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Posted By: Eva Grabner | on October 31 2018

My Experience Recruiting Engineers in Cairns

Having recently moved to Cairns from Sydney, one thing has become obvious… recruiting specialised positions in Far North Queensland is a challenge. When I was recruiting in Sydney, I could be very picky about who I approach, there was a large talent pool to choose from without having to worry about relocating people.

Recruiting in Cairns, however, is a very different story, especially since I specialise in Engineering roles and there is already a shortage of good engineers nationally. In Cairns and other regional and remote locations, it is always hard to attract good engineers and to keep them long term. It has forced me to think outside the box and look at creative ways of finding good candidates. Here are a few ideas that have helped me and my clients:

How to find good candidates

  • Look for people who grew up locally or within the surrounding region who have since moved away, they may be interested in ‘coming home’.
  • Look at hobbies that suit our region (fishing, camping, snorkelling, boating, bushwalking). Network within clubs or groups that participate in these activities and you’ll find people who are more suited to life in this region.
  • Local universities can supply great graduates who will likely want to stay in the area for longer. Now with CQU Cairns Campus’ first round of Civil Engineering students in their 3rd year, it is the perfect time to make contact and help them plan their transition into the workforce.
  • Look in the major cities that are now experiencing housing price crashes and other issues, promote the benefits of life in Cairns (cheaper housing, better lifestyle, more family oriented), and get people who want to escape the city rat race.

Benefits to offer that will make the move more attractive

  • Help cover relocation costs and manage operational aspects – relocating can be a very stressful thing for a family so helping out with the costs and organising the removalist will make it a much more attractive idea.
  • Offer more professional development opportunities and more career growth options. For some, a move to a regional area can be a great idea to speed up their career progression, if you have a good mentor program you will find more motivated and progressive candidates will be interested.

Highlight all the benefits of the local area

  • The environment up here offers so many lifestyle benefits worth moving here for. Great Barrier reef, Daintree rainforest, Port Douglas, Camping, the Tablelands, friendly people, community spirit. People outside of FNQ do not understand what life is like here (I know I didn’t before I moved here).
  • Another misconception a lot of people have about Cairns is that it isn’t a real city and doesn’t offer all the services you need that a bigger city offers. Living here I can see that I have everything I need, with the added benefit of it all being much closer than it would be in a capital city.
  • The international airport in Cairns makes this a perfect base to start your overseas travelling. Compared to Sydney, it’s so much cheaper to fly from Cairns to Bali, or Japan, or almost anywhere.

Challenges to be aware of

  • When families move to a regional/remote area, even if one of them have a good job, their partner may find it difficult to find work. It can take a toll on the family and often they end up going back where they came from to find stable employment. Make sure their partner is in an industry with plenty of employment opportunities in the area.
  • Have they lived through a wet season yet? Do they know what to expect? I was well prepared for my first wet season with everyone constantly telling me how awful it was going to be. But for quite a few people, when they get their first taste of Summer in the tropics, they can’t handle it and bail out back down South. Don’t be scared to tell people what to expect, if you sugar coat it and they leave after 6 months it’s a lot of money wasted for you.

These ideas have been really beneficial in my searching for those hard to fill positions, hopefully, there is something in there for you too. I’m interested in hearing anyone else’s experience in recruiting specialised positions in regional locations.


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