Hints from HR: Maree Foti, Head of Talent Acquisition, Guardian Early Learning Group

Not all job hunting experiences are the same. And, while there’s no shortage of well-intended job search tips and advice out there, knowing which “words of wisdom” are the right ones for you and your circumstances can be difficult. But, in this latest edition of JobGetter’s Hints from HR series, Maree Foti, Head of Talent Acquisition for Guardian Early Learning Group, provides sage advice for any job seeker.

With over 20 years experience, Maree’s impressive credentials span national and international roles where she has employed her expertise to develop recruitment strategies to attract top talent, articulate strong Employer value propositions, maximise the potential of employees and so much more. 

You only have to meet Maree or talk to someone in her network to know she has a heart of gold, a wealth of knowledge and an undeniable talent for helping people achieve their full potential. Like the team at JobGetter, Maree truly believes that everyone’s dream job is out there.

Read on to not only get a healthy dose of practical advice but also a valuable boost of encouragement…

Guardian Early Learning Group

Since being founded in 2004 Guardian has been at the forefront of childcare in Australia. 

Their name, Guardian Early Learning Group, reflects the nature of their business as one of both early education and care. Their goal is to continue improving the quality of education and care provided at their existing centres and to grow steadily by opening Australia’s best early learning centres, ensuring that Australian families have access to the very best in early learning and care for their children. 

An employer that is dedicated to lifelong learning, those who join the Guardian Early Learning Group become part of a community of early childhood professionals who are passionate and committed to the care, education and development of children in their early years.

Meet Maree

What was your first job?

My first ever job was as a waitress at a local cafe … I soon learned that this was not my calling and began working casually in a fashion retailer. I continued working in retail whilst I was completing my Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Human Resources and Industrial Relations Law.

How long have you worked in HR/recruitment?

I’ve now been part of the HR community for over 20 years. I have learnt so much throughout my time and had the privilege of working with so many amazing HR professionals. I have always enjoyed providing the opportunity for individuals’ to realize their own unique career aspirations.

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

A teacher initially but then I wasn’t sure for a long time.

What is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite moment is that phone call to offer a candidate the role they have been working towards. Listening to the excitement in the person’s voice when they know they have been successful for their dream job is the best experience.


What I look for in candidates:

Never underestimate how important your energy is. Show your prospective employer the attributes you will bring to the role! There are so many occasions I can recall when a hiring manager has shifted their thinking, and decided to make an offer to the person that had a little less experience because of what that person will bring to the role. Remember, employers are looking for a candidate that they believe can make a mark on the organisation, so bring your energy, be yourself and make an impression!

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

… passion for the brand and the position you’re applying for. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the Company, the recruiter can tell. Share a meaningful reason as to why you want to work for the Company. Be ready to open up about why the role is part of your career plan. Perhaps the role is a stepping stone, or maybe you’re an expert in the field and the brand takes you to a new level of being able to share your knowledge — whatever your story is, let it be known!

My advice to applicants who want to stand out:

Stand out for the right reasons. Be yourself — be authentic and genuine. Always follow through with your commitments throughout the interview process. It sends the wrong message when a recruiter has to chase you to follow up for next steps. If you need more time to complete a request as part of the process, just let the recruiter know. I can’t think of a time when a recruiter hasn’t granted a reasonable request. Just speak up, and if you respectfully explain what you need to be successful, it will usually work out.

Something you might not know about working at Guardian Early Learning Group:

Guardian Early Learning is on a mission to become a provider of the highest quality early learning centres in Australia. Influenced by the Reggio Emilia Approach, the educators are qualified and passionate professionals that are focussed on helping children thrive. I have been inspired by how dedicated the team truly are. I have also been really encouraged by how much scope there is to grow your career. There are so many regular events that connect and support our educators ongoing development, and I have seen examples of educators that have been part of new centre openings, or have gone on to become Centre Managers or Operations Managers across the business.

The biggest mistake you could make:

I believe applying for any job requires a really good mindset. You need to be willing to make the time to put the right level of effort into the process. It is important to remember that whether you are successful or not, there are always “learnings” to take away from the experience. Having a positive attitude and trusting you will be successful for the right role is key. There are always new and exciting opportunities arising so we are very lucky in this day and age that we can keep looking forward for the next role that may inspire us to start an application!

The first thing I notice about a resume:

Writing a resume takes time and requires thoughtful consideration. Put yourself in the shoes of those that will receive the document. At a glance, is it visually appealing? How easy is it to read? What is the flow like? Are the requirements specified in the job ad accessible to the reader? Being able to easily work through the resume, identify a candidate’s most recent experiences and their proudest achievements is essential to the recruiter. I would also suggest that the resume is in a style or format that is aligned to the industry. There are so many great examples online that are free – start googling!

The first thing I notice about a candidate at an interview:

To me the first impression is everything. Good eye contact, a genuine smile, confident handshake, and an upbeat introduction are so effective when creating a good first impression. This is a simple way to set a lovely tone for an interview. This may sound overly simple but trust me, presence goes a long way. Every touchpoint with your prospective employer, and the way you present during each of these interactions makes all the difference to your success.

Questions a candidate should never ask:

I don’t believe there are any questions that are off limits. If there is an important consideration for you, put it out there! Just be respectful if you’re advised that it’s not the right time to discuss or share the information you’re seeking. Having a number of key questions ready does show the recruiter your interest, however at the same time I have had plenty of candidates list the questions they were going to ask then explain that they’ve already received the answers or information they were looking for from our discussion. So, if you feel questions are not necessary, this is okay too.

Don’t shy away from asking:

Always ask the questions that are on your mind. Even if it is about benefits, pay, culture and values. Personally, I think it is important to speak openly about the potential remuneration package and benefits throughout the process. It is important that the take home pay is going to work for you personally. This is also important to the recruiter as well – they don’t want to make an offer to you, after all the effort both the Company and yourself have gone to, only to find out the package won’t be suitable for you. Usually these areas are discussed throughout the process to ensure there is a common understanding, and no surprises at the offer stages!

Don’t let this hold you back:

I have had so many people at an interview explain they are nervous. I always think highly of those that have good self awareness, and are brave enough to let you know how they are feeling. A good recruiter will always take a few minutes to pause their questions, and do what they can to help you feel at ease. The Company has already invested time in selecting you for an interview because they see potential value in your skills and experience. This means they want the interview to be just as successful as you do. Always remember that it is definitely a two-way street and each party is hoping for success, so you should never let the nerves hold you back!

What I want to know about you as a person:

Throughout the interview, it is great to have a sense of your interests outside of work. I know it sounds cliché but it is so important. Consider this in the context of the Company values and the role. When you are recruiting a barista and the candidate lets you know they spent the weekend at a coffee festival, it’s interesting and relevant. There are so many examples so as I have already said, just be yourself and if it feels right to share, just do it!

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

I don’t think it is necessary to google every aspect of the organisation prior to the interview. Refresh yourself on the job advertisement prior to the interview, review the careers website and the social media sites, particularly LinkedIn. Look at how the brand is positioning themselves in the market and their latest areas of focus so you can draw on this in your discussions, but remember that the main objective of an interview is to find out more about you and what you can bring to the organisation as opposed to anything else. 

My advice to a candidate who wasn’t successful:

Take the opportunity to reflect on the experience. Sometimes it just isn’t the right timing or opportunity, and focus on what is around the corner. Whether it’s with that same company or another, there are always so many career opportunities. Stay positive, and keep moving forward until you land your dream role. It is definitely out there!

If this Q&A with Guardian Early Learning Group’s Head of Talent Acquisition has sparked your interest in working for this fast-growing company, check out the video below — and current vacancies here

Want more hints from HR? Click here to view all… or skip straight to hints from the “people” people at Dymocks or Sussan Group (Sussan, Sportsgirl and Suzanne Grae).


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