It might come as a surprise, but there are some who work in the private sector who might be tempted to apply for a public sector post on the basis that it meets their skill set. Private sector job descriptions can be very long-winded and appear more as a wishlist for a superhuman form of employee possessing skills and experience that runs for page after page. For the intending applicant, these are daunting at first reading, but if you can group them into workable categories that can be addressed in the application, then a perceptive recruiter (even if not possessed of sufficient editorial skill to prune the verbage in the first place) can evaluate a ‘broad-brush’ application. In the public sector, however, the tendency now if for highly specific internal skills that appear almost impenetrable to the private sector (or, even worse, self-employed/freelance applicant). This is strange, given that many public sector employers trumpet ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’ as being key to their recruitment processes. The paradox is further complicated by the universal – if nonsensical – way that both public and private sectors have embraced competency-based interviews as the only game in town. Faced with the usual six competency questions (three broad, three job specific) the danger for the private sector ‘outsider’ who has made it to interview is that you are hard pressed to identify the key words and phrases that are often meat and drink to public sector ‘insider’ applicants. Short of a Rosetta Stone or the divining powers of a dowser, private sector or freelance applicants are immediately at a serious disadvantage and can go on to award themselves the bum’s rush before they even realise that something’s amiss in their responses. A nice touchy feely ‘We welcome applicants irrespective of age gender, orientation, ethnicity, religion’ is all very well, but diversity can go take a running jump if you then rule the applicant out by a too narrow or overly subjective application of the competency criteria.

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