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With borders open we are seeing plenty of Kiwi businesses searching for top talent - Here's what you need to know to get ahead.

Desk with laptops, much coffee and people working
 
Employer trends

Quite a few New Zealand firms across the SaaS and technology sector, have experienced unexpected organic growth in overseas markets during the last few years. Many are looking to capitalise on that trend and grow further. Companies which have done well recently are looking to resource up which may also include creating new roles. Primarily these are companies looking to expand their digital footprint, or grow their e-commerce offerings. In some cases, these companies are also looking to expand their global footprint at the same time which means candidates with both relevant market experience and digital or e-commerce experience are in high demand.

We are still seeing a little bit of ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’ from local employers especially if this relates to international growth or scaling up. Because a lot of NZ businesses don’t have previous experience of doing either of these things, they may struggle to accurately scope the role or have unrealistic expectations about finding unicorn candidates who meet every element of the brief.

Organisations across the board are getting much more comfortable with virtual interviewing and many will happily extend an offer to a candidate who is still living overseas. Most will only hire candidates who have a NZ passport, so they can easily get into the country without a visa.

Candidate trends

Most people returning to New Zealand have pretty realistic expectations about what the job market can offer. If anything, they are expecting less than what is actually possible so are often pleasantly surprised when I talk to them about the range of available roles.

Most people are pretty confident that they will find their feet and are comfortable with the process of transition and the experience of ambiguity that characterises the first few months back in NZ because they’ve already had at least one experience of arriving in a new country without a job and figuring things out as they go along. What I see are people consciously employing all those useful skills and mind-sets that they’ve gained in their previous life to their NZ job hunting experience as well.

Most of the candidates we see are pretty open to considering a range of options – from multi-national to small, local firms – and don’t seem to have a fixed view of the kind of role they want to take on. They are also very comfortable to start with a contract role, rather than holding out for permanent because that was what they did when they first moved offshore.

Interestingly, I’ve also spoken to a few people, mainly those who are more experienced or senior in their field, who are keen to set something up on their own so that they can work with a range of companies in an advisor or consulting capacity.

Advice for job hunters

Well first of all, if you want a holiday first, don’t start job hunting too soon. Secondly, avoid the scattergun approach. New Zealand is a small place, and if you indiscriminately apply for every role, you may be seen as desperate which, is not the impression you want to create.

Do the work to make sure that your CV has been translated into the NZ format, which may include translating some of your old job-titles into the local vernacular. Speaking to a specialist recruiter about how to do this is probably the best way to get this right.

Companies are really keen to hear how you will add value to their business so be prepared to present yourself in commercial terms. This might mean being really clear on your ability to generate revenue or retain key clients. Equally it could be presenting your technical specialism in a way that directly links to the bottom line.

This being New Zealand, the interviewer might not directly ask about things in monetary terms but they will ask around it. I think it’s best to front-foot these conversations so make sure you’ve got concrete examples and know your numbers.

Companies are open to virtual interviews and making offers to those who are still abroad so it is worth starting to look while you are still overseas. Remember that a lot of jobs are not advertised so make sure that you connect with local recruiters who may know who is hiring in your field or be able to proactively market you in to the right firms.

Some organisations are quite comfortable setting people up to work remotely for a while before the person makes the physical move back to NZ, some are not. It’s probably a good idea to raise this with the recruiter fairly early on if your timeframe for returning is unknown or some way off.

Advice for employers keen to tap into the returning market

First of all don’t be fooled by thinking that volume equals calibre or that every returner will be desperate for a job. The market is still competitive, especially for those with in-demand skills and good talent are quite prepared to bide their time and wait for the right role.

If you’re looking to hire people with specific experience to help you do something you’ve never done before – expand into a foreign market, implement a digital strategy, scale up and so on – listen to the candidates if they tell you that you’re scoping the job wrong. A few times I’ve seen a candidate walk away from a job offer because they know, based on their experience, that they are being set up to fail, but the company doesn’t realise because they have never done this before.

Relatedly, consider engaging repats with extensive experience or who have held senior roles, in a consulting or advisor capacity. There are lots of areas where NZ businesses traditionally struggle – scaling up, transforming from traditional retail to e-commerce, entering new markets – which are often areas of expertise for returning talent. In some cases, investing in getting some good advice before you make your plans, might be a better option that trying to hire someone to do a poorly scoped job.

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