January job surge makes hiring harder for employers

Kiwi employers are finding it harder to hire the people they need following a 16.4 per cent surge in job listings in January, according to the latest data from Trade Me Jobs.

Head of Trade Me Jobs Jeremy Wade said the year-on-year growth in January listings was above his expectations. “January is traditionally a very big month for hiring but this year was one of the busiest we’ve seen in a long time. Our three largest cities have been experiencing the majority of the pressure with listings in Auckland up by 14 per cent, up 19 per cent in Wellington and up 3 per cent in Christchurch.”

Jason Walker, managing director at Hays Recruitment New Zealand, agreed that demand from employers had ‘exploded’ in January. “December was quieter than usual, which I put down to the Kaikoura earthquake which rightly diverted many employers’ attention, but since January 16 there’s been an enormous spike in activity from our clients,” he said.

“It’s been bigger than any year that I can remember. Auckland and Christchurch’s demand for construction workers has been massive, and Wellington needs a lot of temporary workers particularly in demolition and engineering following the earthquakes. Anyone who needs experienced qualified specialists within the construction industry and technology sectors are having a tough time attracting people.”

Employer advice

In the last quarter of 2016 applications for roles in Trade Me Job’s Construction and Roading category decreased by 14 per cent on the year before.

Mr Wade said the jump in listings signalled more work for employers. “The dip in applications in that sector is a perfect illustration of how choosy some applicants can be in the current market.

“When job hunters have more choice, employers need to step up, they need to put in more effort to stand out, sometimes reset their expectations and we expect them to increasingly look ‘outside the square’ to find the people they need.

“I think employers need to be ready to invest in training, especially if they can’t get exactly what they need in the job market. Sometimes attitude and work ethic are more important than prior experience.”

Mr Walker said employers need to be organised to avoid shortages. “We recommend our clients plan out the year as much as they can and flag up where they are going to need people. Then they need to implement attraction strategies earlier than they used to – finding the right person in a few weeks isn’t going to happen in the current market.

“Broaden your shortlist too, give some people you wouldn’t ordinarily have on your shortlist the opportunity to impress you. Even if you don’t ultimately hire them, it might open your eyes a greater, more diverse pool of talent.”

Employers also need to be aware of how their employer brand is viewed in an increasingly competitive market according to Mr Walker. “You need to be sure your employee brand is strong. What makes you a great employer? What do you offer that the others can’t? That’s not necessarily money, but work environment and opportunities too. If your competitors are ahead of you on that front, then they’re going to beat you to the top talent.”

Job hunter advice

Mr Wade says that while employers are finding it tough there are also a subset of jobseekers who are struggling to find their next opportunity. “Anecdotally we hear of rare cases where users fire off a lot of applications without much success.

“Even when employers are really hunting for talent, job hunters need to show a genuine interest in the role they’re applying for, a generic CV and cover letter aren’t going to cut the mustard. I’d also recommend following your application up with a phone call. Put yourself out there – for example having a conversation with the hiring manager to introduce yourself can go a long way. Don’t just fire off an application and hope.”

Similarly, Mr Walker says the key problem for jobseekers is not doing their research. “Know the employer and make it count, the employer needs to see exactly how you and your skills fit what they’re looking for.”