Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Play to your strengths: 5 ways to attract top talent to the public sector 

By Matt Lewis, Director Hays Public Services


On the surface, private sector organisations might appear to have an edge when it comes to attracting top talent. They can, after all, offer better salaries and material benefits more readily than the public sector. But public sector organisations can still find the talent they need, providing they play to their strengths.

As we’ve discovered in much of our research, including the Hays What Workers Want reports and our annual salary guide, professionals aren’t only drawn by salary, but a range of different considerations, including benefits, workplace culture, diversity and fair access to career progression.

With that in mind, here are five things a public sector employer can do to tempt top talent away from the private sector.

1. Make your employee value proposition (EVP) clear

Your EVP communicates your organisation’s values and culture, as well as the rewards, opportunities and experience of working for you.

From job adverts and screening tools, through to your career site, induction and employee literature, your culture and EVP should be central to every stage of your attraction strategy, delivering a clear message of who you are as an organisation which potential employees can identify with. Public sector organisations generally have an amazing story to tell, but typically struggle to communicate it to their target audiences.

2. Articulate your purpose and culture

Workers are often drawn to the public sector because of the meaningful nature of the work and the purpose of the organisation. Workers who want to feel like they’re making a difference, rather than working for an employer driven largely by profit, will be drawn to the culture and purpose of a public sector organisation – providing your story is articulated well enough on job adverts and websites.

3. Streamline your application process

Public sector application processes are, by and large, far too long. This deters many private sector candidates, most of whom believe that an application process of longer than 15 minutes would put them off completing their application. Wherever possible make changes to refine the process to create a positive user experience. You can find out more about the applicant journey and how to improve it in our What Workers Want series.

4.Highlight progression opportunities

There are many elements to an attraction campaign that don’t revolve around salary. Another strength of the public sector is its more structured and regimented pay and career progression pathways. Describing these pathways in your job adverts can help attract more ambitious professionals.

5. Demonstrate flexibility

Life isn’t all about work, and many people are drawn to the public sector because they believe they can get a more flexible deal that will allow them to prioritise their work life balance. This is vital for parents and those with dependents, but desirable also for all who want better control over their working hours. Promote flexibility as one of the key selling points of your available roles, and you’ll turn the heads of the 43% of private sector professionals who are unsatisfied with their current work life balance.

The public sector has a lot going for it, but to overcome skills shortages and find talented professionals, employers need to play to their strengths and openly promote the sector’s unique benefits and culture to the world.

If you would like assistance promoting your current vacancies, contact your local Hays consultant at

About this author

Matt Lewis, Director Hays Public Services, has worked in specialist recruitment since 1994, the last 10 years of which have been spent working specifically with the public sector. Matt’s role has developed into leading MSP and RPO recruitment solutions to best position organisations to attract and retain high quality talent.


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