Hundreds chase one hospital job

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 13:00 22/03/2013

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Competition for jobs is so hot, 300 jobseekers applied for a receptionist's position in Nelson.

Manuka Street Trust Hospital general manager Margaret Gibbs was amazed at the huge response and estimates 250 of the applicants were from Nelson, and 50 from Christchurch and overseas.

"It's eye-opening. I had no idea there were so many people looking for work," she said.

In contrast, the hospital has been unable to fill a 26-hour-a-week position for a theatre sterilisation technician despite advertising in January and March.

The job requires a qualification which can only be obtained if working in the role, so now the hospital is about to advertise instead for a trainee technician.

"I expect we will get inundated," said Ms Gibbs.

"I'm a bit nervous about how many we will get because in Nelson health sector jobs with on-the-job training are scarce."

Despite the big response to the receptionist vacancy, the hospital has replied to each of the 300 applicants.

"I think it's incredibly rude when people go to the trouble of writing a cover letter and send in their CV and the employer does not send them a reply," said Ms Gibbs. She considered it a matter of professionalism and respect to acknowledge their application promptly.

She estimates 75 per cent of the applicants were those wanting to change jobs, with the rest out of work.

Her advice to jobseekers is to carefully check their applications. "Our first applicant had 23 mistakes in the first paragraph. When you are an employer dealing with health data that does not show you in good light," said Ms Gibbs.

Similarly, applicants should also carefully read the job description, she said. Some thought it was a carer role.

Nor was she impressed with applicants who wrote in text-speak, and believes some would benefit from getting professional career advice.

She said they told some applicants why they did not get an interview, in an effort to help them, but it became too much to tell everyone.

From the 300 applicants they selected 30 for a shortlist and interviewed seven, with four of those from Nelson and three from Christchurch.

Work and Income reports 948 Nelson and Tasman people were receiving an unemployment benefit in the December quarter, down from 1093 at the same time the previous year.

Its regional labour market manager, Gary Gatward-Smith, said since then, it expected numbers to have followed the trend of previous years, with fewer on the dole as seasonal work picked up.

"We have seen more employment opportunities, particularly in the packhouses across Stoke and Richmond, and are currently assisting with top-ups in packhouses and for apple picking vacancies as the season comes toward its peak," he said.

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Enza in Nelson had no trouble filling its seasonal jobs, which run from February to June, and is full up, with 60 working in the packhouse and 50 in the coolstore. Operations manager Christine Bary said they had a good calibre of worker.

She describes it as still an employers' market. While most apply online, the firm gets 10-15 jobseekers a week doorknocking, mostly backpackers. It also had 24 apply for a supervising job in its Nelson coolstore. Ms Bary said there were more than she expected in the 35-plus age group rather than younger applicants.

The biggest downfall for jobseekers was not passing a drug test. "If you want a job, stay off the drugs," she said.

Backpackers are also seeking harvest work in the Nelson region.

Motueka grower Stuart Allan had 30 people apply for 12 casual jobs picking and packing kiwiberries, 95 per cent of them travellers, and was able to employ the workers he needed.

Mr Gatward-Smith said in other areas of the labour market, its work brokers were reporting that they were seeing more jobs on offer this year compared with the same time last year - with a larger variety. They also reported high demand for caregivers.

"Speaking generally, the labour market can be quite dynamic so it is difficult to predict the future, especially when droughts and markets can change.

"However, we would expect the pool of unemployed to continue to reduce slowly, reflecting the slow growth predicted."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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