Recruitment Case Study: Executive Search for the Autonomous Bougainville Government

Since last November, the team here at Peopleconnexion PNG have been chipping away at one of our most involved recruitment drives ever run in Papua New Guinea.

In December and January, you may have noticed our very public calls for applications to positions within the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Over the past few months, we have been engaged by Papua New Guinea Governance Facility (PGF) (administered by the incredible team at Abt Associates) to support the recruitment of executive and operations positions within the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

With the end of the recruitment process drawing near, our team wanted to reflect on some of the takeaways from the process.

The introduction

As it is with such recruitment drives there is always that initial element of uncertainty which adds to the excitement… The team over at PGF are embarking on an integral process to reform and strengthen the government in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB).

Their work, and the professionals placed in the ABG will ultimately influence and promote the economic and social prosperity and identity of the region. Needless to say, we were excited to support a project of this scale and significance.

 Gima Tavaperry, Resourcing Consultant:

?As a young Papua New Guinean, I was aware of the Bougainville Conflict from a young age as it began around the year I was born and progressed for a very long time; with peace talks only commencing in 2001 and the rebuilding process beginning in that year also.

Over the years, I have seen in passing through the media the efforts taken by the people of Bougainville and the government of PNG to rebuild the region. It is only now having had the opportunity to work closely with members of the Bougainville Partnership Organization, staff within the ABG and having interacted with the locals that I truly understand the conflict, the reasons surrounding the conflict and the peace agreement and the process of autonomy.

Then it dawns on me, that the process we have been involved in is not just any ordinary recruitment process. The gravity of the situation is that we are directly contributing to the building of a nation should they choose independence in the upcoming referendum. These positions are key positions within the government, to drive change, development and improve the culture within the Public Service.?

 The challenge

Our highest priority throughout the entire process has been to connect with and offer opportunities to candidates in ARoB.

The challenge? There are hundreds of kilometres of ocean separating us and our candidates and clients.

With tight deadlines to meet and a large-scale campaign to be run, our team (Resourcing Consultants Gima Tavaperry, Edith Zabala and myself) needed to work on creative ways to open up new communication channels with candidates.

 Covering the distance

PGF and its client ABG identified the importance of having their recruitment partner (Peopleconnexion) on the ground in Buka for a few days to meet with the hiring managers and understand the lay of the land. This enabled us to appreciate the backdrop of the whole exercise and work together towards achieving the present outcomes for the benefit of the wider community and province.

Over the last few months, Gima has been flying to and from Buka to meet with candidates, client representatives and members of ABG to conduct interviews, act as a Peopleconnexion panel representative and coordinate communication between parties.

By having a Peopleconnexion representative on the ground in Buka and opening up about a dozen different application methods (ranging from mail applications through to LinkedIn applications), we were able to coordinate and undertake over 50 interviews in no more than 2 weeks.

We’ve come to know Buka – AROB, as a sleepy little town with happy-go-lucky folk readily available to lend you a smile. With food crop, seafood, tropical weather’the images of hostility I once had from the post-war conflict and the odd stories we have all heard from friends and family have long since dissolved, as I remain more on edge in my daily movements within our capital city of Port Moresby. 

AROB as an aspiring province with potential in agriculture and resources, now more than ever will turn to its more prized asset ? its people – to realise its dreams of peace and prosperity. 

Peopleconnexion has been privileged to get a glimpse of the beauty, potential and challenge that lies ahead, and be part of that process to connect key individuals to achieve the desired outcomes as an organisation.

 Going digital

While newspaper and print media advertisements encouraged interest in the roles, it was social media and online advertisements that sparked the fire we needed to get the word out to as many qualified candidates as possible.

It’s estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 Papua New Guineans use Facebook. If we wanted the biggest reach in the shortest amount of time possible ? we knew this is where we had to start.

Our team took to our keyboards and mobiles, posting roles in every place we could find, spanning from local ARoB community groups, Facebook admins and online job boards across the country.

 Delivering on deadlines

We worked closely with PGF and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to send out official government communication first, before placing our advertisements.

Over the past few months, we’ve received hundreds of applications, spent hundreds of hours on the phone and by now ? our email count must be well into the thousands.

Despite internet connection issues, cancelled flights, hard-to-reach candidates and hundreds of kilometres of distance, our team has delivered on key deadlines we set in the beginning and found every opportunity to add value for our clients. Cooperation between all parties was highly responsive, which resulted in a productive process. Having the key people involved in setting clear and realistic milestones is key.

The most important factors contributing to the success of this project so far have been setting clear expectations, communication channels, updates, standardised interview questions and selection criteria.

 To uphold quality and candidate care on this scale, our team developed:

  •  A standard interview guide
  • Questions based on key success factors for each role
  • A clear template and scoring system
  •  A clear process for collecting references
  • Reporting measures allowing for audits of candidates, processes and advertisement response

 Key lessons

1.   Ensuring effective communication between, ourselves as the recruitment agent and the client and also between us and the candidates. Providing timely updates and information to all parties was key, as this gave the client peace of mind that the work was being attended to and also candidates were aware that applications were received and of the various stages of the process

2.    Understanding the clients? requirements and providing this, whether it be in terms of the advertising or the custom reporting format.

3.   Finding a balance between the clients? requirements and not losing the quality of work that is expected from us. ? in this case this meant working with the clients? templates and incorporating the key elements of our custom report, to ensure essential candidate information was captured but in a more compact format.

4. Teamwork is always key in such a process

5.   Being adaptable and flexible ? not all organisations/people function at the brisk and efficient PXR pace and being able to adapt and accept these differences and still deliver on key deadlines.

Over the next few weeks, we will be closing out the process and preparing our candidates for their exciting new roles in Buka.

These intelligent and genuine group of people will be shaping the region as we know it. Our team looks forward to following up with them on their first few weeks in their new positions and coaching them through their new roles over the coming months.

For more information about our recruitment services and how we collaborate with our clients and candidates, please head to

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