The Jobs Australia’s Small Businesses Find Hardest To Fill (And What To Do About It)

Man getting a haircut at the barber

Small businesses are no underdog here in Australia—far from it. In fact, it’s reported that small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—defined as businesses with a turnover between $100,000 and $50 million—contribute as much as 57% of Australia’s GDP.

It comes as no surprise, then, that SMEs are also a major powerhouse for jobs. NAB’s report, Moments That Matter: Understanding Australian Small to Medium Businesses found SMEs created around seven million new jobs in Australia over a one-year period to 2017. What’s more, key economic indicators show the sector is continuing feel optimistic about its future with almost half of SMEs (45%) now focusing on growth.

Small businesses are gearing for growth

While the current economic climate might be ideal for Australia’s burgeoning startup and small business sector, it turns out the pathway to growth and success isn’t without obstacle. As unemployment rates in Australia drop to a six-year low, hiring talented workers to fill new roles and opportunities could become a major growth challenge for many small businesses.

There’s no doubt, increased competition in the job market is a major factor when it comes to hiring struggles. Recent research by Indeed found as many as one quarter of job hunters in Australia’s ever-tightening talent pool are now going to interviews with the mindset of interviewing the employer. But, there are other reasons why small businesses, particularly, struggle with recruiting.

The uniquely ‘small business’ hiring challenges

Unlike larger organisations that are equipped with experienced HR professionals, small business leaders often find themselves juggling many different functions from recruitment to finance. This can lead to protracted recruitment processes while lack of hiring experience can result in a failure to source and identify the most suitable candidates. Aside from the practicalities of implementing efficient recruitment processes, it’s also argued that far too many small businesses fail to recognise and advertise their unique appeal to job seekers.

Though, there are several reasons why small businesses could have the edge over larger organisations when it comes to attracting the best talent. Unlike large companies which have fixed policies and hierarchies, small businesses often expose employees to a wider range of experiences as they navigate growth and diversify. This can sometimes see small business employees develop quicker and progress their careers at a faster rate.

Other benefits of working within a small business might include easier access to flexible working arrangements, remote job opportunities, a more achievable work-life balance and tailored remuneration packages to suit individuals.

What are the hardest-to-fill small business jobs in Australia?

Using Indeed data, we looked at this problem in detail by analysing the specific jobs that have been open for more than 60 days at companies with 150 or fewer employees. Job postings can be open for longer than 60 days for different reasons—in this case, Indeed uses this measure as a proxy for hiring difficulty. Using this information, we’ve compiled a list of the hardest-to-fill roles based on the percentage of openings for that role after two months.

Hardest to fill SMB jobs in Australia

Hardest to fill small business jobs in Australia, starting with highest: telemarketer; psychologist; barber; boilermaker; panel beater; metal fabricator; welder; dentist; general practitioner; cabinet maker; speech language pathologist; fitter; registered nurse; child care director; plumber; project manager; landscape technician; carpenter; food and beverage manger; preschool teacher

With over 60% of job postings remaining open after 60 days, the analysis shows telemarketing roles are by far the most difficult for Australian small businesses to fill. This is followed by psychologists, barbers and boiler makers, for which more than half of all job postings remain open for over 60 days. Overall, there are as many as twenty occupations across a broad range of industries where 45% or more of all advertised roles remain unfilled after 60 days.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this analysis?

Perhaps most interestingly, only six occupations out of the 20 hardest-to-fill positions for small businesses are on the national skills shortage list. These include panel beater, welder, barber, cabinet maker, fitter and carpenter. For the reasons explained above, this appears to suggest that there are some uniquely ‘small business’ challenges when it comes to attracting and recruiting staff—irrespective of industry sector, professional talent, or tightening competition.

How to attract more candidates

Here are some great hiring tips to help small businesses get discovered, appeal to the best talent and above all, fill roles that have been open for the longest.

1. Create appealing job descriptions

Yes, you’re passionate about getting every last detail down on paper but, put yourself in the ideal candidate’s shoes and consider all the essential information they will want to know before proceeding with an application. Remember, in a tightening market, this is about standing out in the crowd—and quickly.

Ensure job seekers can easily get an idea of the role and responsibilities, required soft skills and all the compelling reasons why they should work for your business—such as remuneration benefits and flexibility.

It’s also important to use a personable tone that reflects your business’ ethos. This not only makes the description more engaging to read but, done well, it’s more likely to resonate with the ideal target candidate.

2. Offer candidates the flexibility they’re looking for

Research suggests flexibility is key to loyalty among millennials who are expected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. This means the type of flexible working arrangements that are more achievable for small businesses (who may not be bound by more rigid policies that plague some larger organisations) could be a real selling point.

So, if it’s possible to offer working patterns that fit more appropriately with a candidate’s family commitments or make for a healthier work-life balance, why not use it to your business’ competitive advantage?

3. Think outside the box with employee perks

Sure, small businesses don’t always have the budget to offer the highest salaries or yearly bonuses. But today, many employees are seeking added value from their employment beyond financial compensation.

Offer workplace perks that contribute to a happier and more meaningful working experience than what might be on offer elsewhere. These could include free coffee and fruit, fitness classes, regular social events, comfortable breakout areas, regular in-office massages, clearly defined career pathways and development opportunities. Even something simple like not having to work on your birthday could be an enticing (and morale-boosting) offering.

4. Be proactive

There’s no need to wait for the perfect candidate to find your job. Use Indeed Resume to source candidates with the skills and experience you’re looking for. You can search for particular job titles to find candidates in similar roles, or enter a company name to find candidates who have worked for industry leaders or competitors.

While the jobs listed above are some of the toughest to fill right now, hiring is challenging for many roles with the current low unemployment rate. Succinctly communicating everything that makes your business an attractive place to work will help you stand out in today’s competitive environment and help you to fill those open roles quicker.


To create this list, we calculated the percentage of postings per job title that are open more than 60 days in Australia from January – March 2018 for companies with fewer than 150 employees.

Use Indeed Resume to find your next hire