Does the public sector need to polish its sales pitch?
Australia’s public sector is a diverse network of departments, services, councils and commissions that has much to offer talented and ambitious candidates. A common challenge for hiring managers, however, is getting this message across.

As competition for talent heats up, a clearly defined valued proposition is an essential tool for attracting the very best.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows a healthy appetite for new candidates within the public sector. Job ads for government and defence rose by 33% and the average advertised salary was $72,907. Within the broader sector, job ads for the navy led the way. They rose 120% for the three-month period of November to January, however this may have been off a low base. Police and corrections also recorded a 61% boost in opportunities over the same period.

Meanwhile, the large advertising sectors of Local, State and Federal Government saw increases of 31%, 14% and 16% respectively.

Why work for the public sector?

Kathy Kostyrko Director, Public Sector, at recruitment firm Hays, believes that Government has a lot to offer candidates but that it often fails in its communication.
“Government is generally very good when it comes to diversity and inclusion and has some great flexibility policies, however it’s not always good at selling its value proposition,” she says.

“There can be a perception from the outside that Government is just one huge department, but there are so many different areas of specialty and lots of interesting roles,” adds Kostyrko.

“Departments need to be able to advertise why candidates would want to work in their area specifically and not any other Government department. A value proposition is also important when it comes to competing with the private sector for talent.”

An understanding of what candidates are looking for can help pubic sector employers tailor their recruitment approach. SEEK’s Laws of Attraction data shows that salary and compensation is still the number one driver for candidates in the government and defence industry, especially additional benefits such as extra superannuation contributions.

Work-life balance is the second-greatest motivator for public sector candidates. Flexible working hours is seen as particularly attractive and this is something that public sector employers may be wise to emphasise. Job security comes in third place for candidates in this sector and now outranks career progression as a key driver of attraction.  

Local talent

When it comes to attracting the best talent, City of Melbourne, Melbourne’s local government body takes a proactive approach. The Council employs more than 1,600 people and is responsible for the municipality of Melbourne. This includes everything from capital works and maintenance to community health services and arts and cultural programs.

Anna Wodrow, Talent Acquisition Lead, People and Culture, City of Melbourne, explains that the Council is very precise in its recruitment strategies.

“Our recruitment team partners with each hiring manager to tailor individual recruitment strategies to the unique requirements of each position,” she says.

“We also like to ensure all applicants have a strong understanding of the position they are applying for and can see themselves ‘making the difference’ for Melbourne,” she says.

Diversity at work

Melbourne is home to one of the world’s most culturally diverse communities and City of Melbourne aims to reflect this within its own workforce.

“Our recruitment policy ensures gender balance and cultural sensitivity on interview panels as well as balanced shortlists,” says Wodrow. “Our Aboriginal Employment and Diversity and Inclusion strategies are key to realising our inclusion and diversity goals.”

It is also a strong supporter of the Jawun Secondment Program, which provides placements for skilled secondees to Indigenous organisations.

“We also share real employee stories that show true and authentic experiences from City of Melbourne trainees, women in leadership roles and employees achieving balance through flexibility in their jobs,” says Wodrow.

“Our work flexibility policy ensures ‘all roles flex’ and our generous gender neutral parental leave conditions benefit all employees.”

Competing for talent

Such a tailored approach to recruitment may benefit other areas of the public sector in their aim to attract the best talent. Kostyrko says that while government once sought applicants with public sector experience, it is now casting a wider net.

“Technology is having a huge impact on the way government operates and this means it now values private sector experience more and more,” she says. “Government is looking to bring in tech skills and a range of people who can push the boundaries.”

As competition with the private sector continues to increase, Kostyrko recommends that hiring managers maintain contact with candidates to keep them engaged in a role throughout the recruitment process.

“If the public sector wants to compete for the very best talent, it needs to consider how it engages candidates and the speed at which it can make recruitment decisions,” adds Kostyrko.

“The private sector tends to have smoother processes, which sends a good message to candidates. The public sector has a lot to offer and it needs to make a point of selling this.”