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Finding Employment in New Zealand - Advice for International Students

For those of you who intend to find full time permanent employment in New Zealand when you finish your qualification, there may be many challenges that you will face in your search. In this handout we have summarised a few areas that will be of assistance to you in your long-term search for employment.  

NextImmigration Status

You must make sure that you know your own personal immigration status. Do not rely on what others may tell you as regulations can and do change regularly. The website of the New Zealand Immigration Service at can give you the most up to date information. You can also call them on 0508 558 855 or visit the Hamilton Branch at Level 5 Westpac House, 430 Corner Victoria & Alma Streets, Hamilton.

Employers are more likely to be helpful if you give them precise and up to date information on what is required for you to gain a work permit, and what the employers’ specific role in the process is. 

Always be honest with employers about the work permit that you have and your immigration status. There are significant legal consequences if you breach the conditions of a work permit. These can include being returned to your country of origin.


Strong verbal and interpersonal communication skills are the most important skills that employers expect from graduates according to a Victoria University of Wellington survey of graduate employers. It is important to employers that your speech is clear and can be understood on the telephone – many customers/clients make their first contact with a firm by phone – so strong communication skills are vital.

If your first language is not English you should take as many opportunities as possible to practice your communication skills in English, both at University and in the wider environment such as when socialising with friends and with flatmates. You will find that the more you practice, the more fluent and confident you will become!

Emphasise all the languages that you speak when applying for jobs in New Zealand. For some companies it can be a bonus if you are fluent in more than one language as they may have a significant proportion of clients who also speak a language other than English.

NextPart-time Work

Part time work during study will enable you to develop further skills that will help you later on in your search for full time employment, as well as provide you with some extra money in the short term! Part time work does not have to be directly related to your current study to be beneficial – for example customer service work will allow you to practice and improve your communication skills. 

You can approach some organisations directly, such as supermarkets and fast food restaurants, to find out about part time work opportunities. However, the best source for finding part time work is Student Job Search.

Student Job Search are located on campus at Waikato in the block of shops that is just next to the lake, or you can visit them on the web at Student Job Search also operates the FutureGrad programme where you may be able to find work over summer that is directly related to your programme of study.

NextSmall-Medium Enterprises

The majority of people in NZ work in companies that employ less than 20 staff, so do not overlook these companies as they are an important source of employment in New Zealand. Small to medium sized organisations can provide opportunities to use a wide range of skills that you might not get in a large organisation as you are more likely to have to take on a wider range of tasks and are less likely to be able to specialise.

NextNetworking & The Hidden Job Market

Employers (especially those in smaller companies) don’t always publicly advertise positions through sources such as newspapers and on-line job websites. In-fact, while there are many advertised jobs within New Zealand studies have estimated that only around 25% of all jobs available are actually advertised!

Who you know won’t always guarantee you a job – but it will open up opportunities that you might not have heard of otherwise!

As a result, you should research companies you are interested in working for and the find ways to approach them for further information about work possibilities. Attend a workshop on how to network and approach companies so that you gain a positive response.

NextVolunteer Experience

During your degree if you are unable to find paid work you should consider volunteer work.  You will add to your skill base in areas such as communication skills, and gain valuable contacts and New Zealand based referees. Supervisors and other volunteers have networks that you may be able to tap into to help find future employment.

Volunteering Waikato is a local organization that helps link organizations in need with volunteers. They are located on the 2nd Floor of the Caro Street Community Building in Hamilton, or you can call them on 839 3191 or e-mail

NextClubs and Societies

Clubs and societies at University and in the wider community provide another source of networking that can help you gain future employment contacts – and you can have a lot of fun and meet new friends in the process!

You can also acquire and develop useful skills through being involved in clubs and societies that can include working as part of a team, leadership skills, and you will improve your communication skills. Information regarding clubs and societies at the University can be found at

NextCV’s & Covering Letters

During your job search you will need to use a CV and a covering letter. CV’s can have many different formats and should vary in length and content depending on the type of the work that you are applying for.

Most employers prefer functional CV’s as they focus on what you can do as well as what you have done. Covering letters or covering e-mails are also very important and must always be written so that they are specific to the particular job you are applying for. Visit the Careers & Employment Centre for further information on CV and covering letter writing.


Research, preparation and more research is the key to a good interview. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed.

It is important that you think about the position, the company, and how your skills fit the position. For further information on interviews, collect a handout from the Careers & Employment Centre or attend one of our workshops.


Where possible have New Zealand based referees who can speak knowledgeably about you and your work related skills. Referees can be people such as employers, academic staff, staff from volunteer agencies, or character referees.

It is crucial that you always ask your referees permission to use their name before sending a CV to an employer! It is also a good idea to provide your referees with a copy of your CV so they are aware of the information that you are giving to employers.

NextFinding full time permanent work

There are many potential avenues to finding full time permanent employment on completion of your qualification. Sources include newspapers, other on-line job websites, networking and recruitment agencies. The Careers and Employment Centre at the University of Waikato can help you with further handouts and advice on using these options.

NextWork/study/life balance

Above all, your primary aim in NZ is to gain a qualification - so study must come first!!! However, with good time management you can combine study, part time work and outside interests and hobbies.

A good balance between these three factors will help you to enjoy life and be successful both now and in the future. Good luck!