Have people skills, will get that job

A conservative approach to recruitment is the new norm, according to the latest Robert Walters' employment market updates.

The third-quarter update, which provides an in-depth analysis of market changes, hiring trends and salary fluctuations, shows pre-election jitters and a volatile market are having an impact on recruitment.

"A conservative approach seems to be the new norm on both sides of the recruitment market - employers are conservative about spending money and making hiring decisions and candidates are conservative about moving jobs," says Robert Walters Wellington director Sean Brunner.

"A lot of it comes down to confidence in market conditions. There's a lot of uncertainty about what's going to happen overseas. We have an election coming up, and that's having an impact; people are sitting tight until next year."

The third-quarter update has thrown up two trends in particular - a rise in demand for human-resources practitioners with strong employment relations backgrounds, and the highest volume of new vacancies within sales and marketing in the year to date.

Mr Brunner says the HR spike has been fuelled through change: "Any organisation that's going through change and transformation is going to have a strong people component to that."

He puts the influx of new vacancies within sales and marketing down to the start of the new financial year and new budgets coming into play.

Candidates with specialist marketing skills are in particular demand as businesses look towards strategic marketing campaigns in order to drive sales.

"Marketing tends to be one of the first areas to die off when times are tough but, on the back of many restructures, new roles have been created and employers are actively seeking candidates with skill sets that can help grow their businesses."

Other key trends include:

* Accounting and finance shows a lack of permanent vacancies, though the contract market remains steady with many assignments extended beyond their original end date.

* Within banking and financial services the power returned to candidates with those in high demand areas receiving multiple offers. For employers, the cautious mentality of 2010 was still evident as they prepared to wait to get the right person on board.

* In information technology, the start of the new financial year for many organisations saw budgets allocated to new projects and a consistently high demand for business analysts, project managers and testers.

* Within legal, the public sector demand for high-calibre lawyers continued but, with budget constraints to contend with, government bodies found it hard to lure candidates away from private sector environments. There was also an increase in hiring activity in the banking and financial services space.

* Within procurement, recruitment is high with the public sector placing more emphasis on the significance of procurement as a necessary business function. Salaries increased across the board, resulting in a scarcity of high- calibre talent, particularly within the ICT space, and some organisations looked to source candidates from overseas to address this talent shortage.

* In secretarial and business support, quarter three saw a significant rise in temporary and contract roles because of the creation of new administrative roles, internal promotions and market movement.

Candidates continue to be drawn to companies with strong employment brands and a good reputation, consulting corporate websites and seeking recommendations from current and past employees.

Whatever the sector, from now on Mr Brunner expects the permanent market to slow down and more fixed-term and contract roles appear.

And while the conservative approach is the new norm, employers must continue to look after their talent as the job market continues to offer up new opportunities, warns Robert Walters New Zealand managing director Richard Manthel.

"A large number of candidates from all disciplines are passively looking for their next great role, which may result in a lot of backfill vacancies in the fourth quarter of this year."

The onset of summer and the Rugby World Cup has brought many expatriates home, he says, many of whom are in demand.

"Candidates who had gained experience from large international markets continued to be highly sought- after, especially by the larger New Zealand businesses, to the extent that many of our international candidates received offers prior to arriving or were the subject of a bidding war once on the ground."

Bidding wars are on for roles in the more traditional areas, such as financial management accounting and project management.

Whatever the case, hiring managers are advised to focus on a candidate's core competencies, attitude and aptitude, rather than being too exacting when it comes to recent industry experience.

"What you look for with any candidate, be it accounting or procurement, is technical competence within that discipline and the softer skills around that, like the ability to communicate, work in teams and to get things done," says Mr Brunner.

The Dominion Post