Skills best suited to private sector

I am currently working for a public sector organisation, and have been for
the past four years – all within HR and training. I am looking to move to a
private sector role in order to utilise my creative skills and natural
initiative and am struggling to gain interest from private companies. Any
advice would be really appreciated.

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy

In your letter you say you have natural initiative and creative skills so
moving to the private sector should be achievable.

The fact you have not yet achieved that objective may be a reflection of the
job market or your ability to promote yourself. Does your CV reflect your
personal perception of what you have to offer? You must give potential
employers examples of how you have been creative and where you have used your

Private sector employers have certain perceptions about public sector
employees and you have to prove them wrong. Have you thought of creative ways
of getting your CV in front of potential employers? While I am not suggesting
using purple note paper or including your picture, a well presented covering
letter with your key selling points might be the answer.

Johanna Simons, HR consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

It is quite usual for employers to want to match industry sector experience
when recruiting, especially when there is a choice of potential candidates on
the market. In your case, the move from the public sector may be seen as even
more of a broader step and could, therefore, be off-putting for some potential

What I would suggest is you ensure your CV focuses on your past achievements
and personal skills. Try an introductory paragraph highlighting your personal
skills and list your key achievements under each role. For example, areas could
include savings you have made against budgets, managing people, projects
undertaken, or percentage increase in efficiencies. It is important prospective
employers can see you are focused on the bottom line and managing change.

Another idea is to send a covering letter with your CV, highlighting
achievements that match your skills and experience directly with the role. You
should also tailor your CV for each role and expand on the essential areas of
experience and cut down on those that are of secondary importance.

A highly-focused application should be harder for a potential employer to
overlook and hopefully this will result in more success for you.

Doug Knott, senior consultant, Chiumento

Current employment trends suggest we may soon find we are all working for
the NHS, local government or a major retailer! So it may be advisable to review
your decision to move to the private sector.

You should also be careful about assuming all private sector roles will
provide you with the opportunity to utilise your creativity and initiative.
Equally, don’t assume these skills are absent from all public sector roles. You
say you are struggling to gain interest from private companies. Ask yourself
what those people making the selection decisions feel you are lacking. Contact
companies which have declined your applications for feedback.

Possible perceived limitations could be commercial awareness and business
understanding. In your CV and covering letter highlight achievements and
expertise in these areas. Demonstrate at interviews that you understand that
many private sector organisations have to deliver year-on-year price reductions
and not the inflation plus increases to a captive customer base typical of
local government.

You could also consider moving into interim/contract roles in the private
sector where the person specifications are typically less stringent than for
permanent roles. This would enable you to gain experience and prove your
capability to operate in this sector.

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