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Overcoming the ‘Local Experience’ Stigma in the IT Industry

Overcoming the ‘Local Experience’ Stigma in the IT Industry
With many Kiwi employers holding the view that candidates must have ‘local experience’, too often I see businesses missing out on top IT professionals who have had exposure to larger markets, projects and companies. Whilst there are certainly some that are willing to hire people without New Zealand experience (and candidates who aren’t on the ground yet), I wanted to delve into the matter and take a look at what you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of success in the IT industry Down Under.

In the tech market, there are of course certain technical skills that (when rare enough) void the NZ experience argument – placing everyone on a level playing field. But let’s take Christchurch for example, a relatively small market with only a limited number of IT jobs to go around. When weighing up a decision (particularly with BA and PM 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.

I’ve known so many people who have come across on a two-month trip in an effort to build networks and meet employers. Whilst there is always huge costs and an element of risk with this approach, 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 really cement that trust face-to-face.

I recently posted about this topic on social media and from the comments I received, it would seem that most people agree on the issue. Have you been overlooked because of a lack of local experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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