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Recruitment SEEKonomics

There’s an intriguing range of wild and wacky economic indicators being bandied about by some lighter-hearted economists these days.  Have you heard about burgernomics and the Big Mac Index that measures the currency level of a nation against it’s average Big Mac price?  (NZ is bang on the money).  Or how about the UK’s hemline economy, where longer skirt lengths indicate an economy in decline?  We have our own one here in New Zealand with the ANZ Bank reporting bi-monthly on the Heavy Traffic Index, the truckometer proving to be freakishly prescient of impending GDP growth or decline.

After events this week I’ve decided to introduce a new one for the recruitment industry in our Australasian region.  It’s called Recruitment SEEKonomics.

As most of you are no doubt aware, SEEK sent out emails to their clients this week explaining there will be a price hike on their standard job ad postings:

“…taking into careful consideration a number of factors including market conditions, the value that SEEK provides and the initiatives we are working on to ensure the ongoing delivery of this value to you.”

The interesting thing this time around is how different the reactions have been on either side of the Tasman.  Two years ago, with the NZ economy trudging gloomily along, battling uphill towards “grumpy growth” and staring bleakly into a protracted period of muted trading conditions I posted here on The Whiteboard about the backlash caused by their then increase (3% in NZ and fully 9% in Australia).  Despite us in NZ receiving an increase just one third of that of our Aussie mates, the clamor and indignation was loudest this side of the Tasman.  With such a large increase for the Aussies, there were of course some who dissented, one comment on the blog from Daniel James saying they had cancelled their SEEK account as a result (a quick keyword search on SEEK now indicates he has 12 jobs listed there…so what does that tell you?)

This time around I’ve heard virtually no complaints from New Zealand.  As we start to feel better about ourselves, with business confidence on high across all sectors, and recruitment activity undoubtedly on the up, there are rather less knickers getting twisted this time around.  The most I’ve seen has been a conversation on Twitter where the general consensus seemed to be that SEEK still formed an essential channel of a broader recruitment campaign, making sure all bases are covered (although this graphic produced by @NZheadhunter suggests it is a channel dwindling in significance for the wider sourcing strategy).

Not so in Australia.

The Lucky Country, feeling the pinch since China stopped gorging on the stuff they dig out of their ground, and riddled with indecision and inaction in the far-off glare of a ridiculously drawn-out general election campaign, are experiencing a lumpy, unpredictable, sometimes stagnant economy for the first time in ages.  This has kicked their recruitment sector squarely in the balls.  Doubled over in agony, the announcement from SEEK has been an ill-timed uppercut, producing a raft of spittle-flecked indignation that eclipses our reaction in 2011.  Bear in mind that there is also no TradeMe Jobs to compete with SEEK in Australia.  The only other contenders, My Career and CareerOne, are so far behind the SEEK behemoth that they have had to resort to offering their job ad slots for free.  This “open letter” from DFP Recruitment CEO Robert van Stokrom, entitled Have SEEK Gone Mad?, sums the mood of their recruitment industry up quite nicely.

I think that as long as SEEK maintain their market dominance, the price rises will continue, purely and simply because they can.  It doesn’t matter what new innovations or investments they point to as ways to justify it.  But if you’re ever unsure as to which recruitment sector is feeling more bullish, more confident, more assured of future growth than the other, just look at the SEEKonomic reaction each year the price rise is announced.  I hope it is equally muted in NZ next year too.

The fares on my daily ferry commute also jumped up this week.  Lots of people grumbled about it but, faced with the alternatives of buses jammed full of yacking school kids or crawling along a motorway in a metal coffin, most have carried on using it.  I wonder how many of SEEK’s customers will follow through on their ill-feeling and cancel accounts.  Not that many, I’ll bet.

Jonathan Rice

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

One Comment

  • Avatar Brad says:

    We could measure Auckland economics via the GeorgiePie’o’meter –
    if there was such a thing it would clearly state all is well!

    When I received the SEEK announcement I sighed but not too heavily as I have found our friends over at Trademejobs to be producing the goods time in and time out
    and making a real effort to grow their market share, win and retain clients –
    even the small accounts like mine. My focus is perm exec placements and
    struggle to accept that SEEK are the dominant leader they tell me they are and
    therefore should put up their prices.
    Add to that all their new innovative services – don’t use them, maybe I
    should but don’t so the value is not there for me which means there must be
    others feeling the same?

    I’ve had more account managers at SEEK in the past few years
    than I can shake a stick at. I
    believe my first SEEK account manager now works at TMJs – one of the few who
    took the time to introduce themselves.
    On the topic of value, every month TMJs sends me a market update and
    breakdown of my ads etc plus the odd invite to an event such as the Google
    breakfast recently. SEEK nowhere to be
    seen.

    I absolutely appreciate that a business has the right to increase
    their rates – and that I get.

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