With unemployment close to its lowest levels in a decade, job seekers might think finding employment will be a snap. But other factors, such as increased competition in the Bay of Plenty and a changing labour market, mean some candidates spend months, even years, trying to land a new position. Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reporter Dawn Picken spoke with locals on both sides of the search.



"I'm just applying, applying, applying ..."

Amy Bircham moved back to Tauranga last spring to reconnect with family. She has driven trucks for three years and has class 1, 2 and 4 licences, plus hazardous goods and other endorsements. She left her job last month because she said it wasn't a fit. Bircham says she submitted 35 to 45 applications before securing her last role.

"The truck driving industry is kind of like the teaching industry. There's always a lot of shortages of truck drivers, but employers also get to be choosers."

Amy Bircham is trying to find work as a truck driver and says she may relocate temporarily if she can't get a job in the Bay./Photo: George Novak
Amy Bircham is trying to find work as a truck driver and says she may relocate temporarily if she can't get a job in the Bay./Photo: George Novak

She's annoyed when people say she'll have no problem finding employment. "When I tell them I have applied for 30 jobs or 50 jobs, they're shocked at that. Some don't reply, or you'll get an interview, and that's as far as it goes. It's not as easy as what people think it is. Even if you've got the skills, it's not easy."

Bircham said she's on the short list for a driving job in Wellington which offers a lot more money than Bay pay rates. "I would probably take it if they offer me the position and stay until I can get something back in the Bay of Plenty."

"You've just got to crack it at the interview and you've got the job."

Ian Anderson moved to Tauranga from Taupo last month because his partner's job and family are in the Bay. Anderson has driven trucks for nine years. He has his class 5 licence and says his last job was driving a logging truck.

Anderson doesn't have a CV or use recruiters but instead posts information to sites like Tauranga Jobs on Facebook as well as industry-specific groups. He contacts trucking firm owners and asks to meet with them, or someone will contact him after seeing his post online.

Ian Anderson is confident he'll find a trucking job soon./Photo: Supplied
Ian Anderson is confident he'll find a trucking job soon./Photo: Supplied

"I just go there, tell them what I've done, where I've been, I give them a couple of numbers for references and usually the next day they're like, you've got the job, or they give it to me on the spot."

He's seeking an hourly pay rate of at least mid-$20s but says having a good boss is vital. "Sometimes you can be on a great wage, $28-$30 an hour, but you're working for an absolute a**hole, and I would rather earn a bit less and work for someone decent if that's what happens."

"It's totally who you know and how you present yourself."


Like Anderson, Breanna Lane moved to the Bay because her partner works here. Unlike him, she doesn't have nine years of work experience. The 20-year-old has managed a gym and also held a sales and marketing position. The Auckland native is looking for a sales and administration role.

"Something I can progress in. I love talking, and I love people, so that's something I definitely want to grow in more."

Breanna Lane is looking for a sales/administration role./Photo: Supplied
Breanna Lane is looking for a sales/administration role./Photo: Supplied

Lane says she has submitted around 50 CVs, resulting in 10 interviews in the past three weeks. She has at times been frustrated when a position is outlined differently during an interview than it was advertised on a jobs site. "Some admin positions, it's really sales, and then you get there and it's all paperwork. It's annoying because when you go through the whole process and then come to a brick wall, it's like, 'Cheers, guys'."

Finding work she enjoys is important. Lane figures the best way to navigate a career is learning on the job. "I want something long-term where I can get to know people in the business."

"I have the last shot that has come up recently where I might have a chance."

Ann has been trying to get a teaching job in Tauranga for four years. She asked us not to use her real name because she thinks she may finally be closing in on a local school position. Ann says she's not alone in her plight.


"There are many teachers who qualify and do not find jobs in the area ... the teaching fraternity is all interlinked; it's impossible for an outsider to find a job. It sucks. I've been applying for four years, sent 200 applications and haven't been called in for a single interview. The letter I receive normally reads, 'We received applications of high calibre, etc …' In spite of helping in schools and in the community, I have not been shortlisted even once. It has been frustrating."

The number of students studying to be teachers has dropped dramatically in New Zealand since 2010, while the number of teachers nearing retirement age is increasing.

The Ministry of Education screened more than 1000 qualified overseas teachers before the start of this school year to fill a national shortage of 250 teachers. But about 60 per cent of those jobs were in the Auckland area, where salaries are the same as in the regions. "The only way to get a beginning teacher job is to move out of Tauranga," says Ann.



"Usually, you have to get connections within companies and build your network."

Orven Osilla moved from the Philippines to Tauranga to start his diploma in computing in 2017. He fell in love with the area and decided to return here last October after finishing his studies in Auckland.


"Coming from Manila, I wanted a change of environment. If I'm going to stay in Auckland, I'm defeating the purpose of moving to New Zealand."

He got part-time work tutoring a computer course while seeking fulltime employment. Osilla says most of the two-dozen IT jobs he applied for via job seeker websites were in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, but he remained committed to the Bay. He submitted his CV to Priority One, which sends a regular newsletter to members highlighting prospective job candidates.

Orven Osilla landed work in IT after giving his CV to a local economy development organisation.Photo/Andrew Warner.
Orven Osilla landed work in IT after giving his CV to a local economy development organisation.Photo/Andrew Warner.

"Two companies called me. They got my information from Priority One, and Craigs [Investment Partners] interviewed me. It was pretty quick."

Today, Osilla works fulltime at Craigs as a test analyst and has applied for visas to bring his wife and daughter to New Zealand from the Philippines. He advises job seekers to volunteer in the community, something he did while teaching computing skills to children at Tauranga libraries. "It's the only way you can actually get the practical application of your skills."

"I had a blank sheet of paper in real estate."

Deborah Peake left a high-flying corporate career that included 20 years in advertising in London, New York, Sydney and Beijing. The Auckland native wanted to return to New Zealand and switch gears.


"I didn't even contemplate going to Auckland. I think the Bay gives you the lifestyle. I've had a fairly intense career at times overseas, and wanted to get something that allowed me to grow my own business, manage my own time and get a better work life balance, as well."

Peake retrained as a realtor in Tauranga in 2016 while in her late 40s. She works as an agent for EVES and says despite years of corporate experience, starting over was challenging.

Deborah Peake changed careers to work in Tauranga real estate. Photo / Supplied
Deborah Peake changed careers to work in Tauranga real estate. Photo / Supplied

"To integrate takes a good year to 18 months getting the lay of the land and the feel of town ... a lot of people have been here for a long time with a lot of long-term relationships, but having said that, also there's big numbers of new people coming into town. I think it takes a while regardless of who you are to transition into a new life set-up."

Getting face-to-face with locals is essential, says Peake, because in-person conversations promote new connections. "You may meet people at networking occasions, it may not be them directly that helps you, but somebody they know."

Peake recommends Chamber of Commerce events, sports clubs and social clubs for mingling. "I think it's pretty easy to get connected to people if you invest the time in doing that."

"It's important your product is really good, because if you don't have a high standard of work, word gets around very quickly."


James O'Sullivan moved to the Bay from Auckland last August to be with his girlfriend, who lives here. He freelances as a senior copywriter. O'Sullivan still works about three days per week in the Big Smoke but plans to shift his role to Mount Maunganui.

"My goal is to start my own business in the Mount and service clients all over New Zealand, focusing on the Bay of Plenty. I love the community feel. I think the Bay is a really exciting place in terms of creativity, and I would like to grow that going forward."

Like Peake, O'Sullivan prefers a personal, rather than electronic, approach for networking and will approach business owners for a meeting. "Catching up face-to-face for coffee or beer to talk about what they want has worked for me so far."

O'Sullivan has a friend who grew up in the Bay who's helped him make connections too. "I think it is a locals-first kind of place. People like to work with people they either grew up with or know through a friend of a friend and they can vouch for them. If you come down like, 'I'm from Auckland and I'm here to do some work', that's the wrong approach. You need to embed yourself in the community and become part of the community if you want to do well."


Priority One's latest Infometrics report showed the average unemployment rate in Tauranga City was 3.8 per cent in the year to December 2018.

But business leaders say in many cases people looking for work lack skillsets employers need. Even though more people are available to work, they may not be a fit for available jobs.


The Ministry of Social Development says an employment slowdown in construction and manufacturing had resulted in fewer entry-level jobs.

In the year ending December 2018, the number of unemployed people receiving a Jobseeker Support benefit in Tauranga jumped 7.1 per cent, faster than the 4.8 per cent national growth.

Statistics New Zealand's Labour Force Survey shows the underutilisation rate, which refers to people who don't have a job but are available for work or those who are employed part-time and would like to work more hours, is higher in the Bay than nationally. It sat at 14.2 per cent for Q4 2018; up slightly from 14 per cent at the same time in 2017. The national underutilisation rate for Q4 2018 was 12.1 per cent.

Jeremy Wade, head of jobs at Trade Me, says the site had 1004 job listings for the Tauranga area as of earlier this month. "That's up 29 per cent on the same time last year and up 126 per cent on 2014."

Wade says the Retail industry has seen the largest growth since 2014 with a 268 per cent increase in listings. Engineering experienced a 250 per cent increase in job vacancies while Agriculture, Fishing & Forestry saw a 240 per cent jump compared to 2014.

A Trade Me 2019 survey of job hunters found 32 per cent of Kiwis found a role in 1-3 months; 31 per cent in less than a month. Just 6 per cent took more than six months to find a job.


Stiff Competition

Recruiters say many job seekers don't realise how competitive the market is until they've sent out their first dozen CVs. Angelique Scott, manager of Personnel Resources Rotorua, says her office often gets 50 to 150 applications for one role.

"We've got to short list those candidates to five, then the client interviews maybe three and then makes the choice from there. You still have 150 people who think they can do the job."

Personnel Resources Tauranga consultant Dennis Playford says the company specialises in placing people in white collar roles. In-demand positions include leadership as well as engineering and project manager jobs.

"Unfortunately, there's not enough to go around. We do have a labour shortage, just not at the lower levels."

The organisation also helps fill temporary positions, which Playford says can help job seekers gain a foothold at a company. "... also the applicant gets an opportunity to experience the culture of the role. Maybe it's working on a project and that project may be extended or could move to a different department or division."

1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp says his agency is "pumping through the work".


"If we have good candidates, we'll bring them into work straight away."

Van Syp says the removal of the 90-day trial period (taking effect May 6 for businesses with 20 employees or more) means employers are pickier about who they hire. He says in-demand jobs include hospitality workers, machine operators, labourers, clerical and IT staff.

1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp says his agency is
1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp says his agency is "pumping through the work".Photo/File.

"If they have the right skills, there are a variety of jobs from top to bottom."

And while Tauranga wages have improved, Van Syp says job seekers who want high-paying work should target Auckland. "If you come to Tauranga, there's a little bit of lifestyle adding to your pay packet. Only a few mack-daddy ones pay high salaries."

Van Syp says length of time to find a job varies widely and depends partly on whether an applicant is willing to travel to work or relocate. "It should only take a couple of months unless it's a sales manager role, which might take six months to find."

Howard Ross, director of Frank & the Knowledge Hunters, runs an executive search firm that gathers information based on a C-level executives (CEOs, COOs, etc …) digital footprint. The Auckland-based firm opened a Tauranga branch two years ago because Ross says Bay organisations are looking to expand.


"Roles are becoming more complex than ever before as companies look to compete on the domestic and international stage."

Ross and other consultants use not only individually-driven social networking platforms like LinkedIn, but also comb the internet for news articles, information on company websites and searches indicating someone's considering a move to the Bay.

"They have no idea we're looking at them. It's important to have different elements of your digital profile up-to-date with relevant skills, knowledge and experience that you can bring to an organisation."

Ross says an executive search in the Bay could take six to 12 months.

Cherie Hill, a senior consultant with Kinetic Recruitment, says a qualified professional might get snapped up in a week, though she has clients who've been in the database for six months.

"My general opinion is the market is really good. [Business] clients are optimistic and recruiting and moving, and [job seeker] clients say, 'Why is it so hard to find something? Why am I struggling?' It comes down to volume. There are still more job seekers in the market than there are jobs."


Hill says clients can have "100 per cent more impact" if they meet prospective employers in person. If that's not possible, she says a phone call helps. "There are ways to make yourself known and make yourself move to the top of the list without being just a CV and a cover letter."

Yudu editor Helen van Berkel says recruiters have told the job site that many people who are looking for work are already employed and so are often stronger candidates in the eyes of employers than unemployed workers.

Van Berkel recommends those who are in work but are struggling to find a new job to take a break for a few days to reflect on the search and considering the factors that may be standing in the way.

"Sometimes it's worth contacting an employer after losing out on a job, politely thanking them for the opportunity for an interview if you got that far, and making a genuine request for feedback on why you didn't get the role. Not only will this make you look good in the eyes of the employer if another role comes up but you may gain some valuable insights into what is holding you back."

Priority One Helps Job Seekers

The Bay's economic growth organisation, Priority One, not only helps recruit businesses to the region, it also helps job seekers find employment. Communications manager Annie Hill says 40 to 60 people contact her each month looking for work.

"These range from returning Kiwi expats, skilled migrants, people living elsewhere in New Zealand, particularly Auckland, and those who are local but are looking for a new career."


Priority One summarises CVs into an easily-readable profile and attaches a link to the full CV which it sends to business members.

"We do this around three times a month and are usually able to find a match with two or three each month, although last month we helped seven people find work."

Hill also works closely with local recruitment agencies, and says she currently deals with around 750 active job seekers.

https://www.trademe.co.nz/jobs https://www.yudu.co.nz/ https://www.seek.co.nz/
Free CV Builder: https://www.careers.govt.nz/tools/cv-builder/

Unemployment rate

• The annual average unemployment rate in Tauranga City was 3.8 per cent in December 2018, down from 4.7 per cent a year earlier.
• The unemployment rate in New Zealand was 4.3 per cent over the year to December 2018.


CV Analysis and Social Media Tips

We asked Marna Zwarts, technical recruiting specialist at 1st Call Recruitment, to analyse two job seekers' CVs. She said a CV must be easy on the eye and communicate experience at a glance. Of Jobseeker A, she said, "There's no bullet points, no dates and no paragraphs either, so reading it takes longer." Zwarts said Jobseeker B must correct grammar and spelling, and keep the format consistent. "She needs to add dates and names of companies she worked for."

Additional advice from Zwarts:

*Keep the font and the layout the same across the whole CV and use bullet points
*Don't add certificates and reference letters to your CV – mail as separate attachments
*Never write your whole CV in capital letters or in a fancy font. Acceptable fonts include Calibri, Arial and others similar.
*Have a personal statement at the start of your CV and always tailor your cover letter to each individual job.

Other recruiters we spoke with suggested setting social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to 'private', and updating LinkedIn with current job title and photograph.

As for photos on CVs, most recruiters we asked said professional head shots are fine; full-body holiday snaps are not.