“You wanna live fancy? You better work, bitch!” - Britney Spears (Part I)

Updated: Jun 15

Ok, so I don’t really care whether I live fancy or not, but I really do care about not being broke and basic. To not be broke and basic, I need to follow what Britney Spears says and “better work, bitch!”. As such, this one is about my recent experience with looking for work in Tonga. I think it’s no secret I hate my current job, and I’ve been on the lookout for something different for a while now. However, the job market in Tonga is extremely limited (hence why people move overseas for better jobs), and with Covid-19, most organisations aren’t looking at hiring more people. With that in mind, when an HR post in the Private sector was advertised with a minimum of $11K more in salary than what I currently make, I jumped for it and applied. Why? Because I like money, that’s why.

Application process comparison: Tonga Public sector vs. Tonga Private sector

Now, the application process for jobs within the Tonga Public Service, as you can expect of any bureaucracy, is unnecessarily long, infamously disorganized and overall, a terrible experience, especially if you don’t get the job. Firstly, to apply, you need to provide a hard copy of all your documents, which must include:

· A Cover letter

· CV

· Certified academic transcripts (some people submit their transcript all the way from High school up to Uni, which is unnecessary. Depending on the position advertised, your latest academic transcript is enough)

· 2 recommendation/ reference letters

· Police record

· Birth certificate

Applicants need to certify all their documents listed above, pop them into a nice, new, crisp folder, address it to the CEO of the Ministry, then go down to the office and hand it in person to the sleepy-looking secretary before the deadline. Submissions are hard-copy only because who cares about saving trees, right? Also, if you’re applying from the outer islands to a position on the mainland, your best bet is to give your cousin who’s travelling to Tongatapu your job application, and hope they don’t drop it in the ocean as they catch the ‘Otu’anga’ofa ferry. Or if you’re rich, you can air cargo your application on the Lulutai airline, and hope your cousin in Tongatapu remembers to pick it up and submit it for you. No hassle, aye?

After that, it’ll probably be a month or two at the earliest before someone contacts you that you were shortlisted, and that the selection interview will take place within short notice. It could be within the week, at worst, the following morning. When you show up to your interview that was scheduled for 9:00 am, some of the interview panellists still hasn’t shown up, so you’ll be waiting to be interviewed for another 4 hours. Maybe after 4 hours of waiting, an apologetic looking staff (or an arrogant looking one, depending on where you’ve applied lol) will tell you that your interview has been rescheduled for next week, so go home then come again. When you finally get interviewed, you won’t know for another month or two (again, at the earliest) whether you got the job or not. On the other hand, if you didn’t get the job, most likely you won’t get a courtesy call at all to let you know you didn’t make it. How nice, huh? If you think I’m being cynical, no. This is from my own experience, both as an applicant and as an interview panel member. I know many people who’ve had a worse experience.

In comparison, for this HR job in the private sector, all I needed to do was make an online submission of a cover letter, CV, latest academic transcript and list 3 references. Online application only! How easy and convenient! As soon as I made my online submission, I received an email thanking me for my application, and that I would be notified if I was shortlisted within two weeks. And lo behold, right within two weeks of submission, I got an email that I was shortlisted and the interview was scheduled a month from that date. I got a phone call the following day after receiving the email, with the voice at the other end of the line saying thank you for applying, you’ve been shortlisted, the interview is scheduled for XX day at XX time at XX location and we will send a reminder email and phone call again closer to the date.

Was I impressed at the speed and efficiency of the recruitment process? Fuck yeah, I was! Comparing this recruitment experience with the public service one, I was mighty impressed. All online, consistent, immediate and polite communication, considerate and in-advance scheduling. Man, Public sector recruitment need to learn from this! Of course, if you’re an overseas reader, you’d probably roll your eyes because this is the norm for job applications. However, as mentioned earlier, this is NOT the norm for job applications in Tonga.

So far, so good, right? So, what exactly happened next? The interview and the job offer, which I’ll tell you about it in Part II. It’s almost midnight as I write this, so until then, ‘Ofa atu!

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