challenging times

It has never been easy finding the right candidates. Skill shortages, scarcity of talent, social media developments, and cost pressures make this a particularly challenging time for Australian recruiters.

key points

  • a strong resourcing strategy forms the basis of all recruitment initiatives
  • the growing importance of reputation and referral in a hyper-connected world adds a new dimension to recruitment
  • employer brand and employee value proposition are crucial
  • consider 'blind CVs' to avoid bias and encourage diversity in the workplace

It has never been easy finding the right candidates. Skill shortages, scarcity of talent, rapid technological developments and cost pressures are only some factors that make this a particularly complicated exercise for recruiters. The Department of Employment predicts that total employment rates will reach close to 12.9 million by 2020.

2016 research by the department projects employment will rise in 16 of the 19 main Australian industries over the five years to November 2020. The industries projected to grow most strongly (in percentage terms) are Health Care and Social Assistance (more than 250,000 jobs or 16.4%), Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (more than 151,000 jobs or 14.8%) and Education and Training (more than 121,000 jobs or 13.0%).

The three industries which are projected to experience job losses are Manufacturing (losing 45,700 jobs or 5.3%), Mining (losing 31,900 jobs or 14.1%) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (losing 9,400 jobs or 3.1%). And, not surprisingly, the largest loss (of 29,300 jobs) is attributed to the changes in the vehicle manufacturing subsector (represented in the manufacturing sector).

These changes illustrate how the employment arena is constantly shifting and changing to accommodate for market needs; which are clearly rising in health, social assistance and scientific services, yet falling in the production of cars, mining exploration and agriculture. For the full research report go to

Consider the impact of these changes on diversity in the workforce. Two out of the three strongest growing industries – health and education – have more than 70% women representation; providing a great opportunity for women in the workforce. Young people are expected to see growth in relevant industries as well, with more jobs in retail, food services and accommodation (the main industries for young workers). However, mature workers who make up more than 50% of the agricultural and transport industries may face challenges as lower growth, and even declines, are predicted.

34% of Australians use social media to find their next job, with Facebook and LinkedIn being used most.The ways in which people find jobs, and the ways organisations attract increasingly scarce skills, are changing too. Around three-quarters of job seekers go online to search for work, a quarter of whom use mobile devices. Smaller businesses are more likely to use online professional networks, social media and word-of-mouth to promote their ‘talent brand’ than larger organisations. 

2017 Randstad research reports that 62% of Australian candidates use recruitment agencies or headhunters, while 42% of job seekers use referrals and approach employers directly, underlining the importance of a strong employer brand. Randstad research also found that Australian firms continue to address skill shortages and talent scarcity by hiring more people on a temporary or contract basis (29%) or on flexible working arrangements (35%). Fortunately, Australian workers consider temporary work as the best path to securing a permanent role. 

The same research also reports that Australian businesses don’t plan long-term. Just 19% plan for more than two years ahead, 36% up to one year, and 45% plan for less than 12 months.

In this changing world of work, recruiters are constantly under pressure to reduce costs and increase effectiveness. However, the seemingly low cost of online job advertising is often balanced by the costs of aggressive promotion campaigns, which are required to stand out in a ‘noisy’ environment (e.g. company website, social and professional networking sites and job boards).

Employers are generally bullish about the positive impacts of social media on enlarging the potential selection pool (and on employer brand), with corporate websites and recruitment agencies the most effective ways of attracting candidates.

Other ways of seeking new sources of applicants as traditional pools become drained or over-utilised include upskilling existing employees, engaging a headhunting service or actively connecting with people who are returning to work.

Ironically, although overall recruitment costs and costs-per-hire may have reduced, a significant proportion of employers – particularly smaller organisations – still do not calculate employment costs.

Another cost to consider here is the cost of filtering and selecting the right candidates to interview from a potentially larger than usual list of applicants.

There are, perhaps, two other areas where Australian employers and recruiters ‘could do better’ – LinkedIn research shows that only 64% of Australian firms recruit newly-qualified staff (up to three years after leaving school or college), while the global average is 80%. Australia’s record on ‘passive’ recruiting is also 12 points below the global average, and well below the US and China.


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