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It’s hard to have any sympathy for employers who are bemoaning the ‘skills shortage’ only to learn their behaviour demonstrates a mindset more akin to last century’s rather than the present one.

My 21-year-old daughter, Nikki (photo, right) , recently completed her Certificate 111 in Patisserie after a disrupted year of full-time study in 2021 that stretched into 2022 due to the second wave of Melbourne lockdowns.

Her work experience as a student over the past 5 years has comprised various retail and hospitality jobs, all of which she has received excellent feedback with respect to her reliability, skills, attitude, and leadership.

Her hospitality experience covers both customer service and kitchen roles.

Currently, she works five minutes from her home at the local site of a large national liquor retailer, officially as a permanent part-time, but, in reality, working as many hours as she is available to fulfill.

Nikki is happy in her job; she receives penalty rates, has a boss she enjoys working for, and has built close friendships with some of her colleagues.

Last week, Nikki started applying for roles aligned to her recently-acquired qualification and received prompt responses from two potential employers.

Both employers invited her in for interviews this week.

The two experiences could hardly have been more different.

Nikki’s first interview was with a well-known (in Melbourne, at least) chocolaterie. The interviewer was pleasant enough but was non-specific when asked about remuneration. It seems ‘early fifties’ was about as much information as Nikki was going to get.

The salary wasn’t inappropriate for the role but when told about the working hours (8.30 am – 6 pm, five days a week, 30 minutes for lunch and one weekend day per week) the salary seemed well short of attractive (is it even legal to only provide only 30 minutes for lunch across a 9.5 hour day?).

Maybe shift loadings and overtime are paid however the employer did not volunteer that information, which you would assume would be seen as a selling point when interviewing candidates for a just-above minimum wage position.

Nikki was invited to a full-day trial next week, with no mention of whether the trial was a paid one. Given the ambiguity of work trials in hospitality being paid or unpaid I would think it’s in the employer’s interest to clarify this information when inviting a potential employee to undertake a trial.

Nikki left the interview somewhat interested but slightly wary about the hours of work given her unhappy experience with a previous employer.

The contrast with her experience the following day, with the other employers who contacted Nikki, could hardly have been starker.

In advance of the interview, the employer asked Nikki whether she had time to stay for a trial (she did) if they both agreed that was the appropriate next step.

The employer also advised Nikki he would pay her for the trial and asked her what hourly rate she expected. She told him (an above-award figure) and he agreed to pay her that rate.

Nikki arrived for the interview and was immediately engaged by the positive and friendly nature of the interviewer (the owner, as it turned out).

The business bakes specialty cakes and pies for niche local retailers and the hours are 9 am to 4.30 pm (30 minutes for lunch) Monday to Friday with no weekend or public holiday work.

The interview progressed to a 2.5 hour trial. On completion, the owner asked Nikki for her bank details and, in front of her, transferred the equivalent of three hours’ pay into her bank account.

The owner invited Nikki for another full-day trial next week (so she could meet other team members) and assured her she would be paid for all the hours she trialled.

The employer, who disclosed he was not formally patisserie qualified, also asked Nikki about her specific interests within patisserie as he said was looking for employees who were interested in helping him expand his product line.

Nikki agreed to return for the full-day trial and departed feeling positive, respected, wanted, and trusting of the employer.

As we all know, an interview experience is not necessarily a reliable indicator of an employment experience however when an employer puts little effort into presenting their vacancy as a desirable one, it is no wonder they find themselves perpetually recruiting.

‘Candidate shortage?’

Hmm, it’s more like a reality-check shortage for some employers.

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Tracey Montgomery

Hi Ross, a great piece – thank you for sharing your daughter’s experience. I have read this having just come from a coffee with a client where we had a discussion around the issue of candidate’s experience at interview and the impact it has on the outcome. Though I don’t dispute there is a ‘skills shortage’ (though this is only one part of the problem) it is staggering that we are still seeing candidates have a poor interview experience with employers who don’t see the connection. Given there is a very obvious lack of candidates in the market, the idea that you can have a great candidate in front of you in an interview only then not to provide them with a positive, engaging and informative interview is astonishing. I can imagine your daughter’s first interviewer is probably lamenting how hard it is to ‘get good people these days’ but lacks the self awareness to see the part that they play in this.
I will be interested to see what findings come out of today’s Jobs and Skills Summit. I had a look at the attendees list and obviously there is a mix bag of representation but I note that there doesn’t seem to be anyone from the Recruitment Industry and in my mind I feel that there would have been some value in this.

Nicole Underwood

Love it. So simple isn’t it? Be respectful, set clear expectations, do what you say you are going to do. Well done Nikki! Great to see you following your passion.


Good article Ross.
I hardly have to wonder which employer your daughter will choose!!!
It is a bit like in IT these days, but with timing – most hiring managers don’t “get” that there is a growing shortage of top-tier candidates, and still expect taking a week+ to decide who to interview, then another 1-2 weeks to complete the interviews, is OK. It clearly is not.
I have just had the happy experience of being able to discuss with a senior manager at NSW Justice the issues of speed, in the Teams meeting to discuss the role. He was very open to my comments: once we hit submission day, he came back in 2 days as to who he wanted to interview, these were completed over the next 3 days and at the end he made a conditional offer (I am still ref checking). Whole thing took one week. His preferred candidate is impressed with his future manager’s organisation and ability to move fast when needed. Going to start with a positive attitude for sure!


Wow! For Nikki’s sake, I’m so happy to hear of her second experience. Many employers need to take a long hard look in the mirror before moaning about a talent shortage

Tom Lipczynski

Great article Ross and I’m glad your daughter had a much better experience the second time around and secured employment. Some amazing companies looking for talent so good to see they are taking care with the candidate experience.

Philip Divilly

Ross, such a good article to showcase how in touch potential employers are with the market.
Regardless of a talent short market, all employers owe it to themselves and others to showcase their best and not dilute their brand by leaving candidates (regardless if you hire or not ) with a poor experience.
It should be common sense…but it’s not the case

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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