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5 ways public sector recruiters can tackle today’s biggest recruitment challenges

Nobody chooses a career in the public sector because they want an easy ride. Public sector recruiters are no exception. But now feels like an even tougher time than usual. 

In this article, we share five practical ways we’re seeing public sector organisations build a fast, modern recruitment process that attracts and retains great public servants.   

We’ve faced years of budget cuts, decimating public services from local government to education; youth services to homelessness support. And now, reports warn that Rishi Sunak’s government is hiding £28bn of additional “stealth cuts” to public services over the next five years.

All this against a backdrop for most public services of escalating demand and increasingly desperate talent shortages. 

And there’s the growing mental health crisis, too. The pandemic drew focus on the mental health impact for healthcare workers but public servants in every discipline have been plagued with burnout, as they deal with huge workload increases and adapt to new pressures. As one study says

“The levels of fatigue and burnout across local government agencies are likely to contribute to an already growing human capital crisis in the public sector, where high early turnover and persistent staffing shortages threaten to reduce the quality of public service delivery”. 

It’s a huge negative spiral, as the hardworking, passionate people serving our communities are carrying ever-more on their shoulders with seemingly ever-less support. Leading to higher turnover, bigger staff shortages, more workload pressure, and more expensive recruitment. 

But through all these challenges, recruiters are a lifeline. 

Recruiters can’t change the fundamental constraints facing the public sector (apart from making your voice heard at election time 👀). But you can help public sector organisations operate as smoothly as possible within those constraints – for the ultimate good of the communities you serve.  

Let’s talk about that. 


5 ways to improve public sector recruitment 


1 – Attract and retain the ideal public servants with a strong values-led EVP 

Talent shortages are an enormous challenge for most public sector organisations, made worse by salary disparity with the private sector. Competing against private sector salaries, public sector recruitment can feel like bringing flip-flops to the Olympic 100-metre race. 

Public sector recruiters have to change the rules of the game. We know from the fabulous public servants we’re lucky to know and work with; public sector workers are some of the kindest, most compassionate, most dedicated people you’ll ever meet. 

That’s a unique value proposition that, for the right type of people, means much more than salary alone.

Public sector recruiters must bring your EVP to life throughout the candidate journey – not only to attract more people to the sector, but to attract the sorts of people who’ll stay and thrive despite challenges. 

That’s how you build a sustainable recruitment function and a resilient organisation. 

For example: 

  • Could your adverts better bring your organisation to life?
  • Could you host open days, to showcase the work you do?
  • Could you take time to show interviewees around your office?
  • Could you create a super-engaging careers pack showing off your EVP?
  • Could you advertise in unexpected places in your local community?
  • Could you run a referral scheme to create employee ambassadors?  

Could you use video to make your job adverts really stand out, for example? Check out what Richmond and Wandsworth Councils have been doing lately: Watch here.


2 – Keep advertising and agency costs down by being smarter with your candidate database 

Skills shortages are definitely an issue in the public sector, we’re not looking to gaslight anyone here 😉. But sometimes recruiters can unintentionally make shortages worse than they need to be. Especially if you’re not using modern recruitment software.

Candidate databases have come on about a bazillion miles over the past several years. A good database should make it super simple to add, store, search, talent pool, and nurture candidates – so you’ve got more great people at your fingertips, before going to job boards or agencies. 

If your database is a black hole that everyone hates using (or nobody uses in the first place…), an upgrade to a modern ATS + CRM is an easy win that can make your recruitment budget stretch further. 

With the great recruitment reporting to help you prove it. 


3 – Hire faster and deliver a better candidate experience with lots of sensible automation

Public sector organisations typically have complex, convoluted, slow regulatory processes. But recruiters don’t just have to accept these dinosaur processes as a fact of life.

There’s plenty you can’t change when you recruit in the public sector – but there’s also plenty you can, if you choose the right tech. Modern talent acquisition tech should come with lots of speedy functionality to make hiring faster and improve the candidate experience. Like:

  • Quick apply and mobile-apply
  • Mobile-first application journeys
  • Anytime, anywhere video interviewing
  • Automated candidate comms
  • SMS and email comms
  • Workflows that suit how you work
  • Bulk actions
  • Templates and cloning
  • Multiple location jobs 
  • Job board integrations for quick distribution 
  • Speedy interview scheduling
  • Killer questions 
  • Pre-screening questionnaires
  • Automated screening and sorting candidates
  • Automated checks and references
  • Digital contracts and signatures
  • Automated onboarding workflows

It’s also super helpful if you can make tweaks easily yourself, without waiting on your software provider or IT support. 

“It blows my mind with Tribepad that if I need to sit down and tweak something, I’ll just sit down and tweak it. That’s a concept most of us in local government can’t get our heads around. We just don’t operate like this; we have never been spoiled like this. We are just delighted”.

Gillie Davis, HR Resourcing Manager at Milton Keynes City Council


4 – Improve control by improving internal stakeholder engagement and collaboration 

Many of the public sector organisations we work with operate with a decentralised recruitment model, which can become complex and unruly fast. Plus, siloes and miscommunication with hiring managers create bottlenecks and slow time-to-hire, often meaning you lose great people. 

The upshot is typically poor visibility and control that can derail hiring and makes compliance a major challenge. 

One way public sector recruiters can counter this is through improving engagement with internal stakeholders. 

Simon Pollen, Strategic Resourcing and Talent Acquisition Manager at Richmond & Wandsworth Councils, shares some tactics his team used to transform their team’s culture and strengthen stakeholder engagement:

  • Weekly recruitment workshops
  • Recruitment process walkthrough
  • Collating educational resources
  • Boosting accountability by sharing recruitment data
  • Collecting (and acting on) post-hire feedback 
  • Building closer partnerships across the staff community

It’s also crucial to choose recruitment software that makes collaboration super simple, while setting clear and robust process guardrails (and creating an effortless audit trail). 


5 – Increase representation with diversity-centric recruitment software

ED&I matters to almost every employer, public or private, but it’s an especially huge priority for the public sector. If public sector services don’t represent the community they serve, it’s the people in those communities who suffer.

For example:

  • Unconscious bias in the UK healthcare system is contributing to stark racial disparity in maternal healthcare outcomes: Black women in the UK are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women.
  • Communication barriers negatively impact Black, minoritised, migrant, Deaf and disabled victims and survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG), hurting their experiences of safety and access to justice.


Improving workforce ED&I is a major mechanism for creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive society that can better serve everyone. Public sector recruiters must prioritise recruitment software that prioritises ED&I

For example:

  • Can you support anonymous applications, to stop unconscious bias?
  • Can everyone access your careers site and recruitment platform easily?
  • Can you offer multi-language support to help non-native candidates?
  • Can you build talent pools around under-represented communities?
  • Can you filter and prioritise diversity applications? 
  • Can you easily create diversity questionnaires?
  • Can you accommodate different needs with bespoke onboarding journeys?


We know public sector recruitment can be tough – but it can also be incredibly rewarding, when all the pieces fall into place. Public sector recruiters are operating with lots of constraints, yes. But the right tools and partners can help you find creative ways to do more. And isn’t that the public sector in a nutshell? 


Considering new recruitment software? Download our buyer’s guide for the public sector now for a roadmap to selecting your right partner.

Tribepad is the trusted tech ally to smart(er) recruiters everywhere. Trusted by public sector organisations like the NHS, BBC and numerous local authorities including Milton Keynes Council, Coventry City Council, Surrey County Council, and Kent County Council, 25 million people in 16 languages use Tribepad. 

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