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Optimising the Candidate-Driven Market

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How to get the best out of your job search in a candidate-driven market

Now is the time to reach for better job options

Employers are working hard to attract the workers they need. If you’re looking for a job, the time is right to be considering what you really want out of your work. We explain the current situation and suggest pointers for maximising your opportunities while you can.

What’s a candidate-driven market?

When jobs outnumber applicants, job seekers can be choosy. The job market becomes candidate-driven when employers shape their offers to attract applicants. In the past, it was the other way around: employers picked their candidates from a large pool of applicants, so they could be fussy and demand more.

Now, with unemployment in Australia at 3.5%, almost the lowest it’s been in 50 years, employers must compete for job candidates. In this market, many workers keep an eye out for better job offers and are willing to leave jobs. A survey by PwC Australia at the end of 2021 revealed that 38% of Australian workers planned to leave their jobs within 12 months.

How did this happen?

Some industries boomed during the pandemic.

“The pandemic changed the e-commerce landscape. The sudden overwhelming popularity of online shopping came about because of necessity, but people have continued to favour that method of shopping even as restrictions lift. Warehouses and distribution centres have needed to hire more workers to help them keep up with the increase in demand. Australia is also building more large distribution centres as a response to this growth, and in doing so, the need for warehouse workers will only continue to rise.”

Dale Smith — General Manager, MTC Recruitment

International borders closed.

During the pandemic, we lost our migrant workforce, which shrank Australia’s already limited supply of workers. It meant more job vacancies for Australians to choose from. After COVID-related restrictions were lifted, the job market expanded further. Old and new roles are reopening as the economy recovers.

How long will it last?

In March and April 2022, job platform Seek reported a record-breaking increase in ads. That slowed down in June. Advertising is still higher than before the pandemic, but it could continue to decline.

Additionally, since international borders opened on 1 November 2021, 70,000 skilled migrants and 10,000 working holiday makers have entered Australia. Visa requirements are changing to allow more workers into the country to help with economic recovery.

So, this window of opportunity is not likely to last long term.

What’s different about job seeking now?

1. Employers are the sellers

A job interview in the current market is not only about what skills and experience you can offer, but the unique benefits package an employer can offer you. This is called the employer’s value proposition.

LinkedIn used their data set to capture what’s driving changes in employment since COVID began, and found this:

For Australia and New Zealand talent access to ongoing training grew the most in importance, up 16.7%. Working with inspirational talent (12.8%), excellent pay and benefits (11.4%), and inclusive workplaces (9.4%) also grew in importance.

Employers must offer more than a good wage to attract workers.

2. Government funding to boost jobs and skills

The Federal 22/23 Budget announced a long list of initiatives aimed at stimulating the job market, including:

  • An Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System providing support to employers and apprentices.

  • Helping small businesses with subsidies for external training courses.

  • Enhanced Paid Parental leave to allow parents increased flexibility in how they manage work and care.

  • Funding to support women in board positions and to progress gender equality in the workplace.

As a job seeker, it’s a good time to be asking for skill development opportunities. Your employer might have access to funds to boost your career.

3. Wage growth makes a pay rise feasible

Worker shortage has led to wage growth. The benchmarks for wages in your industry are likely to have changed. Australians still value remuneration and reward from their employer as their top priority when evaluating a job. Seeking a job with higher pay is the norm rather than the exception in the current climate.

How to maximise your job opportunities

1. Be clear on your own values and goals

Time for reflection during the pandemic led to workers re-evaluating what they want out of life and work. Between November 2021 and April 2022, Deloitte’s global survey of respondents, ranging from unpaid workers to students to gig workers to executives, showed this:

Our Gen Zs have more often changed jobs due to redefined values and aspirations as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, and millennials have required more work/life balance and sought learning and skills development opportunities.

A Laws of Attraction study by Financial Review showed slight shifts in worker values towards flexibility (flexible hours, additional leave options, working from home) and more empowerment in the workplace.

What do you want out of a job?

2. Have a visible online profile

Employers are being forced to proactively seek out job candidates, including those not ac-tively looking for work. They often find suitable candidates on job platforms like Seek or LinkedIn.

Make sure your online profiles stay current. On Seek, update your profile regularly so that it’s picked up in employer searches for ‘recently active’ candidates. Upload an up-to-date resume with current contact details and other essential information.

3. Consider a pay rise

National wage growth means it’s not unreasonable to expect a pay rise, either within your current job or as you look for new jobs. Research wages in your industry so that you have a realistic expectation of what you can ask for. You can find wage guides from resources like Seek, Fair Work Australia or talent recruiters like us.

4. Ask about upskilling or career development

Thinking of asking for a promotion or training to build your skill set? With employers looking for ways to ensure their staff will stay, and new government funding boosts, now could be the perfect time.

For a promotion, be aware that a higher-level job will come with extra responsibilities. Prepare a portfolio of skills or actions you have shown in your work which others might not have, and talk about how this has helped the business. Approach your employer with con-sideration rather than a threat to leave if you don’t get what you want. Aim for a win-win sit-uation for you and your employer.

What not to do when you hold the advantage

While 2022 is a favourable time for job candidates, be sure you don’t burn bridges as you seize opportunities. Be aware that employers are working extremely hard to attract and onboard employees.

These actions would cast you in a bad light:

  • Ghosting the employer (‘disappearing’ from all contact).

If you need to make an exit or have a change of mind, let the employer know. They would rather know the facts than waste energy pursuing you when it’s futile.

  • Not turning up on the interview day or your first day of work.

A polite message to let the employer know you are pursuing another option will avoid wasting the employer’s time setting up work environments for you.

  • Making unreasonable demands of your employer.

While you should take advantage of the current job market, turning against your employer to get what you want tarnishes your work reputation. A good employer is likely to be willing to work with you to provide what you need or aspire to. If it is in your best interests to leave, do so with open communication and respect.

  • Leaving the job after a few weeks.

The time and expense of employee onboarding and orientation is considerable for any employer. That’s why employers would rather retain their staff than recruit more. Unless you are unhappy in the new job, it is in bad taste to leave soon after the business has invested in setting you up. If you do, it’s unlikely they’d welcome you back and it could damage work connections.

At the end of the day, the job-seeking process is a relationship-building one, from introduction to engagement. All the principles of building a good relationship apply. When the job market changes and you no longer have the advantage, you want to be confident of healthy employer-employee relationships.

Australia’s 2022 employment statistics tip the balance in favour of job candidates. Employers are presenting attractive value propositions, the government is boosting jobs and skills, and it’s a good time to ask for a pay rise. But it’s also a window of opportunity that may come to a close. As a job seeker, now is the time to use the candidate-driven market to pursue work that aligns with your goals and values.

Want to broaden your job search?

If you’re looking for a change, talk to us about your job goals and values. We work with employers who take a keen interest in the wellbeing of their staff. We can advise you on roles that are in demand and help you to present well in an interview.