Engagement the key to success in government recruitment

Recruiting for the government sector comes with its own set of challenges, not least of which is the extended wait periods many candidates must endure.

But specialist government recruiters say these problems can be overcome by keeping candidates fully informed about the process.

Samantha Cotgrave, the general manager of WA-based Gel Gov Group, says the recruitment process for government jobs can drag on for several weeks, particularly if citizenship checks and security clearance are needed, although temporary roles are filled more quickly.

This means that everyone involved should have a full understanding of the process.

“From our side, it’s understanding the job brief and the timeline from the very, very beginning. Our recruitment consultants take a full job brief including timing and prerequisites. And then, from the moment that we interview candidates that we are going to shortlist, we update them about the process,” she says. “From the very beginning, we paint the picture of what the process is going to be and then we stick to that.”

Another effect of the citizenship and security requirements for many public service jobs is that is narrows the talent pool, says Cotgrave. There is also the fact that public service budgets are under pressure, sometimes making the salaries less competitive with the private sector.

Highlighting opportunities in the public service

Cotgrave says that while some people hold a prejudice about public service jobs as being boring and for the grey cardigan brigade, there are many attractive features of public service roles that recruiters can point to, such as a wide variety of projects that some roles offer.

“Our job is to understand the job brief and the organisation and then sell that accurately. There’s no point to us upselling it if it’s not going to be the case,” she says. “There are lots of fascinating different projects and roles and, the more we understand that, the more we can talk to highly skilled candidates and get them excited about the opportunities within government.”

For Lisa Ries, regional director ACT at Hudson, there is little need to sell-in government roles.

“In Canberra, people are eager to join the government. It is one of the larger workforces in Canberra,” she says. “The other motivator to some degree is the conditions and salary that are offered by the government because, in federal government at the lower levels, your APS2s to APS6s. are well-paid in relation to the private sector.”

Most of the federal government recruitment done by Hudson is either for temporary contract roles or non-ongoing contract roles starting at about three months.

Keeping candidates updated

The long wait periods can be extended further if a role has to go through a department’s procurement function and Ries says it’s important to stay close to candidates and keep them informed because many will have applied for four or five jobs and will take the one which comes quickest.

“We also engage them. It depends on the type of role that they’re going for but sometimes we engage them by sending them updates around what the department is doing, like an article around a new project or something on the department’s website about a new initiative,” she says.

“We have a talent shortage in Canberra as well. If you’re looking for specific skill sets, they’re in high demand.”

Another difficulty for candidates is the lack of feedback they receive if they’re unsuccessful.

“When we’re about to tell someone they’ve been unsuccessful, my team and I always like to at least give them some tips on how they can maybe be successful the next time around or how they need to develop their skills to be successful in getting a similar type role, but a lot of the time, no feedback comes through.”

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Christopher Niesche

Christopher Niesche is a finance and business specialist with two decades of journalism experience, including as deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review. Christopher started his career at The Australian, before becoming New Zealand bureau...

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