Recruiting in Australia (Part 1)

Over the last few weeks I have become very concerned about the state of the recruitment industry in Australia, in particular around IT although the comments will also hold true of other industries. I am preparing a few posts to work through the issues, mostly for my purposes but others might also benefit. (Had to put this disclaimer in after the build up at

While the last few years have been very difficult within the IT industry in Australia things are starting to look up. The demand for good technical talent is up, news reports have been flowing for several weeks now about the needs. This growth in demand is resulting in salaries begining to rise, sometimes for the first time in 4 or 5 years, 7.9% for the first half of the year. We are also seeing sign on bonuses being paid again, up to 10% for mid level and 100% for senior executive. To me this indicates a hot job market that is going to make it very hard to find good quality talent and recruiters are going to have start looking at the old passive candidate or new graduates to fill the gaps.

Enrollments in IT courses at universities have been falling for several years now, with most states reporting a fall of over 40% since 2001, causing several institutions either to shut or significantly downsize the IT faculty. Monash Uni, one of the biggest IT faculties has laid off the equivalent of 22 full time teaching positions in the past year alone, with more predicited to go!

IT as a career has lost the shine that it had in the 90’s when we could not get enough graduates, I suspect the dot com bust has had a significant factor to play in this. Most kids who are graduating from high school today would have been 13 or 14 during the blow out, old enough to remember. They were the ones who were fuelling the growth in consumer usage of technology and have had access to enough information to understand the state of the IT sector. Salaries have been falling, job security evaporated, growth in outsourcing and if you had a job you kept your head down and rode out the down cycle. Now the industry has decided to grow in the last few months without a sufficient supply of new graduates.

The industry has a 3 year lead time for university graduates and usually another 2 before they have “experience” and can “add value” to an organisation or project. IT budgets changes every 12 months and can go up at any time. On top of this technical skills and techniques can change overnight. If I was to review an IT course from 2001 would it have covered AJAX, .Net, J2EE, XML, RSS, Web Services, security technologies that are required today? Some might have been discussed but would they have been taught? Some techniques/technologies like AJAX, are brand new. This is not a jab at the professionals who teach but more a recognition that things change rapidly and it can be very difficult to keep up, even once you are in the industry. I am not even going to open the door to business applications skills in areas such as ERP, CRM and BI as things get even more complex and in general the same can be said.

So where to now……

8 thoughts on “Recruiting in Australia (Part 1)

  1. Hi there.

    Im a 21 year old Computer Systems student at the Boxhil Institute in Melbourne.
    I am about 4 months off compleeting my Advanced Diploma and have started to look for a full time possition.
    To be honest, I’m struggling.

    I know that im inexperienced and young and have been primarily looking for junior positions but still i’m very lucky to recieve a reply.

    I have huge amounts of retail and customer experience for my age and have a partnership in a computer repairs company(i havent written this in my applications though).

    There still seems to be this stigma of “if you dont have a degree your useless in the IT sector”, and from my standpoint this is rediculus.

    TAFE students generally have alot more hands on experience aswell as the thoeretical and technical knowledge. We also have the advantage of teamwork and workplace environment.

    We study the same as these university students, sometimes even more using partnershipts with both microsoft, sun and cisco.

    Im starting to loose faith in australias IT sector. My theory is that some sort of partnership for australian IT employers and the australian government should be set up.

    The australian government has made a big push towards traineeships. I think a program for pre-graduate students should be set up with major IT companies to invest in budding students by providing traineeships.

    Any thoughts? email me at


    – Matt

  2. Mike.

    Well I apologize but I didn’t realize this was a job interview… I assumed it was an informal chat on a topic that I felt I have a view towards.

    I assure you if I were applying for a job I would make every effort to impress. I have sent out resumes and cover letters in expensive covers, expressed posted them and called a few days later.

    And I can tell you in an interview situation I feel more than confident that I would impress.

    Is the grammar and spelling better?

    – Matt

  3. Anyone considering moving to Australia for a job in IT should be forwarned: be prepared to pay >50% income tax on top of, what is it now?, 12% GST (so, over 60% of your income will go to the man).

    I abandon that job market some time ago and I don’t recomend it to anyone else (consider working in NZ which has a much more reasonable 33% flat tax).

  4. Hi Mike.

    Thanks for the reply. To be honest I’m actually getting quite worried about my future.

    I have prematurely started looking for employment because I have a strange feeling ignorant employers, or recruitment companies probably wont even consider an Advanced Diploma Graduate.

    My class mates think differently. They are under the impression that they will walk into well paid jobs(not amazingly well) with a simple Diploma, which is more than some people have, they reason.

    This was the very reason I started my own business. I was hoping to gain not only the technical experience but also the administrative side to ITC. We are just branching out into web hosting but time will tell how successful that will be.

    If you could email me at I would love the opportunity to send my resume and a previously sent application letter.

    Thank you.

    – Matt

  5. Interesting comments, Mike I totally agree about recruiters not knowing the jobs they are recruiting for, I have seen this some many times it drives me insane. The other insane action is the like of usage of their databases as you say “pattern-matching”. My wife is currently seeking a job, she went to a large recruitment company had the initial interview and was told not enough experience. About 2 weeks later the same recruiter in the same company had a similar job with less experience requirements, do you think they called my wife? Nope, just ran an add, spent the clients money. Was she right for the job, not sure but given the previous one I would of expected they at least call her. If I was the hiring manager I would be pissed at the possible extra expense.

  6. Well, you know why they want to run the ad? Because they charge the client for the ad at the retail rate, but if they keep their advertising volumes up, they get an attractive discount from the papers. Therefore, more ads (no cost to them, right?) = more profit. They have absolutely no interest in using their so-called “databases” to match jobs with candidates.

    As a matter of fact, to me it is patently obvious that they have no interest in adding any value at all. How many times have you had no reply — not even an acknowledgement that they have received your application — from a “recruiter”? Have you ever had one of them do any more than put their letterhead on your CV (“Could you send that to me in Word format”?) and batch it up with a bunch of others that they send the client? Most of the time, agents can’t even be bothered to summarise the resumes they send an employer into some kind of standard format that addresses the requirements of the position they’re recruiting. They just run the ad and forward the resumes they get. Oh, and take their margin on your hard-earned.

  7. Oh Mike, again mate, spot on!

    I have had that exact experience.. it never occurred to me why recruiters would want my resume in a Word format.

    One question though. You seem to understand how these companies use the database to “pattern-match” prospective employees. How can we turn the tables and load our resumes with the keywords they are after?

    – Matt

  8. Well, if you really believe they have a database at all, you can maybe put a comment in your resume something like the following:

    “I would like to learn C# for 5 years, and play with JAVA for 10 years, and write lots of WEB APPS using J2EE, which I don’t know worth ENTERPRISE BEANS. I’d love to know what STRUTS are, and think it’s funny how many acronyms are used in Java: There’s JAXM and JAXB and JAX-RPC and JNI and JSP and JSTL and JTS and JNDI and all kinds of stuff. I used to use a .fishing .rod, but for the last 3 years I’ve used .NET I’ve had my money in the COMMONWEALTH BANK for 10 YEARS, and before that I knew someone who worked in the INSURANCE INDUSTRY for 5 YEARS.”

    The theory is that the teenage girl who’s matching the candidates to the the jobs is really only interested in texting her boyfriend, so will save time and only look at the HIGHLIGHTED PHRASES.

    Seriously, if you really think you need to go through a recruitment agency to get a job, then there is a trick to working them. That is, stay in their faces. Get the name of the ones you sent your resume to, and then follow up and follow up and follow up. If they stop taking your calls, give the receptionist fake names so that you’ll get through. Send emails, send letters, send faxes. Once or twice a week will do (don’t cross the line into harassment). Be polite, be cheerful, be positive, be really, really nice. No matter what they say or how they treat you. Try to establish a relationship with them. It will take hard work and may go slowly, but don’t surrender to the temptation to rush it. This is an endurance contest, and you MUST WIN!

    Now do the same thing with every recruitment agent you have ever sent a resume to. Sooner or later one of them either will start to want to help you (because, after all, some of them are human), or twig to the fact that to get rid of you they’re going to have to get you into a job.

    This whole process may take a while, and, depending upon your disposition, could be very bruising on you. The real trick is to keep it up (maybe with less intensity) after you have your job. Call every once in a while to say hello. Send them Christmas cards, or links to interesting articles. But whatever you do, stay visible to them. Farm the relationships — you put a lot into building them, don’t let them lapse.

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