Skip to main content

It’s a strange time to be a recruiter. I say “strange” but I suppose we’ve had quite a few strange times over the last few years; a growing economy falling off a cliff after someone ate a bat. The subsequent death of perm recruitment, whilst those who could source temporary supermarket staff ate caviar from strippers’ bumholes. Then a recruitment boom as New Zealand realised that we actually don’t have sufficient people to do all the things we want to do. These good times lasted a couple of years – certainly long enough for most of us to believe this was normal. Recruiters bought boats, baches, bigger houses, bigger lips, and smoother foreheads. Then God, having read one of Bob Walker‘s many LinkedIn posts about Recruiters who ghost candidates, decided it was time we felt his wrath again, and plunged us into a recession. A recession, which unlike recessions of my Dad’s generation where they had to eat leather belts, meant us recruiters had to knock a star off of our luxury holiday resorts, and fill our cars with 95 instead of 98. And then, not happy with Recruiters struggling to buy any more jet skis or handbags, the Lord Almighty decided He’d do all this in an election year.

Now I could be wrong, but I swear that elections didn’t have the same effect on recruitment in the UK where I started my career. I’m sure things slowed down a bit, but here in Aotearoa, we seem to have a whole city thrown into stasis for three months. This effect isn’t only felt in Wellington. Across New Zealand we have recruiters strapped into the proverbial dentist chair, wishing this whole thing was over. This time round it seems particularly bad. With both parties promising to slash government spending, particularly in the form of Contractors, and the likely winners leading the charge to sack every government employee, we have entered what Sir Alex Ferguson would have described as “squeaky bum time”. Anyone working in the public sector must be nervous right now. With a good many years riding the Governmental gravy train to a mortgage-free home, all of a sudden, the ticket inspector is coming round, and by-God that Motherf*cker is taking names. And of course, us Recruiters will fill the pain of a candidate rich market, with no desire to hire contractors. This won’t just affect Wellington recruiters, it’s all of us. More candidates means less money for us.

Is it all that gloomy however? I’ve been doing the rounds of late, and it’s interesting to get feedback from Recruitment GMs. As a rule, their thoughts are as follows: It’s tough right now. However, our definition of “tough” may have changed. “Tough” currently means that there are less jobs on, and clients are being more picky. During the GFC “tough” was being escorted by security, pot plant in hand, from your desk. It’s also currently very inconsistent. Most firms are certainly billing less, but some Consultants have had record months. This receives the official Whiteboard designation of “Lumpy”. There are also regional and industry variances. In Wellington, the market is slower almost across the board. In Auckland, A&F and corporate has taken a hit. Construction seems strong. IT still has money to be made, but…and this is bad news for many…everyone has to work harder to satisfy increasingly risk-averse clients. Lumpy indeed.

There are some positives however. I think it’s important to remember that recruitment is historically lumpy. Unlike a nice tech unicorn which can have customer acquisition plotted on a beautiful, exponentially-growing graph, we’ve always been all over the show. Every quarter, my accountant thinks we can grow 10% next quarter. Every quarter we disappoint him. To survive in this game, you take the rough with the smooth. Just learn to deal with it. Secondly, a lot of the current stumbling is based on election promises from politicians. And the wonderful thing about politicians, perhaps the only thing, is that they’re all absolutely full of sh*t. And when they get into power, it is the furthest they’ll ever be from potentially losing power. Hence we have so many unfulfilled election promises. Always. National may want to run government departments on the smell of an oily rag. Labour want to build a public transport network. ACT want to give automatic weapons to middle-class white kids. The Greens are banning brazilian waxes. None of these will happen. Instead, we’ll have a tough period for a few months, we’ll all complain, and then the phone will start ringing again.

Anyway, have a good weekend. I’m off on holiday so it’ll be somewhere else here next time round.