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Given that it was only this week that we entered the annual SARA Awards, now is not the time to be bagging SEEK in a blog. However, regular readers will know that this blog isn’t about being commercially astute. It’s about gossip, rumours, wild conjecture, and calling it as it is, typically to my own detriment. This week will be no different. Introduced in 2021, SEEKs variable pricing model is now part of the fabric of recruitment in New Zealand. Largely criticised, the inability of SEEKs competitors to capitalise on this has meant that us recruiters have, like herpes, learnt to live with it. Personally, and as highlighted in a rather obnoxious blog in March 2021, I’m one of about two people who actually quite likes the concept. Increasingly we live in a world where technology decides the price of goods and services. I own an Airbnb, and have never let a human set the price. Instead, a clever algorithm looks at the supply of guests, the time of year, what’s happening at Spark Arena, and a whole host of other stuff to maximise returns. When things are slow, my rates come down, which is how SEEKs variable pricing works right? …right?

Someone who will remain unnamed highlighted to me recently that they don’t feel that pricing has ever come down. “Prices never go down” you may think, however, in the words of SEEK, their pricing model works as follows:

The price of your ad will be based on a number of factors including shifts in the supply of candidates, and/or the demand for those candidates, as well as the average salary and location of the role being advertised.

This means that we may be lowering the prices for roles where there is a high supply of candidates in the location you’re hiring in. In turn, if you are looking to hire for a role where there is a low supply of candidates in the location you’re hiring in, the price of your ad may be higher.

Essentially, when candidates are scarce, but jobs are a plenty, SEEK ads will cost an arm and a leg. When there are no jobs, but loads of candidates, ads will become cheaper. Now tell me recruiters of New Zealand…how would you describe the market at this very minute? Actually, let’s see what SEEK say about this market courtesy of their employment report for April of this year:

  • Job ads fell 4% in April and are 30% lower year-on-year.
  • Applications per job ad rose 5% and are now 96% higher than the same time last year, when they were already at historically high levels

So let there be no doubt. We are in a market with a record high supply of candidates. This is of course bad news for us agency recruiters, however, great news that our ads are much cheaper now though.

Except they’re not.

I’ve been looking at some historical data on the price of non-plan premium ads, and I am yet to find one that is cheaper today than it was previously. Don’t believe me? Here’s some examples:

  • A Retail Manager in Auckland advert, placed 2nd August 2023: $320.82. The same role advertised yesterday: $373.46
  • A Customer service Representative in Wellington advert, placed 8th February 2022: $321. The same role advertised yesterday: $343.46
  • A Sales Manager in Pakuranga advert, placed 4th August 2022: $321. The same role advertised yesterday: $383.46
  • A Medical Practice Manager in Auckland advert, placed 30th June 2022: $321. The same role advertised yesterday: $363.46

And so it goes on. Every time I’ve checked this, I’ve got the same result. Non-plan, premium ads are more expensive now than they were during a “hot” employment market, and this goes against how variable pricing was sold to us. We were told to embrace the “win some/lose some” model, and yet I can’t find any data to support the idea that those placing the ads ever win. “Variable” appears to mean something different to SEEK; when the market booms, prices will go up. They seem to never come back down.

Perhaps, we’re the anomaly, so before jumping to conclusions, I suggest you all go away and check your spend. I haven’t checked this on our ads purchased via our “plan”, but I’ve been told by others that the situation is no different. And I talk to a lot of Recruitment GMs. As always, keen to get your comments below, especially if you work for SEEK.