Wellington free holiday project

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Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have expressed interest in a new Wellington economic development plan offering 100 free holidays in return for job interviews. Photo / file

By Simon Plumb

A scheme offering foreigners free holidays if they undertake a series of job interviews in Wellington has attracted almost 200,000 expressions of interest in a month.

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency [WREDA] has been stunned by the huge amount of interest in its new ratepayer-supported LookSee initiative - a bid to lure 100 tech-savvy internationals to the capital city.

Free return flights and accommodation are on offer for those who commit to four days of arranged job interviews and meetings - and WREDA's general manager, Dave Jones, says the response has been staggering since going live four weeks ago.

"It's about 185,000 expressions of interest and applications," Jones said. "It's well in excess of what we originally forecast.

"Obviously we only get 100 people here for that week, but we would have been happy getting in the order of 5000 applications.

"We're going to get massively more than that."

According to WREDA, a number of candidates currently hold senior roles at major tech brands including Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Jones said to the best of his knowledge, the concept is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, with candidates filling out an online profile and the best picked to fly to Wellington - with by far the most interest coming from the United States.

"I think the measure of the response is evidence this hasn't been done before," he said.

"About 35 per cent of [applications] are from the US, but below that you've got India, Brazil, Philippines, UK, Singapore, Pakistan, South Africa, Canada and Croatia - they're the top ones."

Jones said provisional estimates had the economic impact somewhere close to $5million for Wellington in 2017.

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"Specifically about the people who get put into those jobs and take an average salary, we calculated that at about $4.8m," he said.

"But that's only a small amount of what is going to happen, because ideally, those people will help Wellington companies grow their business and there'll be other economic multipliers at play."

A collaborative talent-attraction programme, WREDA teamed up with Immigration New Zealand, international recruitment agency Workhere New Zealand which is also conducting pre-screening of candidates, and TechNZ - the New Zealand Technology Industry Association.

The programme is open to all New Zealand businesses with tech operations in the Wellington region and there is no cost to employers to participate until they make a hire as a result.

The cost associated with a successful hire is a flat fee that is "significantly lower" than market rates for conventional recruitment for mid to senior-level IT professionals. More than 20 employers are already signed-up including Xero, TradeMe and Weta Digital.

Jones said he had already been in contact with economic development arms in Auckland and Christchurch as a result of the Wellington scheme's early success.

Earlier this month a privacy breach forced WREDA to shut down the website, after personal details of potential interviewees failed to be kept secure.

LookSee Wellington

177,000 expressions of interest

35,000 registrations

142,000 pre-registrations

Nations, in order of interest:

United States

India

Brazil

Philippines

UK

Singapore

Pakistan

South Africa

Canada

Croatia

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