Hints from HR: Emma Miller, HR Manager at Billabong Group – Australia

In the world of job searching something as small as a typo could mean the difference between getting the job or not. Add into that today’s world of online job applications and the chances of sending off a cover letter with mistyped words or poor grammar are tenfold especially if you’re doing it from your smartphone. Plus, unfortunately with job ads more accessible thanks to the online world of recruitment, this means more people apply so more competition for you and more work for employers.

Facing the monumental task of filtering through hundreds if not thousands of applications to find the right new hire, employers look for almost any reason to cut down the list by knocking people out of the running for something as seemingly unimportant as a misspelled word. 

In fact, Emma Miller, HR Manager for Billabong Group Australia, says that the first thing she notices in a resume are, “Spelling errors!”

Don’t let something this preventable eliminate you prematurely from the game. It pays to take your time and triple check your spelling before hitting “apply” – better still, get someone else to run their eye over it. 

Read on to get more insights and advice from Emma in this edition of Hints from HR

Billabong Group – Australia

Billabong was founded in 1973 by Gordon and Rena Merchant in Australia’s Gold Coast. The name “billabong” is derived from the Wiradjuri word “bilabaŋ” that refers to a “creek that runs only during the rainy season”.

Starting with board shorts made at home and sold to local surf shops, Billabong gained traction when surfers realized the durability of their shorts thanks to their unique triple-stitching technique. Today, the company sells surf and skate clothing, hardware and accessories under the following brands: RVCA, Honolua Surf, VonZipper, Xcel Wetsuits, and Element. The brands are available at various surf and skateboard store locations worldwide.

The company has approximately 5,000 staff worldwide and its shares are publicly listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Billabong International’s products are licensed and distributed in more than 100 countries and are available in approximately 11,000 doors worldwide. Products are distributed through specialized boardsports retailers and through the Company’s own branded retail outlets.

Meet Emma

What was your first job?

Good old McDonalds although I quickly discovered that fast food industry wasn’t for me, so I moved into supermarkets and then retail.  Don’t be afraid to put your hand up early on if you feel the team/role are not right for you.  Chances are, if you feel that way your employer probably does too and you can work through together to determine if it’s something that can be easily resolved, or you may need to find a role that you are better suited too.

How long have you worked in HR/recruitment?

17 years, but it feels much less!

When you were 9 years old, what did you want to be when you “grew up?”

A marine biologist so I could swim with dolphins.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Seeing someone grow and develop and knowing that I supported them through that progression.

Hints from Emma

What I look for in candidates: 

We have a unique culture, so how a person may be able to fit into a certain team or environment or may be able to adapt to a more informal working environment is critical. 

To me, the most employable skills a candidate could have are: 

Commitment, authenticity and adaptability. 

My advice to applicants who want to stand out: 

Keep your application simple and to the point and take the time to tailor it for the role you are applying for!  Creativity and out of the box applications can be great, but if it doesn’t correlate to the role you are applying for or doesn’t provide enough detail or substance to be assessed, they can be way off the mark.

Something you might not know about working for Billabong Group: 

We have an annual surf day for our Head Office team members, where we enjoy the day at one of our gorgeous local beaches, eat great food and encourage friendly rivalry.  Easily my favourite event of each year.

The biggest mistake you could make: 

Addressing your cover letter to the wrong person / company!  We want to know that you have a desire to work for us, not that you have put out blanket applications but not taken the care to proof read what you are sending out.

 The first thing I notice about a resume

Spelling errors!  Unfortunately, when we receive so many for a role, errors can easily knock you out.  May seem harsh, but when you are talking about roles that require a level of attention to detail it’s important to know if you really have been a barrister or if you actually have been serving caffeine goodness to people (barista).

The first thing I notice about a candidate at an interview

Your overall demeanor.  That is; are you punctual, do you look prepared, personal presentation, are you overly nervous, or worse – overly confident?

Questions a candidate should never ask: 

To be honest I have never had a candidate ask a question that I made me shake my head.  However, I have had a candidate quick fire questions at me that were more personally focused (about my experience, etc) than job/role related.  This was somewhat off putting.  I understand that a candidate wants to understand if the manager is the right person for them but have some balance in how you go about this.

Don’t shy away from asking: 

About the team you will be working for, the unwritten rules of the business or what the hardest parts of the job are. 

Don’t let this hold you back: 

Not having direct experience in the role you are applying for, but if this is the case be clear and upfront about why your experience is transferrable to the role.

What I want to know about you as a person: 

What makes you most satisfied in a work environment and equally what frustrates you the most. These two things help me readily assess if our culture or environment are right for the candidate. 

What homework I expect you to have done before the interview:

I expect candidates have researched the company.  A simple visit to a company LinkedIn page will generally give you the information you need to be able to answer any questions with company context in mind.

My advice to a candidate who wasn’t successful:

Ask for feedback and don’t give up on continuing to apply for roles with a particular company if you weren’t successful first time around.  I think I applied for a HR role with this business 3 times before I even secured an interview!  Our role in the recruitment process is to ensure that we hire the right candidate for a role.  Sometimes this may mean a highly experienced and capable person isn’t successful, not because they can’t perform the role, but it is likely that they will struggle or not enjoy the particular work environment or team.


If this Q&A with Billabong’s HR Manager has sparked your interest in working for this prolific company, check out the video below… 

Want more hints from HR? Click here to view all… or skip straight to hints from the “people” people at Valiram (the group behind Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Bath & Body Works and many more leading retail brands) or LUSH Fresh Cosmetics.

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