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Recipe for a Job in Sydney and NSW with Jane McNeill

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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Published August 22nd 2012

NSW is home to Australia's largest economy, accounting for 32% of national Gross Domestic Product and Sydney producing 70% of the NSW economy. Despite it boasting a range of competitive advantages including a diversified, sophisticated industry structure that is highly focused toward services and knowledge and a globally competitive and growing financial services sector, fortified by its size and diversity, the ominous cloud of job losses continue to shadow the state and city. NSW Treasurer Mike Baird warning of tough times will surely have many readers spending weekends flipping the Job pages of newspapers.

To better understand where the jobs are and how best to find one in Sydney and NSW, I decided to seek expert advice. I spoke to Ms Jane NcNeill of Hays which operates in 48 locations throughout Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, specialises in recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people across a wide range of specialised industries and professions. Hays operate across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments across 9 locations in NSW alone.

Jane McNeill / Image courtesy of Hays

As Director of Hays in NSW, Jane oversees the company's operations in NSW and sits on the Hays Australia and New Zealand board. She believes the right job can transform a person's life and the right person can transform a business. Her office is passionate about connecting their candidates with the right job for them in Accountancy & Finance, Architecture, Banking, Construction, Contact Centres, Education, Energy, Engineering, Executive, Facilities Management, Healthcare, Human Resources, Information Technology, Insurance, Legal, Logistics, Manufacturing & Operations, Office Support, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceuticals, Policy & Strategy, Procurement, Property, Resources & Mining, Retail, Sales & Marketing, Superannuation and Trades & Labour.

Lionel: What is the job market in Sydney/NSW like, presently and for the remainder of 2012?

Jane: Organisations involved in the resources and mining industry have had the biggest employment requirements. Despite a barrage of negative headlines in the media, the reality has been that organisations in NSW have been hiring and specialist professionals remain in short supply, both within and without our mining and resources industry. There has also been a wide-ranging understanding from employers in NSW that to find and retain the best people remains a challenge. Often the candidates that are available do not match all the requirements employers have. In addition, given the global economic environment, employers have become far more selective and have a longer list of pre-requisites so the process can take longer. However, there is still a shortage of the right candidates to fill vacancies and competition for the top talent remains.

The situation hasn't changed today. On 9 August the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that Australia's unemployment rate in July stayed steady at 5.2 per cent. In July a total of 14,000 jobs were created (full-time employment was up by 9,200 people and part-time employment was up by 4,800 people). In NSW the unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent. These are good figures, particularly compared to those struggling economies in Europe.

The Australian job market for the remainder of 2012 will remain active for certain skilled professionals. According to a survey of over 1,500 employers, which we conducted earlier this year, engineering, marketing and operations departments will see the greatest increase to permanent staff levels for the rest of the year. According to our survey, 64 per cent expect to increase permanent staffing levels in their engineering department. 63 per cent will increase staffing levels in their marketing department. This is followed by operations, where 47 per cent of employers will increase headcount, project management (46 per cent), purchasing (43 per cent) and sales (also 43 per cent). 39 per cent of employers intend to increase staff levels in their human resources department, and 38 per cent will make headcount increases in IT. Around one quarter (26 per cent) will increase staffing levels in their accountancy and finance department.

Lionel: Where are the available jobs in Sydney/NSW?


Jane: Most industries and sectors are hiring for specific and particular skills. We have a range of roles across all our areas of specialisation. For example, in the policy & strategy market, we are seeing high demand for sub $600 per day project candidates with Government experience in NSW. Given the economy and NSW's desire to keep its triple A rating, there is a focus on getting the best-value-for-money candidate as well as a premium service from both candidates and service providers. In the resources & mining sector, mining companies require new equipment or need to upgrade existing equipment, both surface and underground. This is fueling demand for Electrical Controls System Engineers, Materials Handling Engineers (Mechanical), Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers and Mechanical Designers. Mechanical and Electrical Project Managers with experience managing the installation of large mining equipment, Longwall Mechanical Engineers, Mining Engineers and Metallurgists are also needed, as are Civil Project Managers with experience managing earthworks projects for large mine expansions and Civil Project Engineers with between three and eight years of experience.

Lionel: What qualities are employers looking for in a candidate?

Jane: Along with technical skills and a certain level of experience, employers are also looking for candidates who are the right cultural fit with their organisation. The focus on cultural fit is to ensure a new recruit will integrate into the existing team, has an intrinsic understanding of the way the business operates and is more likely to be retained long-term. There is a belief that technical skills can be taught, but cultural fit cannot.

Lionel: What is your advice for my readers looking for a job in Sydney/NSW in the coming months?


Jane: Employers have high expectations of potential candidates, covering not only the need for specific skills and experience, but also qualifications, the ability to bring value and the need to perform a wider range of duties. They are focusing on recruiting candidates with very specific skills and experience, such as particular technical skills, industry experience, qualifications and systems knowledge. They are not as flexible when it comes to these expectations as they once were.

As a result, the key for candidates is to clearly demonstrate, using examples, how their skills and experience match the position requirements. In their CVs, this is achieved by highlighting their experience and skills that are necessary in this role. There is no longer any room for a one-size-fits-all CV. Candidates need to tailor their CVs to show how their skills best match those that the employer is looking for.

In addition, some organisations are using key-word filters to ensure they only review CVs that include the key skills mentioned in the job description. That's why it is important for candidates to approach each application individually by assessing where their skills fit, how best to sell themselves and what they can offer that the next person can't. Before an interview, candidates should prepare examples that demonstrate how their skills and experience match those needed in the role.

For international candidates, they should note that employers are looking for skilled professionals with relevant industry experience, often in the local region. So if they have worked in Australia in the past, emphasize this experience in their CVs. If not, they'll need to show how they can add value to a business through their skills and experience. Australia's mining industry in particular has received a lot of attention in international press, but many international candidates find that it is not as accessible as it is being perceived overseas. So they should thoroughly research the market before they arrive.
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