Early September in Oxford is a great time to be here in the city. Not only does St Giles Fair place terryingly fast fun fair rides mere centimetres from ancient college buildings, but it’s followed by the annual Open Doors weekend. This is where those ancient buildings throw open their doors, encourage their staff to put on volunteer T-shirts, and allow interested people to just have a good nose around. And all the way to the east in the Oxford Business Park, in a much less ancient building, Oxfam HQ was joining in as well.
In keeping with their aims and focus on poverty goals, Oxfam does not invest their time in attendance at careers fairs, and so they’re a potential employer who can feel less well understood. In fact, Oxfam were this year rated the 8th most attractive employer in the UK by university students (and 6th most attractive by students at Oxford). And yet, with little graduate marketing spend, students often report that they’re not sure exactly what working for Oxfam might be like. With HR personnel on hand at the open day, and three stories of offices to nose around, I went to find out…
Chatting with HR
Many thanks to Jenny McGugan, Jo Naylor and Frederica Gambini, for kindly answering my questions about recruitment with their HR expertise.
- Many staff began in an entry-level role (Jo Naylor herself started in an administrative support role in the HR team before realising she really enjoyed HR).
- There are still a few roles in Oxfam’s HQ for those with backgrounds in international development, but the aim is to move those roles in-country where the skills can be more sustainably passed on.
- They run a specific internship scheme which graduates are welcome to look into (although it’s aimed at a wide variety of individuals, not just university students)
- Others apply from other sectors for more specific roles having gained some relevant skills elsewhere.
- As a large charity they aim to pay 5% above the charity median wage for each role (they don’t compare themselves to the private sector)
- Jobs are advertised primarily on the Oxfam website (although often are featured in other job search sites too)
- Sign up for tailored job alerts on Oxfam website
- Apply for the right job that matches your skills!
- They are a values based organisation (looking up these values in preparing for your application is advisable!)
- Lots of applications tips on their website
- Speculatively sent CVs are not kept on file
- They don’t typically sponsor visas for those that would need this to work in the UK
- Interviews are competency based (about your relevant skills and abilities for the role) – you might like to look at our resources on preparing for competency interviews
- They don’t tend to run a standard set of assessment tasks: it’s unique to each role
- Second interviews are not standard practice (only done if they need to re-check any question marks)
Career development and progression
- They are very keen to retain talented people, and offer professional development support (such as the CIPD for HR roles, and would take on a part- (although probably not un-qualified) accountant and support them to complete their profesional training
- They aim to support a good work-life balance (although when people are this passionate, it can be hard!). In professional reviews time management is commonly discussed, and staff are encouraged to ask for support if they’re regularly working over their standard hours.
- Those that take maternity or paternity leave can use up to 10 paid ‘Keep In Touch’ days during their leave to help them maintain their knowledge and integration.
- Trading: Oxfam shops, Deputy and Manager paid roles plus 22,000 volunteers, HQ roles in finance, visual marketing etc.
- Fundraising and Supporter Marketing: digital marketing, events team, trusts and foundations, major donors, corporates
- Campaigns and Policy
- International: 860 staff in Oxfam House in Cowley, 5000+ worldwide (including (logisticians, HR, finance, engineers,healthcare) as well as development experts)
- Communications: PR, media, brand and image, external and internal
- Finance and IT systems