The top 20 hardest-to-fill roles in New Zealand
SEEK data reveals the roles that are the hardest to fill in New Zealand. Two industries make up the lion’s share of the list – how can hiring managers and recruiters tackle the challenge?

Even the most sophisticated recruitment strategies can struggle to attract a wealth of candidates to certain roles. Some positions are simply more challenging to fill than others and SEEK data shows they are likely to exist in two key sectors.

New Zealand’s hardest-to-fill roles

The latest data reveals that two industries dominate the list of hard-to-fill roles – Healthcare & Medical and Legal. What’s happening within these industries and which roles are proving the most challenging?

The chart below details the roles that were hardest-to-fill in 2018, based on candidate application numbers, compared to the same time the previous year. An easing trend indicates a market with more candidates, while a tightening trend indicates a market with fewer candidates. A stable trend indicates a market with no change in the volume of candidates available.

Source: SEEK Employment Report 2018 vs 2017

Supply versus demand

Roles are often hard to fill when demand exceeds supply. Resources in New Zealand’s healthcare industry, for example, are under pressure due to the growing ageing population. The number of people aged 65 and over has doubled since 1980 and is predicted to double again by 2036. Dan Hobson, Director - Hobson Health Recruitment, says healthcare represents a candidate-short market. “A lot of roles in the industry are hard to fill because of the imbalance between supply and demand,” he says. “Employers are really having to work a bit harder to attract talent.”

Meanwhile, the legal industry is also experiencing a surge in demand and the 2018 Hays Job Report for New Zealand notes a candidate shortage across the sector.

Emily McCarthy, Principal and Head of Secondments at Lexvoco, which provides lawyers on contract and secondment to leading organisations in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, expects this trend to continue throughout 2019.

“There are other reasons why legal roles can be hard to fill,” she says. “The legal industry has a reputation for being inflexible and in a time where people are looking for flexibility in their careers, any lack of flexibility is a real deterrent to making a change.”

A diagnosis for the healthcare sector

SEEK’s data shows roles for Nursing - Midwifery, Neo-Natal, SCN & NICU are the hardest to fill. The trend is also tightening with a 5% decrease in applications per advertised role.

Hobson says candidates for these roles are “always in demand”. “The ratio of qualified midwifes to registered nurses is low,” he says. “It’s a very specialised area of nursing.”

A number of other nursing roles are proving hard to fill. These include Nursing – Management, Nursing Psych, Forensic & Correctional Health and Nursing - A&E, Critical Care & ICU. Nursing represents the largest occupational group within New Zealand’s healthcare sector and the workforce is ageing. Looking back to a study four years ago, research from Health Workforce New Zealand showed the average age of nurses in the country was 46.3 years. It also noted that the risk of staff shortages becomes greater as the proportion of experienced nurses approaching retirement increases. This is a particular issue in specialty areas with the highest average ages, such as palliative care (for which the average age of nurses is 52 years) and mental health (for which the average age is 51 years).

Trends in the legal industry

SEEK’s data shows roles in Construction Law are proving difficult to fill. Supply versus demand has been easing however, with an increase in applications of 37.1% per advertised role.

McCarthy credits the infrastructure boom for the growth in demand. “We are seeing an increased need for property lawyers which is also quite challenging to fill due to the decline in the commercial property market.”

Roles in Insurance & Superannuation Law and Industrial Relations & Employment Law also make the list. Corporate and Commercial Law roles are also hard to fill; and the trend continues to tighten with applications per advertised role decreasing by 7.8%.

Overcoming the challenge

With a number of roles across the Healthcare & Medical and Legal industries more challenging to fill than other, experts say employers need to look beyond base salary to attract the best talent.

“Healthcare candidates are attracted to a positive and supportive workplace, as their day-to-day work can be tough,” says Hobson. “Employers should highlight their culture and values when they promote their brand in the market.”

Hobson adds that career development and flexibility are also highly valued by healthcare candidates. “Candidates for specialist roles can demand opportunities such as career development and can also negotiate for perks such as relocation fees,” he says. “Employers need to be prepared for this.”

Find out more about what New Zealand candidates want. Visit SEEK Laws of Attraction.

McCarthy says flexible working arrangements can also attract candidates in the legal profession. “There has not been a lot of flexibility in traditional law firms, but we know that this is something that more lawyers want. By utilising the gig economy, we are able to offer lawyers the type of work they want, when they want it.”

McCarthy adds that career development is also highly valued. Lexvoco, which employs more than 100 people, provides access to educational webinars, industry meet ups and networking events. “Lawyers also want career progression and we offer them an opportunity to diversify their in-house experience and develop new skills. We’re also a leader in legal technology, so we ensure Lexvoco lawyers know that they will have the opportunity to expand their skillset.”