The challenges of hiring in the public sector

Stephen Ridley
Stephen Ridley

The public sector continues to face increased pressure to attract and retain high-quality talent in a highly competitive job market, while also meeting the demands of increasing public expectations for accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness.

The challenges of hiring in the public sector are influenced by many factors including: budgetary constraints, remuneration, disengaged and frustrated employees, qualified professionals aging out and debilitating strikes.

With the government and public servants in a deadlock over pay and working conditions, businesses will continue to face recruitment challenges.

Challenges shaping the public sector recruitment

Budget constraints & process

Find me a public sector organisation that isn’t operating with limited budgets. Limited budget to positively impact pay makes it increasingly difficult for public sector organisations to compete with the private sector employers for top talent. Then there’s the recruitment red tape. Public sector recruitment processes can be onerous and move at a glacial pace. Time-consuming application processes not only impact time to hire, but the complexity of the process can put people off applying for roles, therefore pushing away potential candidates in an already skills short market.


Dissatisfaction with pay in the public sector is not new. But it’s certainly dominating our headlines with UK-wide public sector strikes not seen since the 70s. People are fed up and can we blame them? With public sector workers facing below-inflation pay rises yet the same soaring cost of living as the rest of the workforce, public services are under threat. The pandemic was all the evidence we needed to reinforce how critical public sector professionals are for the country. And pay must be addressed to enable key workers to afford to live while continuing to do good.

A candidate-short market and widening skills gaps

Brexit significantly impacted hiring in the public sector. Some of the public sector is particularly dependent on workers from the EU and the rest of the world. For example, 15% of the adult social care workforce is made up EU and non-EU nationalities. With the negative press surrounding the public sector, young people are being put off a career in many of the areas already feeling the bite of staff shortages. Therefore, as skilled professionals are ageing out, these same skills are not being replenished at the top of the funnel. And, as we continue to live longer, the demand on public services will only increase.

Changing demographics

The public sector has been working hard over the years to create a diverse workforce that is reflective of the communities they serve. A trend we hope continues in the years ahead. To achieve this, businesses must adapt their recruitment strategies to appeal to a broader audience demonstrating its willingness to recruit talent fairly from every group within our population. Making higher education degrees an essential requirement can be a major barrier for candidates of lower socioeconomic or other diverse backgrounds.

The bottom line

Has the public sector lost its appeal to the future generation? Very likely.

Whilst remuneration and working environments can be fixed in the long-term, it doesn’t resolve the issue of enticing the next generation to pursue a career in public service. To attract more people into the public sector, it’s important to think of what new generations of workers will be looking for in their jobs. Purpose is often cited as having increasing importance in why people choose certain career paths. This is something that the public sector has lots of and playing on this strength makes a lot of sense.

The public sector recruitment market is complex. It requires a nuanced approach to navigate successfully. One that we here at Arch, understand. We continue to deliver outstanding recruitment service, that we care about.

Get in touch today to talk hiring with one of our friendly recruiters or find out more about our recruitment services.

Steve Ridley
Business Director – Arch Resourcing

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