My next move

Q I want to move from public sector HR to private sector HR. I have 12 years’ experience in HR (10 at management level), I’m a fellow of the CIPD and qualified in project management but my experience is all public sector. What are the chances of securing a job in the private sector?

Lynne Hardman, managing director, Hays Human Resources

A It can be a difficult transition to make. Sometimes this is more the result of perception than reality so here are some tips for overcoming any barriers.

Increasingly, private sector employers are looking for applicants with good commercial acumen, in addition to traditional technical HR skills. Job titles that reflect this, such as business partner, are becoming more and more prevalent, especially in the financial services and banking sectors.

In reality, most public sector organisations are driven in a way that is comparable to the private sector. They are results-focused and have an emphasis on best practice; they drive through change with limited resources and to tight deadlines; and they often have a strong project element.

When preparing your CV and planning for interviews, think about the following:

  • Focus your CV on your transferable skills and experience rather than your employer.

  • List all of your results and achievements and make it clear how these benefited the organisation. Use stats, facts and figures as much as possible – think like an accountant.

  • Think about your own organisation and the projects you have been involved in.

  • You are likely to have had involvement with commercial partners or suppliers in your previous roles. Where possible, try to get references or testimonials to support your CV.

Selling yourself and your personality is key, and this is the most difficult thing to do on paper. You need to convey your energy, enthusiasm and drive, and your genuine interest in a commercial environment.

Once your CV is ready, think about opportunities sector by sector and target companies who could utilise your experience and contacts from the public sector.

Often, the easiest way to gain some private sector experience is to take on interim contracts. You are more likely to be able to focus on a transferable area of your experience and improve your marketability this way – but it depends on whether you can take the risk that entails.

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