Strengths and weaknesses - be prepared thoughtful and honest


The recruitment industry is currently experiencing some challenges in the employment market. A focus on organisations to fill roles internally or source candidates directly has had an impact on external recruitment agencies and their ability to get good candidates in front of clients. There are still multiple roles available in the support space, and clients are struggling to source the best talent without utilising recruitment agencies. At GOW we are continuing to work on roles, however when in the past they were exclusive, we now compete with the internal recruitment or HR teams.

The next 6-12 months are going to be tough in the employment market, salaries for PA’s are being driven down again, the average salary for a mid level EA in Melbourne and Sydney is $65 - $70K package, which is lower than in 2008. The main activity seems to be at the junior end with Reception and Team Assistant roles and there is a huge candidate shortage in the $50 - $55K package salary range. Legal secretaries especially with Insurance and Litigation experience are desperately needed across all Law firms and the big 4 banks are spreading their support staff very thin. The temporary admin and secretarial market is very quiet in Melbourne and Sydney with a lot of organisations ‘making do’ and covering holidays and sick leave themselves. The main growth areas for support roles in Banking, Finance and Professional services are in Legal, Insurance and Superannuation.

The main differences we are finding in the Business Support space both in Melbourne and Sydney is that less roles are being given to agency at the start of the campaign and the process is taking longer than usual. Active candidates need to be prepared for a sometimes frustrating recruitment process. I believe that the delay in the briefing, interview and offer stages can be contributed to some of the following factors:

  • Internal pressure from clients to source their own candidates either through internal referral, internal recruitment teams or direct advertising and avoid agency fees.
  • There are now many more ways to source candidates than just job boards. Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are heavily utilised to attract candidates to organisations and roles. However, to monitor all of the traffic and interest through social media takes much longer than just screening job applications and the search and selection process is lengthened because of that.
  • There is uncertainty in the Australian economy and every day you read another doom and gloom article about double dip recessions or the GFC Mk2. Because of the fear being propagated by the media, employers are just much more cautious than they have been in the past and the days of roles being created around excellent candidates have gone. Now roles are subject to head count, budget and forecasting restrictions and this slows down the interviewing process as organsiations want to see more candidates so they can make the best choice.
  • Recruiters in the past would ‘float’ outstanding candidates to trusted clients in their network, hiring managers would utilise agencies to keep them updated with top quality and would expect to see ‘floated talent’. In recent years the term float has been replaced by unsolicited CV’s and they are now not accepted by organisations.
  • Organisations will often work on a role for 2-3 weeks before utilising an agency, by this time they have already advertised, used social media, asked for referrals and interviewed a number of candidates. Agencies are given the ‘desperate’ or ‘hard to fill’ roles that require a very quick turnaround. Therefore, agencies are utilising their candidate databases more and more and avoiding Seek and social networking as chances are those candidates will have already applied to the company directly.
  • Internal recruiters often work on a wide variety or roles, salary levels and skill set, therefore they can’t necessarily keep track of every single applicant and good quality candidates can get missed due to excessive applications or time constraints. Due to the sheer volume they are handling especially in the larger organsiations it can take weeks before a candidate will hear about the status of their application.

My advice to any applicant currently looking for work in the current market is this:

  • Align yourself with a boutique agency that specialises in your industry, is well networked and is recommended. If you can be referred then even better.
  • Avoid applying to multiple roles through Seek without speaking to the internal recruiter or external recruiter directly; confirm you are what they are looking for before applying.
  • Be mindful that any direct application to an organisation means that your CV will be on their database for up to 12 months and external recruiters will not be able to talk to them about you in the future.
  • Be prepared for a lengthy process, in the past we would advise candidates that the process would take 1-2 weeks, however now in the business support space its 3-4 weeks from start to finish.
  • Make sure you have 2 good references that are available and expecting phone calls, one of the things that can let you down at the end of the process is not having available referees and it can be the deciding factor between you and another candidate.
  • Move for the right reasons, a small increase in salary is not usually the right reason. Consider long term potential growth and development and whether the organisation is the right fit for you.
  • Please be patient with your recruitment consultant, any delay in communication is often a result of a lack of communication from the client and they are probably just as frustrated as you.

Claire Beecroft, Manager, Business Support, Sydney, Melbourne