Tips in finding work in New Zealand? Written by an immigrant for an immigrant

Finding work in NZ is not an easy task. Yes, it’s not easy especially if you are not a KIWI and if you are not in IT, engineering or nursing. So, if yours fall under the Skilled Migrants category, lucky you. If not, it can be even tougher to get into an entry-level jobs where you are competing with everyone else. However in saying this with perseverance + a little bit of fairy dust, you might just get what you after.

These are what I’ve learnt through my job hunting process that no one tells you! (As an international in Kiwi-land, make sure you look through the below mentioned)

1. CV 

  • you got to keep it SIMPLE (3 pages TOP!)
  • the organisation of the information got to be relevant to what you are trying to apply. Put what is important and relevant to the job you want to apply on the first page.
  • if you have a very foreign, hard to pronounce name like me, SHORTEN it. Yes, it can be a reason for you not getting the job (it sucks, I know). I have to shorten my first name and last name. 😛 And, if you can’t shorten it, I guess the other option is to add an English name. Employers in NZ are less likely to employ someone whom they cannot pronounce their name. (Unfortunately, we do have to lose our identity in order to stay and work in NZ)
  • you might want to indicate your gender especially if you have a name that Kiwis have no experience in figuring out if you are a male, female or anything else. Don’t assume they knows!
  • if you have NZ education or work experience, put that in your first page and STRESSES that bit. It helps.
  • make sure you indicate your ENGLISH level. Kiwi employers tend to assumed that people with foreign name are likely to have horrible english (which sometime can be true!)
  • a nice photo of you might help to. Depending on the job you apply for, you might want to use different photo.
  • Oversea qualification unfortunately do not mean too much here.

2. Cover Letter

  • keep in SIMPLE (1 page, the most!) – yup! Potential employers are likely not to have the time to read.
  • be GENUINE and INTERESTING not generic.
  • assuming you wrote in your C.L. that you are a “Creative Thinker”. Don’t just put that down but give a scenario where you have presented yourself as a creative thinker.

3. Grammar, Spelling, Structure, Flow of the C.V and C.L

  • get someone to read it over.
  • get another someone to read it over.
  • go to those free career center and ask someone to read it over.
  • go to another career advisor to get advice and get them to read it over.
  • get someone at the recruitment agency to take a look over it.
  • yes…yes…I know….It’s the same process but get as many people to give you feedback on what you can improve on and what can/should be removed. BUT, don’t take everything they said word for word. It’s your C.V and C.L in the end, take what you think is suitable and feel right. Use and change accordingly . 

4. Interview

  • make sure you know about the TREATY OF WAITANGI. 
  • Related Post: What to know about the Treaty
  • make sure you understand the NZ bicultural relationship (similar to the above).
  • of course, know the background of the organisation you chose to work for.

5. If you are international student currently studying in NZ or planning to come over to study, the best advice I can give you and wished someone has told me beforehand are

  • contribute your time while studying to do volunteering work in the field of work you want to work in.
  • take up summer internship.
  • part-time work in the field you plan to go into (this is to help in your networking, know the people and how thinks are done)
  • I’m not talking about part-time job as a waitress but if that is your future career choice than you are on the right track. If not, you got to find work (paid or unpaid while studying) where you have to set yourself some objectives – what do you want out of the experience while working there? Which aspects of work do you want to experience? This will eventually go into your C.V of NZ work experience and C.L where you can mentioned what you have experienced and learnt.
  • The above mentioned are also a great tool for networking (building up your relevant contacts) and references in preparation of your future work prospect. And, you should be thinking about at the early stage of your studies.
  • This part also help in eliminating/reducing part of the discrimination that international faces in NZ.

Yes, finding job in New Zealand as an international (might be worse if you are an Asian) is really hard. It is so damn hard that at times, you feel that you are worthless and what’s the point in all these. But, in saying these, I have felt all the above and that is why I said “perseverance” is critical and important, the key to maintain sanity.  I will be posting another post about my process of looking for work and how it had affected me mentally. And, I wished not for these to happen to anyone else. But, if you are reading this, you are really not alone. Perhaps, that would be a slight relieve to know you are discriminated not because of “YOU” but for your nationality, race, and identity.

Do “Stay tune” if you are keen on my next post about “Tackling (Employment) Discrimination”

Related articles

Asians ditch identities in hunt for jobs

“Asian immigrants told the Weekend Herald they changed their names in a desperate attempt to find work.

“Massey University researcher Paul Spoonley says New Zealand employers, especially in small and medium-sized businesses, tend to eliminate Asian applicants very early in the process through surname discrimination.

“We have a lot of research and anecdotal evidence that New Zealand employers are reluctant to employ Asians, so changing surnames is a novel way of getting a CV read,” he said.

Asians face most discrimination in NZ – survey

“Asians are now one of our four largest population groups, and one of the fastest growing. Yet the only publicly funded television programme, Asia Downunder, was discontinued last year,” he said.

There are very few Asians on the boards of District Health Boards, not enough Asian teachers in New Zealand schools, not enough Asian local councillors or community board members and Asian migrants continue to face discrimination in applying for jobs, he said.

Discrimination Against Asians a Key Issue

  Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says it is unlawful under the Human Rights Act to refuse immigrants a job or an interview because of their ethnicity or race.

“It takes away someone’s chance to be judged on their merits and it goes against the idea of New Zealand as a fair society.”


7 Comments Add yours

  1. The Adventures of Twins says:

    Hey! This is exactly what we’re looking for on our blog (read our post…Be our guest). Would you be interested in submitting a post? It would mean the world to me!
    – Jo

    1. jyhedgehog says:


      I am honoured by your invitation. Ya, I’ll do that. Hope there’s no dateline though (am kidding).

      So, I’ll just emailed it to your mentioned email on your blog post once I’m done, ya!

      Thanks for the invite again.

      1. The Adventures of Twins says:

        No deadline, so take your time 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading it!

  2. VampireM says:

    Perhaps you could put a link to read up about “TREATY OF WAITANGI” here.

    1. jyhedgehog says:

      Good thinking, Melv. Will post some good links on the Treaty soon.

  3. Jali says:

    Darn! I should have put my KIWI education on the first page… well, learning experience eh!
    I’ve tried using my English name as first name, and then put my real name as middle name. Guess what, employers still got it confused – they used my real name as if it’s my surname. Naming issue is a pain for me as a foreign with difficult pronunciation.

    May I point out another disadvantage for foreigners in NZ job market? I believe a lot of jobs even though without mentioning, there’s always a hindering item – the full driver’s license. Unfortunately, I’m yet to get it but working very hard to get it. Female job seekers in NZ probably would be expected to be much more independent, and I think for female international job seekers, we’ve got to work harder ‘to adjust’ into NZ workforce.

    I hope in the near future, there’s not only more opportunities for foreign workers, but also more supportive working environment for women. Hope this is constructive. Great post!

    1. jyhedgehog says:

      Ya, the whole job hunting thingy with cv was an experience. I have no idea how many times I have change the thing already. So, keep changing until it’s perfected. I know it’s annoying but we are living as a guest, i guess we just need to live with the rules.

      I would suggest just putting L (the english name) followed by ur surname. That is it. Forget the Jali part. Ya, it’s a pain. I was so frustrated as well because people tend to correct my last name asking if I’m sure it’s my whole last name. i was like “dduuhh” , is it my last name or urs? I should know better.

      Great reminder, Jali. I totally forgot about the full driving license thingy. That is so true. I managed to get thru with my full international driving license. Purely by luck, i think. Told them I’ll get it changed as soon as I’m permanent employed.

      I agree that there’s still alot of hinderance/discrimination/unspoken problem for international. But, I’m sure we are at the NZ learning curve. It will change. 🙂

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