Finding a Job

Businesses with recruitment difficulties

Despite job vacancies attracting a high average number of applicants, there are still many employers who have difficulty finding the workers they need to support and grow their business.

Recruitment difficulty is most often reported for higher skilled vacancies, for which employers require higher levels of qualifications and experience. However, as shown in the graph below, even for lower skilled positions, more than a quarter of employers have difficulty finding suitable staff.

Proportion of businesses reporting difficulty recruiting, 2016-17 (%)

This bar chart shows the proportion of businesses that reported difficulty recruiting for lower skilled workers and higher skilled workers in 2016-17. Lower skilled 26%. Higher skilled 43%.

Employers who have difficulty recruiting for lower skilled positions commonly report that job seekers

  • lack the experience required to do the job
  • have inadequate employability skills or are poorly presented
  • do not have the necessary training, licences or qualifications
  • are unable to put together an application that is well set out, free of spelling and grammatical mistakes, and tailored to the job.

The common requirements of experience and employability skills, coupled with the competitive job search environment across much of Australia, has resulted in many young and inexperienced job seekers having difficulty getting a foothold in the jobs market.

What do employers value?

When recruiting, employers are looking for people who demonstrate experience, skills and knowledge, and employability skills. If you can demonstrate that you have these attributes, and that they are relevant to the position, you are more likely to be successful.

What are employability skills?

Employability skills, or soft skills, cover a broad range of personal attributes and transferable skills that are very important to employers. The employability skill that employers consider to be most essential is ‘people skills’, in particular, how we engage with others.

Research by the Department of Jobs and Small Business has found that around 70% of employers place at least as much emphasis, if not more, on employability skills than they do on technical skills.

Are employability skills or technical skills most important to employers?

Pie chart shows 41% of employers place more importance on employability skills, 28% place more importance on technical skills and 30% see both skill types as equally important.

Applicants who do not have the employability skills that an employer requires will often be rejected, even if they have relevant qualifications, so even the most highly qualified applicants need to be able to demonstrate their employability skills. Job seekers who do not have post-school qualifications, including young job seekers, really need to demonstrate their employability skills to employers, including that they have a positive attitude and are prepared for the demands of the workplace.

While employers consider a range of employability skills to be important, they may place greater emphasis on some skills over others. For example, employers seeking to fill positions in lower skilled occupations particularly value

  • reliability
  • motivation
  • hard work
  • good personal presentation.

Employers seeking to fill more highly skilled occupations also seek

  • good communication and teamwork skills
  • caring and empathetic individuals
  • good organisational skills

Do employability skills vary by occupation?

Although a range of employability skills are important for every job, employers look for particular attributes when recruiting for particular jobs. The following examples are based on discussions with Australian employers and give some insight into what employers are seeking.

Aged and Disabled Carers

  1. Caring and empathetic
  2. People skills
  3. Good communication skills


  1. Reliable
  2. Hardworking
  3. Enthusiastic and a positive attitude

Child Carers

  1. Caring and empathetic
  2. People skills
  3. Work well in a team


  1. People skills
  2. Reliable
  3. Hardworking


  1. People skills
  2. Well presented
  3. Work well in a team

General Sales Assistants

  1. People skills
  2. Customer service skills
  3. Relaible

The value of workplace experience

One of the most difficult challenges that even the most highly educated person can face is breaking into the labour market with little or no work experience. Roughly two thirds of all vacancies require some level of experience. Even in cases where experience is not essential, many employers will often select an applicant with previous work experience over an applicant who has none.

Inexperienced job seekers should be receptive to a broad range of employment prospects and should take advantage of all available opportunities to gain experience, including volunteer work, internships, work experience placements, and apprenticeships. These opportunities, even if not directly related to a job seeker’s career goals, can help develop employability skills and provide much needed references. They can be valuable stepping stones to an entry-level role that leads to better opportunities in the future.

How do employers recruit?

Employers use a wide range of recruitment methods to fill their vacancies. The most common recruitment methods used by employers in the 2016-17 financial year (latest data available) are shown in the graph below.

Methods of recruitment, proportion of vacancies, 2016-17*

Bar chart shows methods of recruitment and the proportion of vacancies which used each method in 2016-17. Recruitment methods / job boards 49% of vacancies. word of mouth 26%. company websites 13%. recruitment agencies 11%. newspaper 11%. approached by jobseeker 11%. social media 9%. advertised / promoted within business 8%. sign in window 4%. Government Employment Services 4%.

*Some employers use more than one recruitment method

The majority of jobs are widely accessible, including those advertised on recruitment websites, job boards, company websites, in newspapers and on social media sites.

For some vacancies, employers use recruitment agencies (11%, including labour hire firms) or Australian Government Employment Services providers, i.e. jobactive (4%), to recruit staff. Employment services providers also offer job search advice and training to help job seekers find work.

Other vacancies are ‘hidden’ due to employers relying on more informal recruitment methods. Some employers use word of mouth by asking existing employees, friends, or family members if they know anyone who may be interested in the position. Other employers fill positions with job seekers who have approached the business to ask about potential job opportunities.

Are there ways for job seekers to stand out?

Getting a job in some occupations or areas can be very competitive and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips to help you to stand out from other applicants.

  • Act early. Some employers hire the first applicant who meets their criteria.
  • Further education and training helps you to get the skills and qualifications for jobs that interest you.
  • If you already have qualifications, you may need to consider broadening and diversifying your skill set. Apart from providing additional skills and qualifications, training demonstrates a commitment to a particular career direction.
  • Experience is valuable as it can demonstrate you already have the skills for the job, and that you are committed to work.
  • Demonstrate your employability skills at all stages of the recruitment process. Being on time, speaking clearly and noting the importance of teamwork at interviews are examples of ways to show your skills.

Things to keep in mind when applying for a job

It can be difficult when applying for a job to know how to tailor your application or prepare for an interview. Many job seekers underestimate the importance of their application and presentation at the interview, which is usually an employer’s first impression of you. Keep in mind the following tips.

  • Pay attention to detail in your job applications and résumé, particularly to spelling and grammar.
  • Ensure your résumé is up-to-date and highlights your transferable skills but is not too long (up to three pages).
  • Tailor your application and résumé to the position for which you are applying. If unsure, research the business and/or industry to demonstrate that you have an interest in the job and understand what is required.
  • Approach employers directly and follow up on your application. This is your opportunity to make a good first impression and to demonstrate an understanding of the job.
  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothes and have a tidy appearance when you attend interviews. If you’re not sure what to wear, do some research or visit the business before your interview to see what current workers are wearing.

For more information and assistance

Resources to help you find a job or choose a career are provided on Useful Websites and Links page.

The Department of Jobs and Small Business produces a range of posters for career advisers, teaching professionals and job providers as a resource to use with job seekers and students.

What do employers expect from young job seekers? What are the most important things employers look for: a positive attitude and willingness to work, motivation and reliability, someone who is prepared to learn and take direction. Being reliable and responsible is important. Young people need to be: punctual and dependable, respectful to colleagues and customers, loyal and stay in a job for a period of time.

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