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Recruiters and Rocket Scientists

By April 4, 20133 Comments

Anyone can do recruitment.  It isn’t exactly rocket science, right?

Heard that good old chestnut before?  Of course you have.  How about the fact that there’s no barriers to entry in recruitment? (Yawn).  That all we’re doing is chucking ads up on job boards (ok some are, hopefully many others offer more than that).  That we lie, cheat, beg and steal our way into the affections of unwitting clients who we beguile into accepting our jobseeker snake oil that never matches the brief anyway…

We in recruitment are undeniably awful.  Awful, that is, at explaining to everyone outside of the recruitment industry exactly what it is we do, why it is so tricky and complicated, why not anyone can do it, and why we charge what we do for our services.

Let me assure everyone that not “anyone” can do recruitment.  I recruit recruiters, for clients who also try and recruit their own recruiters, and sometimes it still takes bloody ages to find someone of the right talent, skill, experience and fit for a particular client’s requirements.  Sure, anyone can do recruitment, but only as long as that anyone is someone who can juggle a heavy workload of sales calls, marketing efforts, lengthy conversations, probing interviews, client visits, negotiations, influencing, networking all blended together with a cup of compliance, a dash of data entry, and a drizzle of humility and sophistication.

The good news for all you recruitment firms out there looking for people with this rare blend of ingredients is that Work & Income New Zealand have teamed up with NZ Immigration to reveal to us all that we do, in fact, have a whole glut of unemployed New Zealanders collecting benefits and all the while harboring this latent set of skills and characteristics that just need coaxing out of them with a little training.

Let me explain:

A sizeable proportion of the recruiters I place into NZ recruitment teams have gained their experience overseas, most commonly from the UK or Australia, and often they are coming to NZ as immigrants requiring work permits and visas to continue their recruitment careers here.  Now put it down to the European basket-case economy, or the endless winter, or the fact NZ is such an amazing place to live and work, but 2012/13 saw a surge in interest levels from overseas recruiters wanting to work here.

One such recruiter, with 5 years’ recruitment experience gained from the UK and Australia, did finally secure her work permit so she could get on with sourcing and recruiting incredibly hard-to-find IT talent for the Auckland technology market.  Something that should be welcomed as technology, innovation and R&D activities are all areas that spell the future for NZ economic growth and should enable us to keep punching above our weight globally.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with NZ Immigration she was finally granted a one year work permit, the class of visa which is typically provided to hospitality workers and bar staff… Furthermore, she was told by NZ Immigration that her case could have been helped had her recruitment company posted an advert, looking for an experienced recruiter, on a WINZ job board:

“It also appears that your employer has not engaged with Work and Income (WINZ) to find suitable New Zealand workers to fill this position.  Recent labour market checks we have conducted with WINZ indicate that New Zealanders are available and or trainable in this position.  With your next application, we recommend your employer provide evidence of their engagement with WINZ to find suitable New Zealand workers to fill this position.”

Now this is deeply concerning to me.  I mean, surely now I’m going to go out of business.  All the while my clients have been trying to source quality recruitment talent themselves, and then coming to me to ramp up the search even further, with online adverts, LinkedIn searches, networking, referrals, headhunting etc etc… All my clients need do, according to these guys, is contact WINZ who will provide a NZ worker to fill the recruitment consultant position.

If ever we needed proof that people outside of recruitment have absolutely no idea of what recruitment entails, and how difficult it can be, this is it.  This lack of understanding will hold NZ back from economic growth.

So how we do get our message out there?

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Phil says:

    I had this same issue with WINZ/Immigration when trying to extend a work permit for one of my staff in a previous role. According to their “database” they had 9 people listed as recrutiment advisers I ought to be looking at first – they sent me all the CVs and the MOST experienced of these had been an administrator in an HR team for about 3 months. I think your business is safe for now Jon!

  • Alex says:

    I think you’ll find that this is a standard protocol from INZ regardless of the industry/occupation of the individual (with some rare exceptions). Every employer must show evidence of having explored the NZ market for appropriately skilled people (which yes, does also mean WINZ) prior to attempting to introduce non-residents into the working community in NZ. This is not just specific to the recruitment industry and is across the board for skills that are not recognised on the Immediate & Long Term Skills Shortage List (ISSL & LTSSL). I’m not trying to write-off your level of frustration – however it is definitely shared amongst many employers in NZ who feel the same way about their accessibility to finely skilled/experienced workers in their respective industry. Some view INZ as a road block in this way.

    My belief is that most companies could do more to understand their obligation/s when hiring non-residents. As with most things, as soon as you take the time to understand the process and embrace a partnership (INZ, WINZ etc), you can start to make it work in a much smarter and more efficient way for your company, for the workers themselves and ultimately for a country who is very dependent on acquiring offshore talent.

  • Good article Jonathan. Its hugely frustrating when we see talent that is road blocked from INZ ….and agree Alex this is something that many companies are frustrated by. I think the point is that WINZ & INZ after all these years still haven’t taken the time to partner with Recruiters or Recruiting firms so they can use the market intelligence that we gather to help the NZ Economy or job situation in NZ. My lord I am so tired of WINZs lack of appreciation of how to help their unemployed. The misinformation provided to our job seekers is astounding , regardless of level of expertise and it just ends in bad results for everyone. Poor resumes, poor interview skills, inappropriate match to the role = No jobs. But then what do I know.. Heck I am a Recruiter .. and any one can do that .. Right?..