The Times They are a Changing

September 10, 2021
Myer Lipschitz

Social and economic commentators are fond of telling us that Covid has been a game changer in how we interact socially, transact economically and work. It has certainly proven to be true of our business and the recent success that a couple of our clients have achieved in securing offers of employment whilst overseas has prompted me to consider whether employers (and recruiters) are in the process of changing their recruitment practices to give a greater consideration to applicants based overseas.

Our business was predicated on a business model implemented in the early 1990s based upon presenting seminars in countries overseas and conducting face-to-face consultations with prospective clients. We did this because we always felt that people wanted a more personal interaction and a personal interaction was likely to engender more trust than electronic communication.

It’s a business model that we perpetuated because it worked. There was no need to change to an online offering, however because of travel restrictions as a result of Covid, we changed the business model to a purely online service where we present online seminars with follow-up private Zoom/Teams consultations.

It was gratifying to see how well people have responded to the change and our online seminars are as popular as the face-to-face seminars we used to present. We have also been able to reach a much wider audience with online seminars.

I don’t know whether people have become more receptive to the virtual format because of health concerns about attending public seminars or with so much digital content available these days, why not obtain your immigration advice in a ‘virtual’ format? You can still see and talk to the person in whose hands your and your childrens’ future is being placed. Only now they aren’t looking tired and jetlagged.

Recruiters (and employers) have always preferred to employ Australian and New Zealand citizens for positions because of the easy cultural fit and familiarity with local workplace processes.

The first “cab off the rank” has been those with work rights living in Australia and New Zealand and then those physically present without work rights and lastly those applicants based overseas.

It’s been a constant source of frustration for us and our clients overseas and whilst it is possible for skilled migrants intending to immigrate to Australia to be able to do so without an offer of skilled employment, almost all of those intending to immigrate to New Zealand have needed an offer of skilled employment in recent years to score sufficient points.

Migrants intending to immigrate to New Zealand have usually had to quit their jobs to be able to spend sufficient time looking for employment at a considerable cost, both financially and emotionally.

There are a number of reasons why those living overseas haven’t been given their due consideration but it primarily involves factors relating to getting to know the personality of the applicant, the cultural fit, gauging the sincerity of the applicant in choosing that position of employment and the migration decision itself as well as a feel for the applicant’s English-language ability.

Employers are also concerned about:

–          How long will it take to get the work rights?

–          How much will it cost them?

–          How much admin will they need to do?

With the first question being the most important, although in saying this I don’t ever recall a client losing a job offer because it took too long to get a Work Visa – employers seem to always wait even when very impatient (presumably because the money and time cost of them having to re-hire is worse than just waiting a bit longer).

So I think the biggest advantage work rights holders have over others is simply that they can start work as soon as possible, especially in the case of NZ where most employers seem frantic to get the person started, they are often desperate because they have work that needs to be done but not enough skilled manpower. Unfortuntely New Zealand immigration rules make this impossible

I’ve recently noticed a couple of our clients based overseas have received offers of employment and more people that I consult with are advising me of potential offers of employment which has prompted me to wonder whether Covid has changed the employment process just as it’s changed our business.

There could be a number of reasons for this namely:

1.      The severe skill shortages in both Australia and New Zealand are forcing recruiters and employers to cast their net wider. Unemployment in New Zealand is 4% and in Australia 4.7% although if you take into account those that want to work but don’t get Centrelink (unemployment benefit) or who want but cannot get more hours is actually as much higher. They don’t have the option of ignoring applicants overseas. Necessity has forced them to look abroad.

2.       “Out of sight out of mind” is a philosophy that doesn’t necessarily ensure the best applicant is employed and just as we obtain our entertainment and information online so to should we interview our prospective employees online. As a company we can get overseas candidates into their jobs with work rights within a few weeks.

3.      There is a greater willingness on the part of employers to allow applicants to work for them remotely even if they are going to be physically located overseas until such time as borders open in Australia and New Zealand.

4.      Both Australia and New Zealand have indicated that travel restrictions will ease once 70/80% of the population is vaccinated and employers are recruiting applicants overseas (because of severe skills shortages) to take advantage of increased travel flows which may occur early in the New Year.

If recruiters and employers are prepared to give greater consideration to applicants overseas it would prove to be a game changer as far as migration is concerned and it would be a win as far as employers are concerned because the best applicant would receive the offer of employment, not necessarily the easiest placement. This would result in a better outcome for both the employer and Australia/New Zealand.

Some recruiters have been guilty of putting candidates forward in the past that would result in the quickest and easiest commission, not necessarily the best candidate who may often be physically located overseas and require visas to commence employment.

Those applicants based overseas without work rights have often been placed in the “too hard basket” but with changing social and labour market attitudes post Covid, I don’t think that employers and recruiters can afford to ignore applicants based overseas and if they want to adopt algorithms on recruitment related websites to initially screen applicants, I would suggest that physical presence and work rights should receive a relatively low rating if any at all.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s lyrics perhaps recruiters need to “admit that the waters around you have grown” (with more candidates) and give a greater consideration to those overseas.

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