NZ Recruitment: beware the dark side

Migrants are often viewed by disreputable companies as easy money and traditionally less ethical recruitment businesses have targeted skilled workers on the basis that they are often poorly informed, cashed up and (best of all) in another country thousands of miles away making it hard for them to come and complain.

New Zealand Immigration policy has made the job offer such a core requirement for the majority of applicants that many people are caught in a catch-22 situation where they need to interview in New Zealand to get a job, but can’t fully commit to their move without a solid job offer.

As a result many people are desperate and willing to pay large sums of money for the promise of employment.

Unfortunately like most promises of this kind you rarely get what you pay for. Rather than the job offer you are much more likely to end up in the same position without a big chunk of cash as many of these businesses will keep taking more and more money until you give up.

Finding work in New Zealand
It’s never been that easy to get a job in New Zealand and almost impossible for most people unless they are willing to come here and meet potential employers.

The recruitment industry is fairly large and links jobseekers and employers together. While most companies just link people together (and take a large payment from the employer for doing so) there are some consultants who perform important services around vetting and psychometric testing for specific roles and of course some actively head-hunt top staff.

What links these businesses together is that they are generally reputable and the employer almost always pays for the new applicant not the jobseeker. Charging the jobseeker is very unusual in New Zealand (and generally a bad sign), charging the employer and the jobseeker (‘double dipping’) is a really bad sign.

The dark side
Before the recession hit New Zealand there were more and more companies targeting vulnerable and desperate migrants promising they could find them a job without the need to come to New Zealand.

Move2nz came across one such company – NewjobZ – in 2005 soon after launching and quickly realised they were hiding their fees, slipping nasty surprises into the small-print and not providing services for the majority of their paying customers. Those paying clients they did work with were generally just passed to other recruitment companies who worked normally, could be found for free in the yellow pages, and properly charged the employer when landing a job offer.

Luckily complaints to the Commerce Commission closed this bunch down long ago.

Times have been hard for many recruitment businesses since the recession hit at the start of 2009 and almost all recruitment companies moved completely away from working with speculative migrants – those without a visa allowing them to start work – as employers (and immigration) wouldn’t accept them.

Things are starting to pick up again however with a 10 percent increase in jobs being advertised of the past year and the looming rebuild in Christchurch which is expected to require 8,000+ migrant workers to help out.

Paying for a job

Today I am here to tell you to beware – the first sharks are back in the water.

The first sign I received was an email from a move2nzer – an IT professional from India – who had been working with a reputable licensed adviser. The adviser referred him to a recruitment business who charged a ‘job search fee’ of NZ$1,350 to look for a job.

Interestingly not only did the immigration professional know about this fee, they actually sent out the first invoice. Of course once the fee was paid the recruiter stopped answering emails – it appears it was just a scam.

Thousands of miles away from New Zealand the migrant is stuck. They could complain to the Commerce Commission but are unlikely to see their money ever again and are no closer to getting a job offer.

As the adviser was involved you might think the migrant could complaint to the Immigration Advisers Authority about this, but actually the IAA and Tribunal only cover immigration advice and (unike the law commission who watch lawyers) are not interested if a licensed adviser is found to be less than professional when operating any other service.

Sign #2
The second sign was spotting advertising from a very sharp website aimed at the UK market that was so close in operation to the old NewjobZ I had to check who was running it to make sure it wasn’t the same crowd. Here’s how it works:

  1. You upload your CV onto their database of ‘thousands’ for free;
  2. If you get a job offer and accept it there is an admin fee of $1,295;
  3. The employer also pays a fee if you are placed.

Some might think that’s good – a job offer even though the recruiter is ‘double dipping’ from the jobseeker and employer. But the devil is in the detail. If the employer doesn’t want to pay (and they say “many” employers do not) then you do. In this circumstance:

“…you agree to also pay us a Successful Placement Fee of between 2 and 4 weeks of your expected gross annual remuneration, dependent on circumstance. Fees must be paid within 7 days of receipt of our invoice”

So you end up with a very vague additional bill of between probably $2,000 and $7,500 due within 7 days of starting work – i.e. before you start earning in New Zealand – and have no real ability to check that the employer actually refused to pay.

I should also point out that because of the 90-day ‘fire at will’ policy introduced in New Zealand back in 2009 you can be fired at any point in the first 90 days of employment (whether you have agreed to this in a contract or not) without reason. Previous examples have shown that if this happens you will very probably still have to pay the fee charged by the recruitment business. Money gone, no job.

But wait, there’s more.

With a little digging we also spotted that one of the directors of this company is the founder of one of the largest immigration businesses around.

Reading the small print it turns out that when you upload your free CV you are actually signing up and agreeing that if you get a job offer you will use the immigration services of this immigration business!. That means another bill of several thousand dollars you didn’t know about.

Buyer beware!

In my experience no matter what promises are made and no matter how much you have paid eventually almost all migrants will need to attend interviews in New Zealand to stand a chance of finding work – employers will quite naturally want to meet you before taking a risk on offering you work.

Paying for a job or jobsearch might sound like a good idea but very rarely works out. You are much more likely to end up:

  • in the same position you were (but with a lot less money);
  • paying exorbitant hidden fees;
  • passed on to another business that you could have found yourself for free; or
  • being tied in to a contract with all sorts of extra costs and requirements.

My advice as always is to contact employers direct – preferably by phone – unless you actually have to go through a recruitment company (for example when applying for jobs in local government). No one else can really tell you how employable you are and no one else is likely to offer you a job.

See move2nz’s employment page and articles for details and think before you part with your money.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2012.

Mike Bell
Site architect –

This article and many others can be found on – helping migrants become Kiwis since 2005.


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