kids”.
  • “I have had a lot of trouble in my own life”
  • “I have coached kids and I think I can do this easily”
  • “Those kids just need someone to guide them”
  • “I can keep them on the straight and narrow”
  • “I’m a parent of teens, so I understand young people”

The youth work questionWhenever I hear one of these answers my skin literally crawls. Often broken and hurt people who look for closure to their inadequacies drift towards youth work. People who cannot answer the youth work question. It is something that youth work trainers see every intake. People who haven’t dealt with their own demons before wanting to work with young people. The other side to the coin is people who think anyone can do youth work. Its not that hard. I coach a team two hours a week. I have a teenager who I see for a few hours a day. Surely its not that hard to do youth work.

These people show a few main things that lead myself and others to point them away. First, a lack of personal insight. Second, a short sighted view of working with young people. Finally, a focus on themselves not on the young people they want to serve. If you truly want to be a youth worker it is a path of walking along side young people. It is not a time for your own issues to haunt you. It is about providing the support young people need to reach their goals.

If your answer to the youth work question is that you want to see young people supported by people who care and are well trained. If you want to see young people reach their potential. See a world where young people are seen and dealt with justly. Then you might have what it takes to be a youth worker.

Here are a few links to articles on becoming a youth worker.



Youth Work WA