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Eight interview questions that could stop you getting a job in Australia

Australia's Big Four banks – Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac – are selectively hiring finance professionals who’ve been cut by the bulge bracket. Foreign candidates, however, face an uphill battle against both locals and expat Aussies returning home.

If you are lucky enough to score a job interview Down Under because of your strong CV, here are some of the tricky questions you might be asked.

1) Do you have an Australian work visa?

You should ideally apply in advance for a Skilled Independent Visa, which will allow you to move to Australia without being sponsored by an employer. The basic requirements for such a visa are listed on the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, and include a rule that applicants must be aged under 50. Apply well in advance because it can take about a year to process your application. “Increasingly, the first and main question will be about visa status,” said Mathew McGilton, director of Kaizen Recruitment in Melbourne. “Too often, candidates are coming over without relevant visas and are next to impossible to help. While a few international firms will sponsor you, most organisations are unlikely to show much interest in someone without unrestricted working rights.”

2) Why do you want to move to Australia?

It’s an obvious question, but you still need to prepare for it. Don’t be afraid to include personal reasons, such as having family in Australia, in your answer because this shows a “genuine pull” for coming, said Tim Carroll, director of search firm 325 Consulting in Sydney. Above all, your response should demonstrate your commitment to relocating. For example, tell the interviewer if you’ve been to Australia recently, and mention that you’ve already researched housing and, if relevant, schooling. “This shows that you may already know the culture and major employers here, and that your move is well researched, not just a fanciful idea,” said Carroll.

3) What other countries are you considering?

“Only Australia” is the only correct answer, said Carroll. Australian firms sometimes receive applications from candidates in Europe who are sending their CVs to employers across Asia Pacific, seeking temporary shelter in any financial centre that will take them. “Quite simply, someone who is looking at three or four locations isn't viewed as being committed to moving to Australia and will be given less priority than other candidates,” he added.

4) You have no local experience. Is your overseas experience even relevant?

Don’t oversell your foreign expertise. But do make a mental list of your top transferrable skills. “You should acknowledge the employer’s concern and then focus on how you plan to approach the role,” said Scott Spaulding, principal consultant at Bravo Consulting Group, a career-coaching firm in Melbourne. “This gives the interviewer a sense that you are already thinking about how you can contribute.”

5) What is your understanding of Australian financial regulation?

Compliance jobs are hot right now in Australia, but you might also get asked this question for a myriad of other roles. Foreign candidates must display at least a theoretical understanding of the structure and approach of the local regulators, in particular the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Securities and Investments Commission and Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, said Jacob Smith, director of Sydney recruiters JS Careers. So spend a lot of time researching these regulators before your interview.

6) Do you have the required Australian qualifications for this role?

Even if you are an experienced professional, in some sectors your foreign qualification won’t cut it in Australia. So do your homework on whether you also need to get qualified Down Under. For example, those who provide financial-product advice to retail clients must meet the educational standards outlined in ASIC Regulation Guidelines 146. “You should have already completed necessary certificates before interviewing for a job in Australia,” said Spaulding from Bravo Consulting.

7) You seem overqualified. Won’t you just quit as soon as a senior role opens up elsewhere?

Immigrants are often asked this question because they tend to use junior jobs to break into the Australian market. Focus your response on your plans to progress to a more senior role. “The answer should always be that you want to prove yourself and develop a new career with longevity with that employer,” said Spaulding.

8) What do you bring to my company that a local candidate doesn’t?

Begin your answer by showing your awareness of the local financial sector, said Kathy Rodwell, a career coach at Wildest Dream Consulting in Melbourne. Try to mention a particular skill shortage in Australia, these include compliance, marketing, financial planning and finance technology, and demonstrate how your experience can help plug this gap. If you’ve worked in Asia, shout about it. “In the finance sector, many Australian employers see expansion into Asia as critical for business growth, so present any skills or knowledge that will benefit a firm who has plans for such expansion,” said Rodwell.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager
  • Al
    22 July 2013

    I call it the wooden ceiling... have done so for several years.

  • jo
    20 July 2013

    Even if you should get the job be very careful as it is something of a backwater here. The market is very, very small and escape back to the real world and a half-decent career becomes harder the longer you stay.

  • Jo
    Joe Mangal
    5 April 2013

    For me it is the insights of South Africans that are most striking. They know what racism is more than most. So when a lot of them tell you the issues back home in the past were less demoralising, it is something that makes you sit up and listen. In South Africa, if someone doesn't like you the chances are they will let you know on your face. In Australia, the back stabbing tends to dominate, as one of the comments mentioned. A lack of performance culture, particularly in banking, is a huge downside factor about a career move to Australia. If you have serious financial qualifications and experience, don't expect to have it upheld. Ignorance is rife.

    BTW, I am not South African.

  • AA
    5 April 2013

    I totally agree and think that first two comments (MissingFacts and Joe Mangal) summaries the frustrations I went through.
    Australia is totally about mining RAW materials, the corporate sector is protected by local cronies who work together to protect their personal interest, not the organisation's interest.
    As an Asian, I had it even tougher even though I produce stellar results in my short time here. I will always be side line because of my skin colour.
    For non locals, you will never be able to progress based on merits. I would say it is very much modernized Communism here.
    My take is if you are not deemed as a local, you will never be able to see the light of the tunnel.

  • VK
    4 April 2013

    I am on the verge of getting GSM 189 approval. After reading above comments, I must say now I realise (regret??) I probably have wasted a lot of time and money in the whole process. The reason is simple. I got in touch with bunch of recruitment agencies providing all the details and my situation. To my utter surprise, NONE (not even a single one) has replied even a one liner to me. This is not the case with recruitment agencies alone. I got in touch with an HR from my past company (a global org) but the exp. is same. It gives me a gist of what to expect. I think it's very difficult for foreigner to land in a job there. If that's the case, why is DIAC doing this whole game of immigration? Totally confused.

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