Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

RIP 457: the end of the visa scheme and the future of Australian recruitment

By Simon Greening, APAC Regional Director at Bullhorn

The end of the 457 visa scheme has caused much uncertainty among Australian startups and Australian recruiters, and not without reason: between July and December 2017, the number of skilled work visas granted dropped by a third compared to the same period the previous year.

Many small businesses – reliant on talented overseas workers they are – reeled, and especially in the tech sector: visas for analysts dropped by 50%, visas for developers and programmers dropped by 31%, and visas for software engineers dropped by 10%. Unfortunately, this fall in visas issued by the government has not been accompanied by any declining need for talent, especially in critical areas like IT.

For several years now, concerns have been raised over Australia’s population decline, and the Temporary Skill Shortage visa – which replaces the 457 visa – does not, in many cases, offer a path to permanent residency.

As employers find that recruiting skilled talent from overseas is now no longer as easy as it once was, their relationships with recruitment companies become ever more important. So, what does the future hold for Australian recruiters, and how can they continue to source and place candidates in this difficult environment?

Here’s where they should be focusing their efforts.

1.    Looking for referrals and redeployments

According to Bullhorn’s 2018 Australian Recruitment Trends report, candidate referrals are currently one of the most popular sources of talent: 25% of the 200 recruiters surveyed ranked it as their favoured method overall, and 62% placed it within their top three. It’s not hard to see why: referrals from successfully placed candidates can help a firm easily identify potential hires with a similar profile or skillset – and they beget even more referrals in future.

Redeployment is a similarly popular tactic: it allows recruiters to revisit previous candidates and place them in new roles. It necessitates a greater time investment, as the consultant must make an effort to monitor a candidate’s career and stay on friendly terms with them. But with technology such as applicant tracking systems (ATS) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems available, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Making multiple placements with the same candidates is cash in the bank for recruiters, who have to capitalise on strong, pre-existing relationships. 

2.    Harnessing social networks

Social networks are a natural hunting ground for recruiters across the world: after all, the best candidates make the best efforts to be found online. Nearly all recruiters use LinkedIn for sourcing candidates, and it’s not hard to see why.

Firstly, it’s free: recruiters can search for specific skills or job titles to find potential hires who might be perfect for their clients. It’s easier than ever to poach good people from rival companies, unearth the hidden pearls in a hiring pool, and compare prospective candidates to existing ones.

Expect recruiters to expand their social media efforts in the years to come, especially as new, powerful integrations between social media and other recruitment platforms become more widely adopted.

3.    Identifying transferable skills

Sometimes the best candidate isn’t the most obvious candidate. Skills and experiences that might not have the most direct relevance to the role profile can actually be invaluable in a potential hire, especially when talent pools in key areas prove to be shallow.

So, while it’s perfectly possible to narrow the field by qualifications and experience, it’s also essential to look for candidates’ transferable skills that could be relevant to a particular role.  Importantly, recruiters can even identify specific ‘character types’ and temperaments complementary to the needs of the client. It makes sense for the future of recruitment: a skills deficiency can be fixed through training; an ill-suited personality, in many cases, cannot.

If candidates aren’t quite ideal for the role – but have the key transferable skills for it otherwise – this kind of upskilling could represent the way forward.

4.    Fostering diversity

Finally, recruiters need to foster diversity if they hope to increase the number of candidates they can put forward for certain roles. Accordingly, marketing efforts shouldn’t just target certain age ranges or experience levels: they should also target, for example, senior citizens, graduates, disabled, mothers returning to work, ethnic minorities, and others. Similarly, job descriptions should not be written in a way that excludes anyone simply because of their age, gender, sexual orientation, or race.

Underrepresented groups can offer value and perspectives that can help companies grow – both internally and in the eyes of external stakeholders. Let’s not forget that Australia – along with many other countries – view discrimination in employment as unlawful.

Looking ahead

If the change in Australia’s migration policy has any positive impact at all, it will manifest in how it encourages recruiters to make the most of the talent already on Australia’s shores. Here the essential tools of the trade – relationship building, adjusting to new norms and expectations, and adoption of technology – will be as invaluable as they always were.