Simon Swallow, CEO of search firm Global Career Link, recounts the question a bank manager put to him recently: "I was expecting to see a whole lot of people come back from the UK with the fallout of markets, and layoffs happening over there. Where are they all?"
Swallow believes the answer is that some Kiwi expats have gone to Australia, while others are treading water, waiting to sort out a job back home before they return.
Global Career Link recently surveyed 500 of its 5000 New Zealand candidates in Britain and found that nearly half intended to move back to New Zealand in the next three years. But more than 60 per cent wanted to get a job before they left Britain. However, most felt they knew very little about what was going on in the job market in this country.
The reality is, most of them will come home without a job, says Swallow. But with nothing concrete to return to, many New Zealanders will settle into a life in Britain.
As skills shortages hold back New Zealand companies, they are actively working their alumni in a bid to bring Kiwi talent home. That approach works if the person wants to return to the company they left, but this is not always the case, says Swallow.
Keeping in touch with Kiwis in London is very expensive, says Richard Manthel, managing director of Robert Walters NZ. As a result, many recruiters opt for one-off road shows or take part in job fairs, hoping to attract staff.
Maintaining databases is expensive, but necessary for companies such as Robert Walters. Its large London operation, which finds jobs for thousands of financially skilled Kiwis when they arrive in Britain, has its database linked to the one for New Zealand.
The international recruitment company runs regular candidate workshops and seminars in London.
Jen Edwards used Robert Walters and Global Career Link to help her find work before she returned recently after 18 years. A financial controller in Britain with ITV, when she decided to return, she took direct action, looking up every New Zealand media company she could find and approaching them herself.
When she came to New Zealand last April, she found that although the interviews went well, the companies wanted someone who could start immediately, so invariably a local person got the job.
In the end she came back to New Zealand without a job, although she had already had a phone interview for the contract job she now has at a large media company.
Some larger companies such as ANZ National Bank and ASB make regular forays to Britain to woo Kiwis such as Edwards.
John Barclay, ASB's head of group human resources, says: "Usually New Zealanders going over are not there long term. We want to stay top of mind."
He uses Robert Walters' London office and its networks, but most of ASB's jobs are offered direct. The bank also has an alumni website.
And if an ASB employee puts someone forward for a role, there's a finder's fee.
ANZ National, meanwhile, has had a global recruitment strategy for the past three years. As part of that strategy, the bank's head of HR, Mikaela Goulden, is going to Britain in October on a recruitment drive, as she does every year.
As an extra string to its bow, ANZ National is signing with the new website www.trackmeback.com. The site has a database of 2600 skilled Kiwis, all committed to returning to New Zealand in the next six to 18 months.
How have they found them? The hard way: the company hands out flyers at Kiwi hotspots in London.
To date, 25 companies have signed up, including Air New Zealand, NZ Post, ASB, Microsoft, Downer EDI and Beca - all paying an annual subscription of $6000 each.
"The reason we set up Track Me was because the market was being controlled by recruitment consultants. When we talked to Kiwis abroad they were put off by that. They wanted communication with employers," says founder Simon Pomeroy, who is also Air New Zealand recruitment manager.
Gill South is a freelance business writer based in Auckland.