What macro-economic and political challenges are Australian recruiters facing – and how can they overcome them?

Authored By Aaron McIntosh

APAC General Manager at Bullhorn

Modern-day recruiters face a complex web of challenges – there is the ever-shifting technological landscape and the changing expectations around work, but there are also political and economic concerns to be aware of. According to Bullhorn’s GRID survey, the number one economic and political concern for nearly half (48 percent) of APAC recruiters is ‘uncertainty over the economy and future growth’, closely followed by legislative changes with 39 percent, and restrictions on the use of foreign labour at 31 percent.

Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take to prepare themselves for uncertain times. Here are some of the main challenges that recruiters can expect in the coming years, and the solutions that they can adopt.

  1. Competition from Global Powers

The ongoing trade war between the US and China has affected the Australian market. Growing Chinese companies are looking for new places to invest, and many are looking to Australia as an exciting prospect. According to a PwC report, 21 percent of Chinese CEOs consider Australia as the most important region for growth, compared to the US, which has fallen from 59 percent to just 17 percent.

In order to cope with increased investment from China, recruiters must ensure that the candidate recruitment process remains as smooth as possible. An easy application process will minimise the number of candidates who become frustrated and quit or become tempted by competing offers. Firms seem to be aware of this, as according to our GRID findings, candidate acquisition and experience are among their top two priorities.

Technology is one of the ways that companies can reduce friction in the application process. Modern platforms offer an intuitive experience from application to onboarding, as well as time and payment management. Efficient application processes increase the speed at which roles are filled – recruiters using the latest technology can fill positions up to 60 percent faster than competitors.

  1. Skills Shortages

In 2018, a shortage of relevant skills was one of the top five challenges businesses faced, and in 2019, it has risen to the top three. Specific skills in digital, IT, and white-collar areas are highly sought-after, but many recruiters are struggling to keep up with high levels of demand across all areas. For instance, cybersecurity specialists are desired in every industry as digitisation renders more companies vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks.

To address these shortages, companies need to think beyond the usual candidate outreach and adjust their recruiting strategy to appeal more to underutilised talent pools. Traditional recruiting techniques may include ingrained, implicit features which preference certain candidates, while recruiters who take steps to reach out to a broader audience can access qualified candidates who may have previously been discouraged or discarded.

Some businesses risk pushing away female or minority candidates with the wording of their ads, which can betray unconscious bias. For instance, terms like ‘commanding’ and ‘dominant’ typically attract disproportionately male candidates, even when some of the most qualified candidates are women. Companies which use inclusive, non-gendered language will have the first pick of a broad range of qualified applicants. It will also produce a more diverse business, which has demonstrable positive effects, and 38 percent of Australian recruiters agree that it will be a major trend in the future of the industry.

  1. Reskilling Workers

With changes to Australian immigration legislation, recruiters have less access to qualified foreign candidates. The end of the 457-visa has resulted in a precipitous drop in the number of overseas professionals looking for work in Australia, particularly in STEM fields, and has contributed to the skills shortage. An ageing population and changes to workplace routines have also shaken up recruitment, creating a challenging environment.

With increasing restrictions on immigrants, recruiters who take a creative approach will have an advantage. A candidate who might be a good fit for the role may not have all the requisite experience yet, but they might be a quick learner predisposed towards the skills the role needs. This is where reskilling comes in. Considering the rapid development of technology, few employees can make it through their whole career with just the skills they learned when they started, and in many industries, regular reskilling is already a part of the personnel lifecycle. Recruiters who understand the value of reskilling can consider the reduction of international applicants as an opportunity rather than a crisis.

While change can mean an end to old opportunities, it also creates new ones. The companies that are most adaptable and flexible – from adopting new tech to reaching diverse applicants – will be the best suited to take advantage of these opportunities.