By: Paul Donovan
Many Kiwi employers looking for IT candidates think they must have New Zealand experience before being given a shot, which can be a challenge for overseas professionals coming to work here.
Too often I see businesses missing out on top IT professionals who have had exposure to larger markets, projects and companies. Some that are willing to hire people without New Zealand experience (and candidates who aren’t on the ground yet), but I wanted to look at what you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of success in the IT industry Downunder.
There are certain technical skills that (when rare enough) void the New Zealand experience argument – placing everyone on a level playing field. But let’s take Christchurch, a relatively small market with only a limited number of IT jobs to go around. When weighing up a decision (particularly for business analyst and project management roles) between someone who has worked for 3-4 local businesses they’ve heard of, and someone who has done bigger and better things overseas, it’s often seen as the safer bet to go with the former. Yet, with Immigration NZ encouraging people not to apply for jobs in Auckland by awarding extra points on visas for regional work, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
So, what can you do to negate your lack of local experience? Here are a few things that I always discuss with my overseas-based candidates:
- It might be obvious, but make sure you’re applying for jobs that are suitable for you.
- Do your research. If you’re applying directly through the organisation, are there people you can network with to push your application further forward?
- If you have certain technical skills, find out what regions have more jobs in your space.
- Get your cover letters into shape, highlighting where your skills match and even where your overseas experience is relevant to the business you’re applying to.
- Clearly describe the organisations you’ve worked with (even if it’s with a company you would assume people would know of) – there is an assumption from a lot of candidates that employers here will understand the type and scale of overseas businesses. A quick snapshot of the organisation will help to clarify/sell your experience to employers.
- Engage and network with as wide a range of people as possible.
- Understand the local markets and pinpoint a couple recruiters to engage with.
- Many people come to New Zealand on a two-month trip in an effort to build networks and meet employers. Huge costs and an element of risk are association with this approach but the flipside is – what a chance! In the grand scheme of things, you’re always going to have a better chance on the ground. After all, employers in New Zealand generally still like to meet people, shake their hand and cement that trust face-to-face.