Volatile job market good for businesses, bad for employees

New Zealand recruitment firms are definitely feeling the pinch trying to place IT staff, but nowhere near as much as their Australian colleagues.

New Zealand recruitment firms are definitely feeling the pinch trying to place IT staff, but nowhere near as much as their Australian colleagues.

Elan IT, formerly IT@Manpower, has seen a definite tail off in contract work over the past six months, says its country manager, Chris Lewis.

"We would expect our contract numbers to increase year on year by about 10 or 15%. This year contract numbers have stayed static or risen by a very small amount, nowhere near what we're used to."

Lewis says many companies are in the throes of reassessing their IT commitments and the first to suffer is always the contractor.

The Australian market is proving tough for many looking for work at the moment. Contracting rates have dropped by as much as one third and permanent salary rates have dropped along with the number of jobs available.

The Australian Computer Society's latest salary survey shows that IT professionals sustained an average wage rise of below the benchmark 5.9% rise for the first time last year.

Nick Cardwell, director of Auckland-based recruitment firm ITEC, says the entire market is "difficult" at the moment.

"I was talking to a guy with senior management experience and IT skills who a few years ago would easily have found him a role over $100,000 with no problems. He'll probably still get that, but he's been looking since September."

Cardwell says he knows of other people in similar situations and says it comes down to the NASDAQ collapse in the US.

"There are some companies that are doing extremely well. They are selling products that are necessary in one sense or another."

Cardwell says such products, with international demand, mean these companies can better weather such downturns in demand and so keep on hiring through the doldrums.

For those hiring staff, however, the change in supply and demand is a good thing.

Intergen, the online professional services developer formed from the core of Glazier Systems, has a different take on the matter, according to managing director Tony Stewart.

"We're getting lots of unsolicited applications for jobs and we've been putting vacancies up on our website. We put an ad up for a product marketing person and I didn't think we'd get any response at all, but we did and we've just hired someone for that. From our point of view it doesn't look good for recruitment agents."

Stewart says prospective employees who come looking for work have "an edge" that makes them desirable as candidates.

"When you consider the cost of working with an agency, unless they're offering you very good candidates, there's not much point to it."

Lewis says these direct clients will probably only be looking at high profile or strong brand name companies in this manner.

"If they think 'I wonder if they're hiring, I'll just have a look at their site' that's about the limit of it. Most haven't got the time or commitment to go from site to site looking for work, so they'll make use of job boards and the agencies." Lewis says the market is definitely changing, however.

"Clients are expecting more from recruitment agencies and its those agencies that are flexible in their approach, who offer better candidates for the job, that will survive in the long run."

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