ABSolutely keeping an eye on each and every graduate bean

In the wake of the national census, Mia Grogan-Burrell, National Recruitment Manager at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, talks with CareerHub Central about the agency’s imminent graduate restructure and the balancing act between keeping candidates happy and promoting brand awareness

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has a proud history; it is recognised by many as one of Australia’s most important institutions and is a key contributor to an effective democracy model by supporting key decision-making processes.

Compared with other federal government organisations, ABS is a medium-sized agency comprised approximately 3,500 personnel nationwide. With offices in every state and territory, ABS is one of many providers of statistics (albeit the largest) used to inform, research, discuss and assist decision-making processes within government and our community.

ABS National Recruitment Manager and CareerHub Central user Mia Grogan-Burrell has a three-pronged role.  She manages the graduate recruitment team, assists with writing and implementing recruitment policy right across the ABS, and provides recruitment training to other areas of the business. Mia says, “The reason I love my job is that no two days look alike! A lot depends on the recruitment calendar but I might be organising career fairs, interviewing or writing policy.”

We can only imagine how dynamic the recruitment team must be – with an annual intake of approximately 150 candidates turned out into the workforce following an intensive 10-month graduate programme all located initially in Canberra, Mia and her team plan six months ahead at any given time.  Before they know it, rigorous assessment and training is being undertaken before 20 candidates are identified and offered the opportunity to rotate and invest key learning time with senior stakeholders.  Whilst this final phase is still in development, it foreshadows some of the interesting offerings in the pipeline for ABS graduates.


Mia works closely with two recruitment colleagues and then as part of a wider dozen who comprise the national recruitment team.  ABS’s restructuring of the graduate programme has been earmarked as a major project in the second half of 2011 and, for Mia, this means identifying and creating integrated pathways into the ABS from the bureau’s existing vacation placement programme and extending the existing cadet programme offering to new graduates as part of their post-graduate study activities.  With an intake of 150 graduates annually, Mia is not daunted, “People management I think is always hard… and leadership!  However networking at a senior level, being involved in interesting and innovative projects such as this and being given opportunities to shine if you have aptitude make it all worthwhile.”

Not unlike many graduate recruiters operating in the current economic climate, cost effectiveness is always at the forefront of ABS’s considerations, driven by a tight labour market.  Finding candidates with the most suitable subject choices – hence those who are more desirably skilled – is another challenge, as is raising brand awareness.  Having internal and external stakeholders properly understanding what the ABS does is key recruitment initiative with Mia and her team working on the agency’s value proposition and brand, spearheaded in close consultation with their Director of Human Resources.

FY12 anticipates competition across the board for attracting and coaxing candidates through ABS’s door.  Honing the message is key and is being looked at with fresh eyes, “Graduate recruitment is one of our major recruitment drives and, as such, will always have profile in the ABS”.  Mia and her team use social media more and more, and utilise e-recruitment sites to strengthen the visibility of their vacation and cadet programs.

With ABS’s favourable work environment, staff benefits, care and attention to graduates, and culture of support, we are sure Mia and her team are in prime position to nurture some of our leaders of the future!

Mia Grogan-Burrell has worked in human resources for eight years – all of those in a recruitment-related field. Mia started her career in external recruitment specialising in the banking sector and moved to the public sector 12 months ago.

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