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Headhunters rampant in tight job market


Almost every business is actively poaching employees and many are open to offers, says recruiter.

By Philip King 12 minute read

Headhunters have become rampant in the tight job market and one-third of workers are open to the right offer, according to research by recruitment specialist Robert Half.

Its survey found 98 per cent of business leaders were approaching candidates who are not actively looking for a new role in a bid to secure talent, with 27 per cent always doing so and only a tiny minority – 2 per cent  – happy to rely on active jobseekers.

Poaching was worst among chief financial officers or large businesses in Queensland and Western Australia, it said, where the challenge of securing talent was greatest.


“Increased hiring activity and turnover in the past 12 months means a shrinking active jobseeker market as skilled candidates settle into new roles, creating even more competition for talent,” said Robert Half director Nicole Gorton.

“The number of people currently employed is at an all-time high, which is creating a very tight market of active jobseekers.

“Reflecting the scarcity of active jobseekers in the market, businesses are increasingly turning to passive talent who are currently employed elsewhere.

“However, we are still seeing that passive talent – those currently in a role – are aware of their bargaining power in the market and are open to changing jobs for the right offer.”

Ms Gorton said the talent drought had forced poachers to cast their nets wider than before COVID hit.

“Pre-pandemic, head-hunting was reserved for the senior end of the market particularly $250k or over, as the combination of international migration and a lower appetite for new headcount meant businesses could rely on the active job market for a much higher proportion of their junior to mid-level hiring activity,” she said.

“Approaching passive talent was typically reserved for the technical, niche, or hard-to-find skillsets, and as such was more common within the tech space than finance and business support.

“By contrast, we are in a hiring market of extremely elevated demand for talent as companies simultaneously undertake ambitious growth agendas and deliver on a backlog of projects put on hold over the pandemic.

“As we know, the supply of talent to accommodate this demand simply isn’t there, so businesses across industries and sizes have been turning to the passive market as their first port of call for a little over a year in order to secure permanent headcount.”

She said pay and conditions would be persuasive if pitched at the right level.

“Employers willing to extend a competitive package including a generous salary increase of 15 per cent or more, flexible working arrangements and career progression opportunities are well positioned to attract passive talent from their existing employer,” she said.

The survey was conducted online in June by an independent research company, surveying 300 hiring managers including 100 CFOs and 100 CIOs, from companies across Australia. 

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Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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