Approach or be poached? Qualified applicants still finding it tough in the job market

More than a third of available private sector jobs in the Hunter region are never advertised according to research by the Department of Employment.

Across the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 36 per cent of people get their private sector jobs through word of mouth, by being poached or by taking the initiative to approach a potential employer directly.

For jobs that are advertised, it is a very competitive market.  The average number of applicants per vacancy is 14.  Despite this, on average only 2.8 applicants are invited for an interview.

Feedback from employers reveals many applications are inadequate, and applicants are unable to demonstrate their suitability for the role.

However, even qualified applicants are still finding it tough in the job market.

The number of university graduates in full-time work within four months of graduation dropped by nearly 20 per cent between in the past 5 years, from 85.2 to 68.8 per cent.

When they are successful in obtaining work, many of them are performing in jobs below their skill level.  16.6 per cent of workers in clerical, sales and labourer occupations have at least a bachelor degree.  Some have post-graduate qualifications.  This marks an increase of 9 per cent since 2001 when only 7.6 per cent of university graduates worked in lower-qualification level roles.

Driving this could be a number of factors, one of the more salient being the increase in university attendance coupled with a substantial decrease in vocational training uptake.  Enrolments at the University of Newcastle increased 9 per cent between 2012 and 2014, while Hunter TAFE enrolments fell by 37 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

Judging by 2020 employment projections, a university degree is still the best path to take for long-term employment prospects.  It is anticipated 71 per cent of new jobs created by 2020 will fall into the higher skilled category.

Across our region employment growth is projected at 8.1 per cent for the five years to 2020, with the highest growth slated in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector.  As the services sector continues to grow, employers are saying the top employability skills they are on the lookout for are:

  1. Customer service
  2. Personal presentation
  3. Communication
  4. Positivity
  5. Empathy
  6. Digital literacy
  7. Problem solving
  8. Critical thinking
  9. Creativity
  10. Presentation of information
  11. Financial literacy


If your business is looking at hiring a new employee, visit the Department of Employment website to find out about the range of incentives available for businesses hiring youth, mature age workers, indigenous workers and people with disability.