Hiring in a Skills Shortage; Help for Struggling SMEs

Posted on August 16, 2021 by Tania Howard

You may have heard; unemployment is at record lows of 4%.  You probably didn’t need that official
statistic to know how hard it is to find and recruit people for your business right now.   

I’ve outlined the contributing factors – what this means for small businesses and how you can improve your chances of finding staff.

How did we get here? 

Well it’s been a bit of a perfect storm!  I’ve been saying for years that NZ would fall over if it wasn’t for immigrant labour.  Well, Covid has shown us a glimpse of that reality. 

Many international students would work 20 hours a week, often in hospitality and retail.  Those whose English communication skills weren’t great often ended up in cleaning, factory or security jobs.  Then when their studies were complete, they would receive Study to Work visas, and enter the full-time employment market. 

Those streams of people are severely reduced.  People on working holiday visas have had their times extended, but it hasn’t’ been anywhere near enough to fill the gap.  And naturally there’s (almost) no immigration. And with all the press about people losing jobs last year, it appears some people are still nervous about going to a new employer, so sitting tight.  More so those on Visa’s waiting until the impending Immigration changes become clearer. 

This exacerbated a very tight market with serious shortages, critically so in trades, in what is a rapidly growing country.

My small and medium business (SME) clients are saying, “…but we’re not in those industries”, trouble is it has had a knock-on effect.  Businesses have compromised on the calibre or skills of candidates and vacuumed up people, that would have perhaps worked in another sector. 

The positive being that some people are getting opportunities they wouldn’t have previously.

Unfortunately, most SMEs can’t train someone as they are too small, they don’t have a ‘trainer’ let alone the time (or double resources) to allow someone to get up to speed.

Whatever has happened SMEs need to know that they are disproportionately affected due to the lack of branding and sheer ‘pulling power’ of larger businesses. 

How can you hire a great candidate when they don’t even know who you are?   And when most advertising follows ‘post-war’ methods, extending a shopping list of ‘must-haves’.

So I thought I would outline some actions you can take as a SME to improve your hiring chances:

  1. Be a good employer, seems obvious but many employers still think they’re doing the employee a favour.  Employment should be a mutually beneficial arrangement.  A great employer’s employees will become their greatest advocates.
  2. Be clear on your differentiators as an ‘employer’ and know why someone would want to work for you compared to a competitor, or another company hiring the same people.
  3. Use ‘candidate centric’ ads selling the above; not shopping lists of what you want.  Reverse the traditional order and spell out early on “What’s in it for the candidate?” then don’t talk about the company until late in the ad.  You would never sell your product or service talking first about the company, so why do it when hiring? 
  4. Use social media postings to drive people to the ad, then boost these for inexpensive advertising.  Post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Groups.  Do not start with “We’re Hiring!’, that is irrelevant in this market!
  5. Use images and video to support your postings.  Use free tools such as Canva to create images with text to make your posts eye catching; even better use a GIF if you can.  Unsplash is another site where you can source photos.
  6. Utilise free sites to post your ad such as Adzuna, Indeed, Jora, and KEA (https://www.keanewzealand.com).  MyJobSpace allows you go to nationwide without paying for multiple ads.
  7. Are there any industry specific groups or bodies where you can advertise that relate to your industry or job?  In some cases these get more views that job sites, which only attract candidates actively looking, and with 4% unemployment you need to get in front of ‘passive’ candidates; those that would jump at a great opportunity, but aren’t actively looking.
  8. Utilise the backend of Seek and TradeMe’s culling systems.  Direct social media ads to these too so it’s a lot easier to manage applications and respond to candidates.  And respond to applicants!  Even letters of decline are appreciated and protect your brand.
  9. Utilise your staff’s networks, ask them to post about the role on their social media.  It will hold more weight coming from someone already with the company.
  10. Choose your advertising medium/s based on the candidates you are attracting.  Is it a lower-level role or skilled role?  Are candidates’ computer savvy?
  11. Your process needs to match the market.  Be fast when there’s not many applicants or a known shortage.
  12. Proactively ‘search’ for people.  You can use LinkedIn or a new tool recruiters are using is Talentis.  If you posted on Seek you automatically have access to their database candidates who match the ad; it’s called Talent Search.  Send them a personal note and start a conversation.

If you’re a SME doing your own recruitment you need to give yourself a fighting chance.   If you are strategic in your approach, utilise your network, use marketing principles, and multiple advertising streams supported by social media, you’ll have much better results.

Also remain open minded about people’s abilities.  New Zealanders are one of the most travelled people on this planet, yet this doesn’t seem to equate to ‘open mindedness’ when hiring.  It’s time we dropped the ‘doesn’t have NZ experience’ excuse.  What do they have that you haven’t even considered?  There’s a chance you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ and are missing out on other valuable skills.  

The saying ‘hire on attitude not skills’ has never been truer.  The above will at least give you some candidates to work with.

Posted under: Articles, Skill Shortage, SME Hiring

Write a kick-ass recruitment ad that will attract great candidates

Posted on April 8, 2014 by Tania Howard

If I see the words ‘We’re hiring!’ in an ad one more time I’ll scream.  One of my pet peeves is most recruiter’s inability to write a half decent recruitment advertisement.  What chance does a business have of attracting people when they copy this well-worn (out) format?  

In this article I’ll rebuff the ads most recruiters, and unfortunately, companies still write, explain why most ads need to change and clarify the elements of a good ad.

If you’re hiring you need the right number of quality candidates.  A badly written ad can attract either not enough or too many.  Both situations have consequences but a good ad creates a positive flow on effect right through the recruitment process, which means hiring is a lot easier. 

So what makes a great ad? For a start, to attract great people your ad needs to differentiate your business as an employer.  

To set the scene let’s put our marketing hat on.   For reasons unknown people forget that when they’re hiring they are actually marketing their company as an employer.   And they are competing for skills against everyone else seeking those same skills.  

With an aging workforce skill shortages exist and the same-old tired format isn’t going to cut it if you want to stand out.  I recently had a client seeking a Business Analyst, at the time there were 477 ads for a Business Analyst on Seek in Auckland alone and less than 250 Auckland BAs with LinkedIn profiles. Now a lot of those ads would have been duplicated however the client really had to differentiate themselves to get noticed. So what’s so wrong with the traditional recruitment ad? Besides providing a shopping list of what the company wants and nothing of benefit to the candidate most start with talking about the company. They are very much written from the company’s perspective, not the candidate’s and don’t connect with potential applicants using everyday language.  ‘We’re hiring’ smacks of this.  There is minimal information about why a person would really want the role and the benefits and differentiators of the role and company. 

Traditional advertising follows the AIDA approach; the theory being to get, in this order, Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.  This is still relevant but simplistic and doesn’t include other factors that are required to make a stand-out job advertisement.

Even if you’re advertising for a role where there are lots of candidates you still need to make sure the right ones are applying.  Going through hundreds of unsuitable candidates isn’t fun or an effective use of time for anyone. There will always be ‘serial applicants’ and an applicant tracking system will save you time and energy but a good ad will explain why a certain skill is necessary so people without it are discouraged from applying.

So here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider when writing a recruitment ad:



Good marketing practices consider the audience, talk about what’s in it for them, and have a call to action.  Recruitment marketing is no different and a great ad provides a flavour of what you’re about as a company, ironically without talking much about you!

A well-written ad can save you time and energy during the recruitment process by attracting more of the right people. If you’re still writing ads with no differentiator stating ‘we want’ then expect to get less and less applicants.

Need some coaching to get your ads right, or have an ad written for you… give Talent Seed a call.

Posted under: Articles, SME Hiring

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