Not selling yourself short. Recruitment trends in the public sector.

Published: 27 March 2012

Change is afoot in the public sector.  From Health to Local Government to Education to the Civil Service, skills requirements are evolving and employers are looking to reach beyond traditional talent pools and recruit new, diverse talent. 

Budget cuts set against increasing demand have dictated that Systems Thinking, Sixth Sigma, Business Process Re-engineering and various other methodologies are all commonplace activities in public service providers.  These actions combined with consistently ambitious leadership (even in the face of austerity) mean that a whole new direction is being taken in terms of delivery. 

This, alongside the shift from provider to enabler/ commissioner has led to a real appetite for what might be loosely termed “commercial” skills.  An ability to demonstrate cost savings, deliver efficiency and focus entirely on the customer is the prevailing pre-requisite in senior recruitment and there is little evidence that this trend is on the wane. 

So what does this mean for public sector professionals who are looking for their next role?  Or indeed for commercial candidates who might be looking to move sectors? 

There are a number of considerations when applying for roles.  Clearly the same robustness and transparency exists in terms of the actual process itself.  However, job descriptions and person specifications might be a little more pithy.  This makes crafting a compelling, clever covering statement even more important.  Take some time to think about how your experience fits with the brief.  Make sure that content has real impact and that you will “wow” recruiters with the breadth of your skills.

There is also an increasing need to focus on outcomes and provide real evidence as to where your personal impact lies.  Historically, some processes might have been a little more anecdotal in terms of the evidence required.  This has been turned on its head.  Hard and fast facts are what are required so get to the point and support suppositions with figures and results.

Finally, there is an increasing need to sell yourself.  Above all else, the public sector is looking for ambitious and challenging leaders.  The status quo is shifting very quickly and there is a renewed hunger for diverse skills, styles and talents.  Those who like to hide their lights under a bushel need not apply as the world is an exceptionally competitive place right now. 

Therefore, it is not the time to be meek and polite.  Shift into sales mode and make sure that your application profiles the real you.  Anything less will short-change you and short-change your career. 

Elizabeth James - Consultant

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