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. Rotorua Daily Post reporter Dawn Picken spoke with locals on both sides of the search.



"Two jobs and still looking for some decent work. Very hard to find."

Rachael Moody says after working in hospitality seven years, it's time for change. "I cannot stand serving tables anymore. I want to do something different." Moody has been employed the past year at a Rotorua restaurant and says her hours have been cut from 40 to 15 per week. Moody says she earns $200 weekly and has tried to get work in other fields. "No one wanted to consider my application because I am a bartender and waitress."

Moody is looking for a 9 to 5 job "doing anything" and has started working weekends at a surf shop to gain retail experience. She says knowing the store manager helped her get a foot in the door.


Moody thought one interview in another field would lead to an offer but says the employer never followed up. "It's been a month since the interview. I'm gutted ... They could've called and said I didn't have the job; I would've been fine with that."

"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. "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."

Ian Anderson moved to Tauranga from Taupo last month because his partner's job and family are in the Bay. Photo/Supplied.
Ian Anderson moved to Tauranga from Taupo last month because his partner's job and family are in the Bay. Photo/Supplied.

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."

"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 good 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."

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."

"There's a lot of nice people who'll call and say. 'I've got something for you.' "

Sam Calvert has three months off from dairy farm work. He posted his phone number on the Rotorua Jobs Facebook page, saying, "I have my own transportation, I'm reliable, hardworking, trustworthy, and I'm drug-free and smoke-free if you have anything please pm or text me."

Calvert got leads from his post, though he says the only jobs he found around Rotorua were for kiwifruit work, which he didn't want. He started a new position earlier this month as a dish hand at a Taupo cafe. "It's pretty difficult out there."

"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 role in a local school. 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 full-time 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. "Two companies called me. They got my information from Priority One, and Craigs [Investment Partners] interviewed me. It was pretty quick."

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.

Today, Osilla works full-time at Craigs in Tauranga 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."

Deborah Peake left a high-flying corporate career that included 20 years in advertising in London, New York, Sydney and Beijing. Photo/Supplied.
Deborah Peake left a high-flying corporate career that included 20 years in advertising in London, New York, Sydney and Beijing. Photo/Supplied.

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. "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."


The number of people on Jobseeker Support benefits in Rotorua increased in the past three months of 2018 but at a much slower rate than nationally.

Ministry of Social Development data for Rotorua shows although the number of local recipients increased by 1.9 per cent, nationally, it increased by 4.8 per cent.

Rotorua normally has a much higher ratio of Jobseeker recipients than the national average; 7.6 per cent in the year to December 2018 compared with 4 per cent nationally.

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 of Plenty 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.


Earlier this month Trade Me Jobs had 283 jobs available in Rotorua. The company's Head of Jobs Jeremy Wade says this is about the same number as the site had at this time last year, but is up 70 per cent on five years ago.

Wade says strong job growth has meant increases across most categories. "The standouts are hospitality and tourism (up 320 per cent), trades and services (up 185 per cent) and transport and logistics (up 178 per cent)."

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 shortlist 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."

Scott says she's seeing not only a large number of Aucklanders seeking work, but also Australians and South Africans.

"Rotorua is very attractive at the moment. You can buy a house, there's no traffic, and it's central."

Scott says she receives heaps of CVs with errors, but Personnel Resources, like many recruiters, will re-write CVs for a fee (more about resume writing in sidebar, "CV Analysis and Social Media Tips"). She says human resources, health and safety professionals and accountants are in demand, while sales representatives and IT roles are scarcer.

Kellie Hamlett with Talent ID in Rotorua says her office is receiving record numbers of applicants for most advertised roles. "It's a very competitive job market for candidates."

Kellie Hamlett with Talent ID in Rotorua says her office is receiving record numbers of applicants for most advertised roles. Photo/File.
Kellie Hamlett with Talent ID in Rotorua says her office is receiving record numbers of applicants for most advertised roles. Photo/File.

Many recruiters echoed the idea there's a labour shortage in the Bay, except at the lower levels. Some suggest job hunters take a temporary role as a foot in the door.

1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp says the Tauranga office 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. "If they have the right skills, there are a variety of jobs from top to bottom."

Howard Ross, director of Frank & the Knowledge Hunters, runs an executive search firm that gathers information based on a C-level executive's (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," says Ross. He 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 [jobseeker] 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 consider the factors that may be standing in the way. Those who are out of work may need to move to where the jobs are or consider upskilling.

"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."

Jobseekers also need to clean up their social media – often employers look at online presence even before inviting a candidate for an interview, she said.

Priority One Helps Job Seekers

The Bay's economic growth organisation, Priority One, not only helps recruit businesses to the region, but 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/
Trade Me Jobs - Tauranga and Rotorua [sent to gfx]

Unemployment rate

• The annual average unemployment rate in Rotorua District was 5.4 per cent in December 2018, down from 6.7 per cent a year earlier.
• The unemployment rate in Rotorua District was higher than in New Zealand, where the unemployment rate averaged 4.3 per cent over the year to December 2018.
• Over the last 10 years the unemployment rate reached a peak of 8.6 per cent in March 2012;

-Source: Infometrics
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 needs to 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 they're fine if they're a professional head shot and not a full-body holiday snap.