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I am from the US and I recently interviewed for programmer positions in Australia. It appears that for some one not from Australia to get a job in the Australian IT industry is a herculean task. One of the most frequently used reasons for refusal is 'lack of local experience'.

Since a requirement of having local experience was not advertised in the job advertisement, I find this to be a superfluous reason for refusal. Local experience was not listed as a job requirement. What are recruiters and companies really trying to find/filter here? And how best to handle such a situation?

(Edit:) Applying for a software engineer position. I have interviewed on phone and on skype. I have all required documentation to work and live in Australia

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    Are you physically located in Australia or in the US? If you're in the US, I suspect this may be related to you not being physically there. Recruiters and companies seem to generally have a psychological bias against people who they can't see in person (even if you truthfully state that you will be more than happy to relocate using your own money and resources after the offer). Maybe lack of local experience, as meaningless as it is for a Software Engineering position, is their way of rationalizing this psychological bias. – Ricardo Sanchez-Saez Aug 20 '13 at 16:01
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    @rsanchezsaez updated edit. I have interviewed on phone and skype while being in the US. If that is the rationale, then why schedule overseas interviews at all ? – happybuddha Aug 20 '13 at 18:59
  • What types of jobs are you applying for, in what industries? If it is something in an industry with lots of regulations (insurance, healthcare, defence, government, etc...), then "lack of local experience" might refer to lack of experience with their local industry procedures and regulations. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 20 '13 at 20:45
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    It sounds like you are asking why you got turned down for a single job. Nobody here can answer that. You ask many different questions: (1) what is 'local experience' (2) how do you overcome unwritten requirements (3) what do Australian IT employers/recruiters want (4) how should I handle this job rejection. Focus on one question, don't rant. Also, for reference, if you say you "speak impeccable English" you may want to make sure your written English actually uses proper grammar... – jmac Aug 20 '13 at 23:54
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    @jmac: "One of the most frequently used reasons"... "Reasons" is plural. It sounds like this has happened more than once, and maybe the OP feels it is somehow systemic and wants to know if it is so systemic and common that others here might have encountered it before. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 21 '13 at 18:20
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Executive Summary

  1. You may not have the appropriate visa
  2. You don't live in the country
  3. You aren't talented enough to overcome 1. and 2.

You may not have the appropriate Australian visa

You say:

I have all required documentation to work and live in Australia

Many foreign employers will hesitate providing full-time salaried employment to immigrants and only hire on contract basis or on the condition that the visa stays valid. Even if you have the visa now, the visa may not be appropriate for the position (many visas are only valid for certain types of employment), and/or renewal may be denied. The job description is sometimes required to match the type of employment for the visa under risk of the visa being revoked.

Most companies do not employ immigrants, and are not familiar with rules or regulations involving their hire. This means that there is an added hurdle/headache involved with bring you in to the company. Even if you tell a recruiter/employer that you have the appropriate documentation, they may not have the ability to judge if that is correct, and the responsibility for due diligence is on their part.

Whenever applying for a position in country where you do not have citizenship (and therefore require working permission), it is in your best interest to be incredibly clear about what your working permission is to minimize the effort required on the part of the employer to check.

You don't live in the Country

Even if you do have a visa, you will have to immigrate after accepting any offer. This could mean added cost or reduced availability while you open a bank account, find an apartment, get a phone, sign up for internet, etc.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that you will actually like living in Australia. Even coming from another English-speaking country, there will be Culture Shock which may make you quit suddenly, or otherwise negatively impact your attention to your job and your relationship with your coworkers. The first time an Australian calls you a Seppo you may react with shock and horror at the uncouth nature of the Australians and board the first flight back from home.

You aren't talented enough to overcome 1. and 2.

So there's added effort due to being an immigrant who requires working permission.

There is added risk and cost from you not living in the country.

These are two (very huge and certain) demerits to hiring you over an equally qualified citizen. Unless you have merits that dramatically overwhelm those two risks, there is very little reason that they should hire you. Chances are that nothing in your resume or cover letter gave them incentive to put in the effort to overcome those two hurdles.

If you were a company/recruiting agency, what would you do?

You would sum this up as 'lack of local experience' or something of the sort.

In reality, they probably expect you to read through the lines. You aren't a good fit. That is an easy excuse. And despite having interviewed with them, you clearly don't feel comfortable asking them what they meant by lack of local experience, otherwise you wouldn't be asking about it here. I have met people who have worked in Australia from Japan, South Africa, Australia, and the US, so it certainly isn't impossible, they either had the skills to overcome the lack of residency/visa restrictions, or they moved there first on a working holiday or student visa and were able to apply locally.

It is incredibly difficult to apply for work from outside of the country you want to work in. The best ways to get to another country are to be hired by a company in your home country with an office (and opening) in the country you want to go to, and be transferred, or to take advantage of any programs in the target country that are specifically trying to recruit people from your country (this often happens with high-skill professions and/or cultural exchanges).

Barring those, you can always save enough money to live for 3-6 months and find a job after moving there (assuming your visa allows it).

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Perhaps there are volunteer opportunities to get local experience. The key point here is that there may be ways that projects are done within that culture that are different from others and thus it is a matter of, "Do you work like we work?" being the question.

The other thought would be to have connections within that country where at start-ups or other really small companies you may not have such HR requirements as local work experience.

The other question is how far up the hierarchy of positions are you applying. If you are applying for Senior positions, there could well be an expectation of understanding how things work within this country that may be different than other places. On the other hand, at Junior levels there could be less expectation of someone having previous local work experience.

  • Applied for a software engineer position. – happybuddha Aug 20 '13 at 15:55
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You say you speak "impeccable English" but do you communicate well? There's a big difference.

Athough you may be a good enough technical programmer, are you exceptionally better than what they can find locally? If not, they may have concerns like fitting in and staying in the country for a long-period of time. They may think it will take you much longer to relocate and get settled in before you can work.

I'm surprised they gave you any reason at all, so I don't know how deep to read into what they are saying. It's like, "We're going in another direction." Jobs may have particular criteria and you may not think this should be included, but you're being compared to other candidates. They may not have considered this before interviewing candidates outside the country, so I can see why you may feel it's a waste of time.

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Sometimes local experience can mean domain expertise. It is not enough to know the programming language, or be able to work with the required hardware and OS, they also might want experience with the topic or the customer.

In the US it is not unusual to see requirements that say X years working with the Department of X. A person from another country would be missing the requirement.

This is in addition to the fact that they might only be willing to hire from overseas if the candidate is perfect. They also might be unsure if you have all the paperwork in place to quickly move to Australia.

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I lived in Australia and have experienced many of your stated issues, an unfortunate thing that happens in Australia, i'm afraid. If you don't fit into well-defined categories, many Australians will work very hard to put you into whatever category will work in a pinch.

In my particular circumstance, I had a 457 visa and was looking for work. In Australia, if you have a 457, this is sponsored, so the assumption was that if you are looking, you must have been let go. In fact, my spouse had the sponsored visa and was quite secure in their position. 100% unstated--people took me as either (a) hiding something or (b) not a good candidate based on this alone.

I'd agree that networking or volunteering can be a way to get a foot in the door or to meet people who are able to make suggestions. (Let them know you as a person and they will see through to your talents)

Other traps that I'm aware of: the "you're not a good fit for our culture", and the ability for companies to hire you as probationary and pay you a sub-standard wage for the first six months--then switch you to a new "position" when these six months are up and claim that you need to be trained for this and are still eligible for the exploitational probationary wage for another six months!

Good luck. (Australia needs entrepreneurs)

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    I am not Australian, nor do I live in Australia. And if you look at the status of immigrants to your country (or in the case of the EU, from outside EU core states), chances are the working situation is very similar. Those who live in glass houses... – jmac Aug 22 '13 at 15:07
  • It angers me a little to see this answer voted down (I voted it up but it's still -2). It implies that some opinions are valid and some other are not. Moreover this is based on detailed personal experience, so thanks a lot to the author for sharing their experience on this somewhat sensitive topic, and thank you NOT for whoever downvoted it without commenting. – user14154 Aug 25 '14 at 16:49

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