Matt Donnelly from the Auckland office of international company Cobalt Recruitment tells Build about the challenges and opportunities in construction industry recruitment today.
Q. What is your background in construction industry recruitment?
I am coming up to 9 years in recruitment – 7 of those with Cobalt in London, Germany and New Zealand. I manage the team focused on the commercial and civil construction sector in Auckland and Christchurch and recruit within consultancy and client-side construction space.
Q. What recruitment trends are you seeing?
The macro trend is that demand is significantly outstripping supply. The industry is in a once in a generation boom, with a lot of investment across the private and public sectors driving the market. Resources are become increasingly stretched, with high demand for blue-collar and white-collar skills to keep up with the current workload.
The acuteness of demand has meant employers tend to want only people who are here in New Zealand, with New Zealand experience, and who are ready to go.
This is slowly changing, with greater openness towards the idea of recruiting potential employees from overseas and investing the time necessary in getting them up to speed with the New Zealand market.
Finally, we are seeing a rapidly growing number of Kiwis coming home. The uncertainty in the UK and Europe and the slower Australian job market, all coinciding with our positive market, have played a big part in attracting former expats home again.
Q. What are the main challenges currently facing recruiters?
Sourcing candidates and helping them understand clearly their options as well as managing employer expectations.
The industry is very close to capacity in terms of available resource, and there is more choice than ever for candidates in the job market. That creates a lot of noise and confusion, so it’s a recruiter’s responsibility to work with candidates to understand their criteria and then match that appropriately with the market.
With employers, it’s about helping them set realistic expectations about the likely outcome of their recruitment efforts against the criteria they have for the hire. In the property sector, the vast majority of employers are looking for the same thing and wanting it ‘yesterday’. Helping employers set realistic expectations in line with the current market is the first step to establishing a strategy that will work. We always suggest looking at both the local and international markets, where it’s appropriate.
Q. So, are recruiters able to meet the demand?
Yes and no. Current demand far exceeds supply, and the reality is we are working with a limited talent pool in the local market.
While there is a growing level of open mindedness to the international talent market, the majority of employers still insist on holding out for local talent. That can mean longer hiring timeframes, particularly if they are recruiting in a fiercely competitive space, which most are. Again, setting realistic expectations from the outset means a greater chance of success.
Q. What about sourcing staff from overseas – to what degree is this happening?
A small, but increasing number of employers are proactive and promoting their opportunities overseas at job fairs, on industry job boards and via industry-related publications. However, sector stakeholders, including employers, recruiters and the government should be more proactive in promoting the fantastic opportunities that exist here in New Zealand. There is a pool of migrant skills that are internationally mobile, and New Zealand could do a far better job of putting itself on their radar.
Q. How is the recruitment industry evolving?
The most impactful tool for recruitment has been LinkedIn. It’s social media for business that has been increasingly retooled as a dedicated recruitment platform. That has given employers, recruiters and candidates a new arena through which to connect, and it’s changed the game in the process.
Skype, FaceTime and the like have given employers a chance to interview people face to face no matter where they are in the world. This has obvious benefits if interviewing someone overseas or in a different region.
We’re seeing businesses adopt new recruitment techniques through videos, social media (Facebook, Twitter) and mobile phone apps to target people. They can specifically target the right person, and phone apps allow people to digest this information wherever they are. Broadly speaking, the recruitment process, no matter the industry, has benefited from technological innovation.
Q. What about in terms of skill levels? At career level, what are the expectations?
I think New Zealand construction professionals have always been very well rounded in their skill set, thanks largely to the fact they tend to be exposed to a lot more at a very early stage in their careers. This is hugely beneficial further into your career, as employers place great value on broad experience across sectors and project types. The need for specialist skills, however, is increasing with the complexity and scale of projects.
Q. Anything else that’s particularly important?
New Zealand will undoubtedly continue to experience challenges around resource availability for the foreseeable future. It’s important that recruiters encourage employers and stakeholders to think outside the square and embrace the capabilities that the overseas market can bring to the country.
Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.