Q&A with Ivan Neville, Assistant Secretary, Labour Market and Analysis Branch, Department of Employment

"I sit on the Graduate Employment Advisory Board at Deakin University with Ivan Neville, who is the Assistant Secretary, Labour Market and Analysis Branch, Department of Employment

I asked him a few key questions about CV’s and tips for job seekers - it is a very interesting read..." 


I have been with the federal Department of Employment for over 15 years and in my current role, I oversee the analysis of the contemporary Australian labour market and the identification of the current and future demand for skills. I also give presentations around the country on a broad range of labour market issues.

Prior to joining the Department of Employment, I worked in the ABS for many years in a number of economic and labour market areas.

I grew up in Canberra and studied at the Australian National University, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Graduate Diploma in Demography.

What are the “do’s” and “don’t’s” to include in your CV.

My main advice to job seekers is that they target their CV to the job they are applying for. It is also really important to check your spelling and grammar and, if you can, ask someone to proof-read your CV and application. We know that employers don’t spend long reading CVs, especially if they have had lots of applicants, so make sure it is not too long (2-3 pages is sufficient). Use clear and concise language to cover the key job requirements and presentation is important – your CV should look professional but doesn’t need to be fancy. Research the job and company you are applying for, and follow-up with a phone call. You only get one chance to make a good first impression so take advantage of it!

Why is gaining a university qualification so important?

The labour market has become increasingly competitive across all qualification levels. In the future, almost half of all new jobs will require a bachelor degree or higher, so going to university will generally improve a person’s employment prospects. We also know that graduates are now gaining entry-level positions within companies and working their way up, allowing them to experience a greater breadth of roles within their chosen field.

However, university is not for everyone and there are other pathways which lead to successful, fulfilling and well-paying jobs. Many people prefer and are better suited to undertaking a trade or other vocational education and training (VET) courses and in fact, many of the occupations currently in shortage are in trade based occupations.

Perhaps the most important message is: don’t do training for the sake of it. Get advice, do your research, and pursue the right type of training for your chosen career path or job.

Tell us what you are currently working on.

I manage a team of hard-working people who are experts on the Australian labour market. They are constantly analysing what is happening across the country, whether in regional areas or in particular industry or occupation sectors; where there is growth or whether there are shortages or skills in demand, as well as tapping into what employers are looking for. 

All of this forms part of a complex picture about how the jobs market is functioning and our analysis contributes to broader government policy. For example, we are currently studying the structural shift in the economy towards the services industries, as well as the rise in part-time work and the impact of the ‘gig economy’. We try to plan for known events and anticipate what might be around the corner and we need to make sure all our stakeholders can access our information.

While our work obviously feeds into the bigger picture, at a very basic level, it is very satisfying to know that our work can contribute to helping someone find a job.

Top tips for job seekers in 2017 and beyond.

The notion of a “job for life” is diminishing. Research shows that we can now expect to have 17 different jobs over a lifetime but in some industries, this will be even more. Job seekers shouldn’t expect to immediately get their dream job, but should instead view each job as a stepping stone towards their goal. Combined with a global marketplace, technological advance and an increasingly competitive jobs market, we all need to be prepared to learn and adapt.

It can be really tough out there so job seekers need to ensure that they meet the requirements of the job being advertised and stand out from other applicants. We talk to thousands of employers every year and they tell us that they value ‘soft skills’ just as much as technical skills and experience.  Don’t underestimate how important these employability skills are, including good people skills, the ability to work in a team, being organised, or innovative, or creative. These are also known as transferable skills, and while they may vary from job to job, you need to demonstrate to every employer that you have these.

One in five professional jobs is not advertised formally, so networking and approaching employers directly will allow you to find and apply for vacancies. Additionally, jobs that are informally advertised usually have fewer applicants, so not only will you be able to apply for more jobs, but there will be less competition for these jobs.

5 'Must Includes' for your CV

Getting a CV in shape for is one of the most important things when looking for a new role. Yes, it's daunting, but, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when you're updating it. Here's my must haves: 

1.     Always include your mobile, email and a link to a folio (if appropriate):

I know this sounds really obvious but you’d be amazed at the amount of CV’s I receive that do not have this information! Instantly it shows me that you’re disorganised and are a poor editor. 

2.     Keep your job experience points short and succinct — don’t waffle!

We need to get to the point as quickly as we can, yet include the variety of your skill sets in each job. Whilst your job experience points may be similar for each role you have had, try to vary them across the job descriptions. This will eliminate repetition and a potential viewer getting bored.

3.     Put your personal interests into your CV

People like to know what makes you tick, what interests you. Such as travel, photography, family, sport. This is also a good opportunity to include something personal and quirky, such as ‘I’m great at making coffee’, ‘Love cats more than dogs, but happy to pat dogs if they’re in the office'. Show your personality!

4.     Remember to include your skills and qualities — this is hugely important for a potential employer to see how you see yourself being represented. It also gives them an opportunity at a quick preview of the kind of roles you would be suited to in their business.

i.e. great attention to detail, strong leadership skills, friendly, flexible, excellent time-management skills.

5.     Include education, achievements and any awards along the way — having a CV is all very well but if you’re not updating it regularly you may forget things.


  • Such as short courses on design and folio production
  • Leadership and management roles
  • School captain or awards in excellence achieved
  • Or your involvement in relevant industry communities.

Good luck!