Working Holiday New Zealand Jobs: Tips for Finding & Applying for Backpacker Jobs

3rd February 2019
New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -

When I first considered the idea of moving to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa, the first worry that came to mind was how on earth I would find a job and save any money.

People decide to do a Working Holiday in New Zealand for a variety of reasons: to have a new experience, to see a new country, or to progress their career. For me, it was about saving some money after being robbed in Cambodia, but as well as working, of course I planned to travel New Zealand too!

Initially, I couldn’t quite imagine how I would find a reasonably well-paid, enjoyable job on the other side of the world. Known for fruit-picking, I was worried I might end up spending my entire twelve months in New Zealand bent over a bucket earning tuppence for the minuscule amount of fruit I had picked… I’m not the most active of people, so this terrified me!

Fortunately, I soon found out that a) you don’t earn tuppence for fruit-picking, b) fruit picking is not the only option available to backpackers, and c) I didn’t leave New Zealand with a broken back!

I hope you find this post useful in your search for Working Holiday New Zealand jobs; here I’m sharing my honest tips and advice for finding and applying for a job whilst you are on a working holiday visa in New Zealand.

New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -

Wellington is a wonderful place to live and work in New Zealand


Working Holiday New Zealand Jobs: What options are available to me?

When I first discovered the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, I naively thought I would be limited to fruit picking or waitressing. How wrong I was!

Whilst there are limits to how long you can work on a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand, you won’t have to leave after only a few weeks. Most contracts are offered for a few months up to a year.

Double check the terms of your visa before applying for jobs. Brits, you can work for the full 12 months of your visa if you wish to (but note that if you get a visa extension or a 23 month visa, you can still only work for 12 months max).

When it comes to what industries you can work in, the options are quite open.

  • hospitality/ waiting tables/ bartending
  • retail/ sales
  • fruit picking/ farming
  • administration/ office-based roles
  • construction/ manual labour
  • tourism
  • customer service/ call centre work
  • hair & beauty
  • ski season

To prove just how much of a variety of working holiday jobs there are, here’s a list of job titles from REAL LIFE people who have done a working holiday visa in New Zealand, These are either people that I know, or fellow instagrammers who replied to my Stories asking what they did when in NZ (thanks guys!)

  • Fruit Picker
  • Road Traffic Controller
  • Hostel Worker
  • Administration Assistant
  • Labourer
  • Waiter/Waitress
  • Landscape Gardener
  • Executive Assistant
  • Au Pair
  • Staff Nurse
  • Receptionist
  • Barista
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Team Assistant
  • Housekeeper
  • Journalist
  • Investigations Administrator
  • Beautician
  • Civil Engineer
  • Block Layer
  • Abseiler
  • Call centre agent
  • HR Coordinator
  • Bartender
  • Kayak Tour Guide
  • Cleaner
  • Ski Instructor
  • Sales Assistant
  • Carpenter
  • Make Up Artist

See? The list is huge!

This just goes to show how many options are available to backpackers seeking temporary work on a Working Holiday Visa!

Working Holiday New Zealand Jobs -

Christchurch is a great place to find a job on a working holiday visa

Working Holiday New Zealand Jobs -

You could end up helping to rebuild the city!

Tips for finding work and applying for jobs in New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa

So, with that covered, let’s talk about how you can maximise your chances of finding work in New Zealand and how to apply for roles.

Tip #1: Decide what sort of work you want to do before starting the job-hunt

This sounds a little silly, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to keep your options SO open that you end up overwhelmed with the choice of what to do. Narrow it down to a couple of industries you might want to work in – you already saw how long the list of industries above is!

Ask yourself what your skills are and what work experience you already have, and therefore how you can use these skills in a new role in New Zealand.

Also ask yourself if you actually want to continue with those skills. Moving to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa gives you a fresh opportunity in the working world. You can advance your career or try something completely new. A girl I know worked as an Interior Designer in London before moving to New Zealand, where she wanted a change of scene and worked as an administration assistant instead. Others I know have left well-paid ‘niche’ jobs for cafe work, bartending or even becoming a tour guide.

Tip #2 Decide where in New Zealand you want to work before starting the job hunt

Again, seems obvious, but with the whole country to choose from, it’s easy to oversee the fact that you should choose to work somewhere that will suit your skillset and that you’ll actually enjoy living.

Choose somewhere that will make you happy

Before you find a job, you need to be quite happy that you want to go to work in a certain city or town. After all, if you hate a particular city, why would you work there when you might be happier somewhere else?!

Because of this, I would urge you to spend at least a couple of days in your chosen city before deciding to work there – or travelling as much as possible beforehand if your time and budget allows it.

Many backpackers complain about Auckland, saying the best thing to do there is ‘get out’. Each to their own; personally I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it. Some people I met went elsewhere on weekend breaks and arrived back in Auckland, saying they wished they had chosen to work in a different place instead.

Choose somewhere that your skills will be suited

You can find any job pretty much anywhere in New Zealand, but it’s easier to find certain work in certain areas.

As a brief overview:

Headed to New Zealand for your Working Holiday? Book your first night’s accommodation here, book your flights here, and buy your travel insurance here.

Tip #3 Consider what time of the year you will be job-hunting

Plan when to start the job-hunt

This is probably not something you’ve thought about, but the time of year that you start the job-hunt in New Zealand can hugely affect how quickly you can get one.

I bet you’re thinking to yourself, well, I’ll arrive in around September time after having a great summer in the UK and then have another summer in NZ – right? The problem is, everyone else thinks this too, so by arriving at the start of the New Zealand summer, you have much more competition than you would at the start of winter.

Save enough money to cover your living costs while you are unemployed

My best advice to anyone travelling to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa is to budget enough to set some funds aside while you are job-hunting, as the cost of living can set you back quite a bit. I would advise you to budget for a month at least – this will give you time to find a job, and start work before your first pay check.

If you are wondering how to physically get your money from your UK (or other overseas) bank account to New Zealand, I recommend using TransferWise, a service which moves money between international accounts for a small fee – much cheaper than Western Union or just doing a straight bank transfer! Check it out here.

Planning your New Zealand working holiday -

Tip #4 Update your CV before you begin the job search

An up-to-date CV goes without saying, but you may not realise that Kiwis format their resumés slightly differently to how other countries do.

It’s worth spending a little time making sure your CV is formatted correctly so it best showcases what your abilities are when you go to apply for jobs.

If you don’t do anything else, I recommend clearly clarifying your level of English (since NZ is an English speaking country), and take a digital copy of your CV with you (on a USB stick or on your laptop) so you can update it while you’re away.

Have a read of my post on how to write your New Zealand CV in this post, which includes heaps of information and will fully prepare you to submit your CV to job vacancies.

Tip #5 Keep your options open

Unless you’re made of money, you probably won’t want to be overly picky when finding work initially, simply because New Zealand is a pretty expensive place to live – when you don’t have an income, your funds will run out pretty quickly.

Therefore, I would advise finding any job asap while you search for the one you want to do. Perhaps you could work in a cafe or a bar while applying for an office-based role?

Be savvy with your options.

Tip #6 Start applying for jobs as soon as you can

You might be one of those super-organised people who is sat reading this while at home before even leaving for your Working Holiday in New Zealand. If you are, I envy you and I salute you.

Getting things rolling before you leave is the best option as it will put you ahead of the game.

Apply in person

Some workplaces might not have a website for you to ‘apply online’ to. These are most likely cafes, bars, small shops etc. They may advertise vacancies in the window so be sure to walk around a bit and keep your eyes peeled for adverts; if not, just pop in and ask!

Drop by with your CV. If possible, ask to speak to a manager and hand it to them directly. Kiwis are quite casual in comparison to Brits, but keep things to a fairly professional level. If you don’t hear back from them straight away, there’s no reason why you can’t drop by again or phone them to see if they have an update.

They might want you to start the very next day!

Apply online

There are a number of websites you can use to find jobs – these are similar to the UK’s Reed, Indeed, and TotalJobs.

The most popular are:

Use a recruitment agency

Recruitment agencies in New Zealand are hugely underrated in my opinion!  They were a god-send when I was looking for temporary work in both Auckland and Wellington.

You can register with them for free, and they make money by invoicing your future employer a slightly higher amount than what they pay you, but they basically do all of the hard work in job-hunting for you, matching your skills and CV to a suitable position. They won’t put you forward for a role without discussing it with you first, so you are still in control of what you end up doing. They’ll give you as many options as they can, and you can always ask to have time to think about it before giving a final decision.

My best tips for using recruitment agencies are:

Recruitment agencies I registered with and would recommend are listed below. I found work through Hudson in Auckland and Madison in Wellington.

Thinking of moving to Wellington, New Zealand? Read my guide on how to find a job and somewhere to live in the #coolestlittlecapital

My experience of finding a job on a Working Holiday Visa

Personally, I knew I wanted a 9-5 weekday job working in an office, primarily because I have previous work experience in office environments and secondly because, after speaking to other backpackers, it became clear that admin roles tend to pay quite generously.

In Auckland, I registered with a few recruitment agencies based around the city centre upon arriving in the city. I met their representatives for a chat, where I explained what type of work I was looking for and my availability. I was offered four administration roles and had secured the ideal placement within three days of starting my job-search.

I feel I need to make it clear at this point though that I was very lucky: I arrived in Auckland in the low-season so there were less people looking for work, I had ideal work experience for the type of role I was looking for, and I’m a native English speaker.

In Wellington, my experience was much the same. Again, I met with some recruitment agencies and was offered various temporary roles, some of which were more attractive than others. I ended up taking a role where the duration of the contract required me to extend my Working Holiday Visa but this wasn’t a problem at all!

New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs -

Auckland has a plethora of job options available to backpackers

Book your first night’s accommodation in New Zealand now

I recommend the Newton Lodge in Auckland, and I used an AirBnB when I arrived in Wellington.


Heading to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa? Be sure to join my New Zealand Facebook Group where you can ask for advice, find a travel buddy or buy/sell your campervan!

Don’t forget to check out my New Zealand Working Holiday Page on the blog for more useful information!

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.

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New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -

New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -


New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -
New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -
New Zealand Working Holiday Jobs Guide -

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I’m a travel-loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.