CSIRO’s Jess Booth talks about great science and great people


CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world, employing around 6,500 staff.

As the largest employer of scientists in Australia, CSIRO is committed to increasing the understanding and appreciation of science in the community.

Jess Booth, Senior HR Advisor at the CSIRO, is responsible for over 130 scientists, managers and support staff in Sydney and tells CareerHub a little about her HR engine room and her thoughts about recruitment in the future.

Every day is different

CSIRO is a fantastic place to work because it’s all about great science, great people and great impact for Australia. It’s exciting to work around a diverse group of experts both in science and support functions such as HR.

I manage a number of people by coaching managers and leaders, mediating for conflict resolution and providing advice to staff. The thing I enjoy most about my role is the people I work with and the projects I work on. My manager, team and the wider HR community are really supportive and there is great freedom to take the initiative to explore projects of interest. Whatever initiatives I can think of, I’m allowed to pursue!

The pace of change is rapidly accelerating

Major external forces such as the global financial crisis mean huge organisational change. The major challenge for HR professionals is helping employees deal with this change.

At the moment competing for university vacation students to complete internships is a challenge as the economy is starting to bounce back. CSIRO has a strong brand in Australia so we are still finding that we are able to attract great candidates. The experience they receive here is invaluable, so the challenge is to give graduates an insight into our world.

It’s also about ensuring that people behave appropriately in the workplace (such as adhering to the code of conduct and organisational values) and that they perform by achieving their objectives. Changing behaviour is difficult, but really worthwhile.

Build a community that is excited about what you do, how you impact them and let them join the conversation

Part of my role is to reach students in a simple and effective way, and I am able to do this using the CSIRO careers site, social media and sites like CareerHub.

CSIRO engages with students at all levels because we’re passionate about Australian Careers in Science. At the moment my division, Materials Science and Engineering, is gearing up for the Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships Program where university students and graduates have the opportunity to come in and work on real-world projects in our labs, with our scientists, and get paid for it. We then hire a number of post-docs each year (university graduates who have completed their PhD) and also students who are currently completing Masters or PhDs in relevant fields.

2009 has been about trying new things. We partnered with GradConnection; essentially graduates log on, identify what’s important and have appropriate jobs ranked for them.

We launched into the world of social media, not only to attract the best students for our scholarships, but to share the experience with the rest of the community. It’s exciting and we are learning new things. We have attracted more than double the candidates we did last year with thousands logging online to look at our positions.

I’m Gen Y and highly involved in using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and blogging. I’ve met so many fantastic people who have helped me with ideas. It’s all about being part of a community and that’s why I think it’s a great avenue for businesses to get involved.

Deacons’ Social Networking Survey 2008 research suggests that 16 per cent of those surveyed indicated that an employer’s policy regarding online social networking would influence their decision to join one employer over another. Unsurprisingly, this was most prominent in the 16-24 year old age group, and it’s so true. Everyone is increasingly connected via their mobiles so we can tweet what we are up to or share photos. If graduate recruitment doesn’t reach out into this world, it will be left behind.

Looking forward, social media will be crucial as I’m not sure that future graduates will trawl traditional job boards if better alternatives are available that truly interact with them.

CSIRO is developing and improving new and existing technologies in Australia and overseas. Our research helps to create innovative and competitive industries, ensure the growth of a technologically advanced society and maintain healthy environments and lifestyles. Given that graduates will gain greater influence in the next few years as the power shifts back to those searching for work, sites which connect will be the way of the future. They’ll encourage graduates to think carefully about what they value in a job, and the sort of environment they would like to work in. Tailoring their job search, rather than just encouraging them to apply for everything, will mean better job fit, and happier graduates in the long run.

Jess Booth holds a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations) from University of Western Sydney where she was a Vice Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarship Recipient, and a Masters in Education (Adult Education) from University of Technology Sydney graduating with distinction. She is a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and Golden Key International Honour Society. Jess is also a finalist in the AHRI ‘HR Rising Star’ Awards with winners announced in November 2009.


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