Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
The HR recruitment market in Australia 13/06/2012
Australia's market is slowing down, but changes are being made to boost the economy. What does this mean for fixed term and mid to senior HR roles?
Click to jump to section
- Doom and gloom down under?
- Changes in the HR recruitment market
- In-house recruiters in demand
- Strong competition for generalist HR roles
- What does the future look like for Australia?
Doom and gloom down under?
The economy in Australia has been slowing over the last 3-6 months. Stock prices have taken a hit recently and business investment sluggish, but at last we have had a helping hand from the notoriously conservative Federal Reserve Bank of Australia who have finally cut interest rates and done so by a whopping 0.5% to 3.75%! At the time of writing, at least two more small cuts are expected before October.
This is intended to stimulate a bit of consumer spending and reduce the pressure on the mass ranks of Australian mortgage holders whose wallets have been famously closed through much of the last nine months. Whether this will be sufficient to produce the kick along we need is hard to tell, but it's very unlikely to make things worse. My view of the job market is that it wants to party a bit harder but someone has locked the drinks cabinet. I think with the next interest rate cuts coming along quite soon we might see a bit more joy and a bit more of the feel good factor return.
Changes in the HR recruitment market
So, what is the HR recruitment market like right now? The answer is very similar to the market three months ago, but there are some subtle differences evolving. We have a strong interim market with demand for short to medium term HR professionals bubbling along very nicely. Earlier in the year there was an almost total absence of fixed term contract work though this is slowly changing and we are now seeing some fixed term placement work which is tending to be for longer nine to twelve month assignments rather than for the three month type of commitment which were so common earlier.
The other nuance about the market right now is that absolutely everyone acknowledges we have a two speed economy; we have a booming West and North West - where the miners are digging up the natural wealth of this country as quickly as they can - and the ‘steady Eddie’ East coast where growth is slow and there seems to be a no splurge rule in place (sadly that is the half that most of the people live in). Having said this, Sydney appears to be recovering somewhat and of all the cities on the East coast where we have our offices, Sydney now looks in a small recovery, while Melbourne and Brisbane continue to sail into a head wind.
In-house recruiters in demand
As well as an upswing in the use of contractors for HR assignments, we continue to see demand for specialist HR skills particularly remuneration and there has been a rise in demand for talent specialists aka ‘in-house recruiters’. This too is a good sign that organisations are planning a future where, even in the short term, they expect to need to hire people.
Strong competition for generalist HR roles
On the downside, there's intense competition for mid to senior permanent HR generalist roles; there seems to be an imbalance in the number of opportunities and the numbers of people intent on securing them. This produces intense competition and the need to prepare a great CV and to perform well at interview has never been more pressing. Organisations looking to hire mid to senior talent are naturally being very selective and there appears to be a strong desire to ask for what you want and refusing to accept anything less than a totally excellent fit.
Of course my last statement may look a bit like stating the obvious but, in actual fact, when talent in Australia is very hard to find, the market is much more open minded about considering candidates who, for example, have employment histories in industry sectors not directly related. Today’s market appears to provide for much less latitude.
What does the future look like for Australia?
So what of the future? I think we have seen the bottom of the market and I believe we are in a very slow recovery phase; certainly, Sydney feels that way. However, the pace of that recovery remains the mystery and, with continuing worries about overseas debt, it really is a guess as to when we will see real confidence return to the wider economy. I am sure the second half of 2012 will be quite revealing.
David Owens, managing director, HR Partners (Digby Morgan Australia)
David Owens is the managing director of HR Partners, one of the leading HR specialist recruitment consultancies in Australia and now a subsidiary of UK based Digby Morgan. David manages the offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.