Finance recruitment in the public sector: standing out as an employer and attracting top finance professionals

6 mins

Given the competitive nature of the public sector finance industry today, employers face the task of attracting and retaining top talent. With skilled professionals in high demand, it's important for finance organisations to adopt best practices if they want to make an impression.

Irrespective of size, most if not all organisations find themselves faced with the question: how do we stand out from competitors and attract the best and brightest talent? It can be quite simple: embrace the best practices, that not only differentiate your company from the rest, but also resonate with the aspirations and values of prospective candidates.  

As one of the leading finance recruitment agencies, we have witnessed first-hand the challenges and successes throughout the recruitment process and, in this blog, we offer our insights and strategies to inspire employers.

What do employees want from public sector finance jobs: LinkedIn polls 

In order to gain deeper insights into the preferences and priorities of professionals looking for finance jobs, we recently turned to LinkedIn to carry out some polls. The results of which offer a good indication about what drives job satisfaction, influences career decisions, and shapes the preferences of finance professionals in today’s competitive market. 

The results from our polls revealed that: 

  • 57% of candidates said salary was most important when looking for a new role.
  • 35% chose the wider package (including holidays).
  • 71% of candidates say hybrid working is non-negotiable.
  • 42% of candidates find the lack of interview feedback the main challenge in the job market.

These answers alone offer clients a quick snapshot into finance recruitment and the requirements of candidates. Below we will delve into some of these aspects and explore how employers can leverage this knowledge.

Competitive remuneration 

With the majority of finance professionals identifying salary as the most important factor when looking for a new role, it’s clear that employers must be competitive when it comes to their attraction and retention strategies.

Employers must benchmark their salaries against industry standards and offer attractive remuneration to remain competitive in the market. We know this isn’t always possible for public sector clients with limited budgets, and if that’s the case there are many alternative options to consider.

Wider package: beyond salary alone

While salary plays a crucial role, we mustn’t ignore 35% of candidates that highlighted the importance of the wider package, including benefits such as enhanced holidays, NHS Blue Light Cards, salary sacrifices for non-cash benefits, and other perks. Employers can differentiate themselves by offering comprehensive benefits packages that cater to the diverse needs of finance professionals. From flexible work arrangements to wellness programmes, a holistic approach to employee benefits can enhance the attractiveness of finance jobs.

Hybrid working arrangements

In a post-pandemic world, the demand for flexible work arrangements has surged, with 71% of candidates indicating that hybrid working is non-negotiable for them. Employers that embrace hybrid work models can attract and retain top finance professionals by offering flexibility and autonomy in how and where work is performed.

Having said that, it’s just as important to recognise that 29% of individuals have different preferences. This highlights the importance of understanding each candidate’s unique needs and priorities. Employers must adopt a flexible and inclusive approach to accommodate varying preferences regarding work arrangements.

Many of our public sector clients have a policy in place for candidates, as part of their contract of employment. It’s important for smaller organisations to also take this into consideration, this gives jobseekers peace of mind that their hybrid working arrangement won’t change.

It’s vital to remember here that flexibility is not only about accommodating the preferences of potential candidates, it’s also about being responsive to the needs of existing staff. Employers must demonstrate a willingness to adapt and evolve their policies and practices to meet the changing demands of the workforce.

Interview feedback: overcoming challenges in the finance job market 

Despite the importance of salary and work arrangements, it’s vital to take a step back and look at the interview process generally.  This is why we asked people what their main challenges are when it comes to job interviews. We were surprised to see that 42% of candidates identified the lack of interview feedback as the main challenge.

Some of the public sector organisations we work with use agency portals, this means that when a candidate is declined, most of the time, we have no feedback for offer with regards to exactly why they’ve been declined for a role.

We would encourage employers to prioritise timely and constructive feedback throughout the recruitment process, they could even do this via a recruiter. Transparent communication fosters a positive candidate experience and enhances the employer brand, making candidates more likely to reapply at a future date or pass on positive feedback to other jobseekers that may be applying for a role.

What else will make finance employers stand out? 

While the insights from polls provide valuable guidance, successful finance recruitment goes beyond meeting candidates' immediate needs. Here we have listed some other strategies to attract and retain top finance professionals.

Company culture: fostering collaboration and innovation

A company's culture can be a decisive factor in attracting and retaining candidates, particularly now. Employers must strive to cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential and excel in their role. 

By investing in initiatives that promote work-life balance, professional development, and employee well-being, employers can differentiate themselves as employers of choice in a competitive market.

Another key draw for candidates considering roles in public sector finance is the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of the general public, and this can be reflected in the company’s culture. While their primary function may be finance-related, candidates can feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment, knowing that their efforts directly contribute to the wellbeing of communities and society as a whole.  

Career growth opportunities

In a candidate-short market, finance professionals are not merely seeking a job—they're seeking a career path that offers opportunities for growth and advancement. Equally, if candidates (that maybe aren’t actively looking) are going to be persuaded away from their current positions, the roles must be appealing to them.

Employers must demonstrate a commitment to employee development by offering clear progression plans, mentorship opportunities, and access to ongoing training and education.

By investing in their employees' long-term success, employers not only attract top talent but also foster loyalty and retention within their organisations.

Strategies around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

A robust DEI strategy is essential for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where each employee feels valued and respected. Employers should actively promote diversity in recruitment efforts and implement initiatives to foster inclusion, such as unconscious bias training and employee resource groups.

Even something as simple as asking whether candidates require any reasonable adjustments (and genuinely listening to what they are) can go a long way. For more information on D&I in recruitment, take a look at our recruitment inclusion checklist.

Being open-minded and embrace potential 

In the competitive finance job market, employers must be open-minded when evaluating candidates. While experience is valuable, it's essential to recognise potential and transferable skills.

Employers should focus on finding candidates who demonstrate the right attitude, aptitude, and cultural fit, rather than solely relying on specifics, for example a minimum of 5 years’ experience, or full-time office attendance. Ask yourself: why is that important to this role?

In many cases, these requirements may be rooted in outdated assumptions or norms that no longer align with the realities of today's workforce. Instead think about whether the candidate demonstrates a willingness to learn, possesses critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities necessary for a career in the public sector, and whether they are aligned with the company’s values and culture.

Streamline the interview process 

We must acknowledge here that some public sector clients may have additional requirements to navigate and it’s not always easy to streamline certain processes. However, efficient interview practices are crucial, and employers should try to minimise delays where possible and provide a positive candidate experience.

Some candidates that are immediately available may have multiple interviews with quick turnarounds which is always worth bearing in mind.

However, if streamlining the process isn’t achievable, communicating the challenges transparently to the candidate and striving to strike a balance between efficiency and compliance should go a long way. Take a look at our blog on improving the recruitment process and reducing your time to hire for more advice. 

Look to the future 

Consider exploring more flexible work arrangements, such as compressed workweeks or shorter workdays. For example, one client we work with allows candidates to transition to a four-day workweek after completing their probation period. This innovative approach not only promotes work-life balance but also demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being and productivity.

Shaping the future of finance recruitment 

As we look ahead to the future of finance recruitment within the public sector, it's clear that innovation will be key to attracting and retaining top talent. By embracing flexible work arrangements, remote work opportunities, continued learning and development, and enhanced benefits packages, employers can create compelling value propositions that resonate with finance professionals.

Sellick Partnership is proud to be one of the UK’s leading finance recruitment agencies, working in partnership with public sector clients. Our teams are committed to supporting our clients to stay ahead of the curve and build high-performing teams.

Contact a member of the team today to learn how we can help meet your finance recruitment needs, or visit our contact page.