It’s fair to say that recruitment is one of the most interesting challenges currently facing employers in Australia. Not surprisingly, as one of the fastest growing sectors, research by the Human Services Skills Organisation (2022) shows that recruitment is the primary concern for employers in our sector which comprises of health, ageing, disability, early childhood education and care, and community services.

As of June 2022, Australia’s unemployment reached a 48-year low of 3.5 per cent (Australian Bureau of Statics 2022). Often the unemployment pool is synonymous with available talent – to be considered unemployed you need to 1) not hold a job 2) be looking for work. On top of this, all sectors are competing for talent, poaching within the same sector, and across other sectors where skills are easily transferable. A smaller pool, which is highly fragmented and high competition make it challenging.

To get the best chance of success, you need to be strategic, and creative with your strategy and get the message out to as many people as possible that you’re looking for the perfect employee. The more people you reach, the greater chance you will find the right person. It means casting your net wider and blending contemporary and traditional recruitment methods.

What does a good recruitment mix look like?

Human Services Skills Organisation Chief Executive Officer Jodi Schmidt said that with any challenge in business, you need a good strategy if you’re going to see results, and recruitment is no different.

“When it comes to innovative recruitment, the human services sector is out there on the leading edge. We see employers responding to challenging conditions by using a variety of creative recruitment ideas.

“Methods like building local partnerships with recruiters, and training organisations, referral programs that use the existing workforce, social media and word-of-mouth, and face-to-face presentations at registered training organisations (RTOs) or community centres can be very effective.”

Does it pay to be strategic when it comes to recruitment?

Michelle Hurford, People and Culture Officer at Mercy Services, says yes, but it will take commitment, and focus.

Michelle is on a mission. She has human services roles she needs filled with quality candidates.

“Recruitment is a daily, on-going activity,” she said.

“Some days you think where am I going to find these people? But you have to think and look outside of the box. I am on Facebook, I am at the RTOs, I am on LinkedIn, I am at careers expos and talking to schools. Frankly, everyone I meet is a possible recruit! Be tenacious – don’t stop at Seek – exhaust all avenues and stay optimistic.”

Michelle said another recruitment initiative by her team at Mercy Services had proven truly effective.

“Our referral program has worked extremely well – and consistently well,” she said.

“It rewards employees for putting forward people in their circle they believe would enjoy the job at Mercy Services as much as they do.

“The referral system has been very successful because our team will refer like-minded people which we have found just slip right into our values and culture,” she said.

Michelle said the competition for good people was stiff with Newcastle alone having 19 other providers as well as the hospitals.

“There are just not enough people to go around – so how am I going to be competitive in that environment?” she said.

“It is about building pipelines through partnerships and collaborations.”

Michelle said in partnering with RTOs, if students have a positive experience with Mercy Services the RTO is far more likely to recommend and refer other students – helping her to build a potential employee pipeline.

Let a resume pique your interest, but give people a chance to do the talking – we’re in human services after all

Michelle said she knows from the initial chat – not their CV – when she has found a great fit. She isn’t interested in someone with just a qualification and a heartbeat – she is seeking out those with real heart, an authentic back story, and a desire to make a difference.

“It’s in the initial chat. It’s there when they talk about their family or about their own story – that’s what I pay attention to closely – if they have a quiet or humble passion to give back. You find great people when they possess a gentle compassion – it’s a great starting point.

Be creative when it comes to who you target

According to Michelle, the right sort of fit for someone wanting a career in human services was someone wanting to make an impact. She said human services jobs were ideal for either people starting out in their career or those who were looking to transition their job into something more flexible and rewarding.

“I have had some wonderful team members come from empty nesters or people who have had parents or grandparents that needed care. They are then moved to help and give back”.

What are the contemporary methods?

It’s a good idea for human services recruiters to keep up with new technology. Connect with your marketing or communication teams to find out what the current best practice of digital advertising is. When you think about a job advertisement as promoting your organisation, getting the support of your marketing team can be helpful. Consider methods like:

  • Search engine marketing like Google or Bing
  • Online job listing services i.e., Seek, Indeed
  • Social media
  • Digital partnerships or sponsorships
  • Online career expos

What are the traditional methods?

While digital methods are useful because they can be implemented or changed quickly. Traditional methods can still deliver immense value, particularly when combined with digital ones.

  • Newspaper advertising
  • Out-of-home advertising (think ads in shopping centres, or bus shelters, budget permitting, or for more cost effective ideas you could try flyers at the local community centre or noticeboard)
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Face-to-face expos and jobs forums

Where to from here?

To give yourself the best selection of candidates, focus on the challenge of telling as many people about your vacancy as you can afford to reach. Use free methods as the foundation of your strategy and build your paid traditional and contemporary methods on top. Use methods and channels that give you good reach and visibility, and always, always make use of your ‘free’ channels, such as internal communication, listing on your own website, and encouraging current employees to share opportunities with their networks. Be strategic, creative, and innovative (particularly where you don’t have a big budget).

A special note about recruitment for home care providers

As part of the Australian Government’s plan to grow the home care workforce (as part of the Home Care Workforce Support Program), home care providers can access funded recruitment services in all states and territories. Visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for more information. For home care provides in Victoria and Tasmania, you can access Home Care Careers, a fully funded, end-to-end recruitment service. Visit the Home Care Careers website for more information.

About Mercy Services

Mercy Services provides community and in-home support cross various parts of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter region of NSW. Currently they have more than 200 employees and nearly 100 volunteers.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2022). Labour Force, Australia.

Human Services Skills Organisation (2022). Home Care Careers.

Human Services Skills Organisation (2022) Findings from the sector, workforce forum report.

Australian Government Department of Health (2021). Home Care Workforce Support Program.