How to Find a Public Sector Job

In the good old days if you wanted a job in the public sector you did one of three things; for admin jobs you looked in the local paper, for professional jobs you looked in a professional journal and for everything else you looked at The Wednesday Guardian.  It used to be bigger than many of today’s papers.  In these days of the WORLD WIDE WEB, it is seen as the answer to every question. So isn’t the answer to ‘how do I find a job? ‘ simply ‘on the web’. Post your CV on a big jobs board like Monster and sit back and wait?

Public jobs are always advertised surely?

There are some myths around  that all public sector or at least all local government jobs must be advertised. And they are just that, myths. The requirement is to get the best person for the job and to have a representative workforce. Together these two influences drove many organisations to advertise widely to recruit just such people. But it is not a legal requirement.

And think of the cost! Advertising in the press or on the web can cost a lot. So in these straightened times many organisations have changed their strategies. They may advertise only on their own website if at all. It is increasingly common for jobs to be posted in a very limited way.

So it is important to understand just where you will find the role you are looking for .. and some of them may surprise you!

Public sector jobs on the internet

You can use the internet to find a job. There are:

  • Employers’ Sites – every local authority has a site and their vacancies will be on there, NHS employers, (NHSJobs) civil service jobs are sites where you can find those employers advertising. These sites require you to register for job alerts and then they will send you an email for roles you are interested in.
  • Dedicated jobs boards – who only publish jobs for certain sectors- such as Careers for Leaders, (nearly all local government) or The Ladders which publishes jobs in certain professions about £50k. Registering on CV Library will mean you join 5 million other people in a huge database that employers pay to search. JobsgoPublic, has a smaller database and is a public sector site.
  • Profession specific sites- sites like People Management or Personnel Today, often attached to a professional institute will advertise a range of roles. Try Changeboard for HR roles.
  • Web crawler sites – sites like, Simply Hired  or can make life easy as they literally crawl the web to look at other sites and collect together all the vacancies.
  • Agencies and search firms- although the world has moved on and profit margins squeezed for these intermediaries they do still have public sector roles to fill. Manpower, Hays, Morgan Law, Badenoch and Clark are all still, Reed, are still handling public sector temp and permanent roles.  Executive search is still active: Odgers, Penna, Gatenby Sanderson and Veredus still have public sector roles to fill, they have their own websites and many have a LinkedIn group that contains jobs.
  • LinkedIn, whilst many local authorities have been dismally slow to post their vacancies here, you will find organisations like Surrey County Council doing so. Do a regular search and see what comes up. Often people turn to these alternative methods of advertising when they can’t recruit. And it is still true that there are skills shortages.

The hidden public job market

But not everything is to be found on the internet, some roles don’t get advertised. So what sorts of jobs don’t get advertised?

The short term contract type, the temp roles, the ones where the actual employer is not the public sector organisation, the ones which are filled by contractors not employees. And don’t forget that much of the work that was done by the public sector is now in the private sector. So if you want to collect refuse, care for people, do accounts, answer the phones, run libraries, deliver IT solutions, advise on planning applications or manage multi million pound projects, you need to be looking into the private sector as well as public.

There are new players in the digital marketing field, they don’t broadcast advertise, they do targeted advertising. By finding people who work in relevant organisations or who are looking for relevant information. Every time you agree to cookies you are leaving a digital fingerprint. These sophisticated tools use them to find you and target you with their advert.

So how can you find them?

Talk to the organisations that you want to target. Ask them how they fill such posts, do they have arrangements with agencies? Are they running their own in house agency/talent pool that you can join? Are they sourcing candidates through boards like Monster? Are they using Facebook or LinkedIn.

Talk to people who work within the organisations you want to work for. What they tell you about how people get to work there may be different from what HR believes should be happening.

In the private sector the golden rule of job searching is ‘network, network, network’. It is not so different in the public sector.  So if you know people, or you know people who know people, get networking and see where the work is and how to get into it.

In spite of the tradition of open advertisement there are many opportunities that will never appear in the paper and some more that will never appear on a web site. So think laterally and pick up the phone. Get talking, get networking and good luck!

Related: What Job Boards are Most Useful for Jobseekers?

Image: Shutterstock

By Mary Hope

Mary Hope is the founder of Mary Hope Career Success, she works with executives and managers to support them get paid more, promoted faster and feel more satisfied. She has 30 years experience of HR, training and headhunting both private and public sectors, is a published author and career coach. Follow Mary on Twitter @maryhopecareers