Hints From HR: Job Seeker Pointers from Dymocks’ Head of HR

You’ve been through numerous applications and have followed every trick available at your disposal, but, you still haven’t landed the job. At this stage, you’re probably at your wit’s end and desperate for some practical job seeker pointers that could help you get that much-coveted job.

Step in, our series, “Hints from HR,” which aims to give you the exclusive tips and job search insights that you need. We’ve gone the extra mile and sought the help of people in the know, the HR Insiders, and asked them to impart some much-needed job seeker pointers to get you out of the rut that you’re in and into the job you desire.

In this, the third instalment of our series, “Hints from HR,” we’ve interviewed Paul Swain, Head of HR Dymocks, to share his key job seeker pointers and what makes a candidate stand out for him.


“They do more than just sell books but rather support their communities by expanding their reading knowledge.”

With over a hundred years of selling books, Dymocks holds a special place in the hearts of bookworms everywhere especially because they advocate the love of reading.

The origin of the Dymocks flagship store on George Street – Sydney’s greatest bookstore – goes back to 1879 when young William Dymock commenced business as a bookseller in nearby Market Street. In 1922, the Dymock family purchased the site of the old Royal Hotel in George Street upon which was built the historic, Art Deco landmark Dymocks building, completed in 1930.

With 60 stores in Australia and over 10 million books sold last year, Dymocks is the leading bookseller in Australia.

As a family owned business and the oldest Australian-owned bookstore, Dymocks prides itself on meeting the leisure, learning and gift needs of all booklovers.

Meet Paul 

What was your first job?

Delivering newspapers. I’ve always been a ‘worker’ and had 5 paper rounds at one point when I was at school. After that, I worked on a greengrocer’s market stall and then in a retail store. Nothing exciting but all great experiences to build basic skills to make you employable.

How long have you worked in HR?

Over 15 years.

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

I thought when I got older I would want to be either a Hotel Manager, Architect, Professional Sportsman or TV Travel Presenter. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up though!

What is your favourite part of your job?

Making the business a success through its people.

Hints from Paul 

What I look for in candidates:

You interact with candidates in different ways – what I mean by that is it’s hard to say, for example, what I look for in a candidate. What I look for in a candidate’s resume is different to what I look for when I meet them in person. And it’s different for different roles. 

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

Authenticity, drive, passion and honesty.

My advice to applicants who want to stand out: 

  • Get the basics right. Far too many candidates are struck out of the process because their CV has mistakes, or is too hard to understand.

  • Prepare well. Research the business and ensure you’ve read the position description

  • Take a notebook and pen with you into the interview. Have your questions prepared and noted down, and make notes during the interview.

Something you might not know about working for Dymocks: 

We have a charity that gives books to children right throughout Australia to change kids’ lives, one book at a time. Last year, we gave away 33,449 brand new, high-quality books of choice, benefiting 18,463 kids in 124 locations.

The biggest mistake you could make: 

Not telling the truth. Good interviewers will see through it most of the time. Focus on your achievements, your positive attributes and what you’re good at.

The first thing I notice about a resume: 

Is when it’s easy to understand. It should be obvious what roles you’ve done and what you’ve achieved, as it’s what most employers are going to be looking for. There are plenty of ways of reviewing/sifting resumes so that isn’t exclusively true, but in reality, it’s how most recruiters will operate.

The first thing I notice about a candidate at an interview

The first impression. It’s not hard to arrive a few minutes early, be dressed appropriately and know the name of the person you’re there to see. Getting the basics right won’t get you the job, but getting them wrong can quickly cost you.

Questions a candidate should never ask: 

I would try to avoid asking transactional questions that aren’t appropriate for an interview. Or things you should reasonably know.

Don’t shy away from asking: 

Anything about what it’s like to work there such as what training and opportunities the business provides? What is the culture like? What does it take to be successful in the business?

Don’t let this hold you back: 

Inexperience. If you get the interview, focus on your strengths and positive attributes. Sometimes employers are looking for something as simple as someone who will show up every day, be on time, learn fast and give it their best effort. This can especially be the case if you’re applying for entry-level positions.

What I want to know about you as a person:

I often ask a candidate what they do when they’re not at work. It’s often my first interview question. It doesn’t matter what they answer, but if they don’t light up when they talk about what they enjoy most in life, then they’ll never be enthusiastic about what we do.

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

I don’t test candidates on whether they’ve done their research, but I expect them to have done it. Candidates who ask intelligent questions about our business, or relate their experience or skills to our business, show that they have done their homework and, equally importantly, know how to apply it. As a minimum, you should look at your prospective employer’s website, social channels and a Google search to see if they’ve appeared in the news recently. Candidates should also do this to check that the company is somebody they actually want to work for!

My advice to an unsuccessful candidate:

Ask for feedback, and accept the feedback you get! Only question if you don’t understand it, not if you disagree. Either way, go away and reflect on it and decide if you should do anything differently in future once you’ve thought it through. If you feel confident you can ask if doing anything differently would have got you the role, and if they’d consider you for future vacancies.

If your love for books, and this Q&A with Dymocks Head of HR, has sparked your interest in working for this Australian icon then you can stay up to date with their developments and latest job opportunities by joining their future talent team here!

Want more hints from HR? Click here to view all… or skip straight to hints from the “people” people at Chatime or Coco Republic.



  • Dafhney Ned

    Could you please tell me if there’s any fee .I’m just looking a job long time but still haven’t any job yet.

    • Rameet Singh
      Rameet Singh

      Hi Daphney there is no fee for registering and setting up your profile on JobGetter.com. I would encourage you to do so and you will we be sent jobs that match your profile. If you need any help with it you can get in touch with us support@jobgetter.com. Good luck.

  • Anne

    When you talk about your expectations about candidates “as a person”, ie that they must light up about what they love in life – where dies this leave capable, intelligent people with depression? For someone like me getting a job is a first step to creating that sense of hope and possibility that life could actually be deeply enjoyable and satisfying. It’s hard to “light up” when your will to live has be drastically affected.

    • Matt Jepson
      Matt Jepson

      Hi Anne,

      Thanks for your comment – and you make really fair point. Getting through an interview can often feel like the hardest part of getting a job. The main reason that employers are asking questions about your life outside the job is so they can see and connect with you as a person instead of just another candidate. Undoubtedly, having depression can make “lighting up” during the interview difficult. However, even if you are working through depression there are ways to answer that question that can win over the interviewer and reveal to them what makes you, you.

      Perhaps you have a hobby that makes you feel better when you are feeling down, or you have a pet you care for. The question isn’t trying to trip you up, they just want to see you outside of your qualifications and previous experience.

      That said, there are a few tips to help you feel more like “lighting up” before your interview.

      1. Do something that puts you in a good mood and makes you feel good about yourself before the interview. That might be buying a new interview outfit or getting a fresh haircut. Something that makes you feel more like you.

      2. Volunteer with an organisation. Not only will you have some more experience to put down on your resume and give you talking point for your next interview, it can also give you some practice interacting with people in a positive way despite your depression.

      3. If you aren’t getting professional help for you depression I strongly recommend it. GPs and counsellors are the best people to help you manage and recover from your depression. Online resources such as BeyondBlue affliated Head’s Up and Black Dog also offer helpful information. This can not only help improve your job hunting but will also help with your life outside of work.

      Don’t take it personally if you don’t get the job even though it might feel that way. Eventually some employer will see that you are the perfect match for their job and will be over the moon to take you aboard.

      Good luck with your interviews and please reach out if you need more information.


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