Encouraging the civil service recruit the best external talent: Sharing new ways to attract outstanding external candidates

The Civil Service Commission has long supported open and competitive recruitment approaches to bring in external talent at all levels of the Civil Service and in particular at senior levels of the Civil Service.

This year, the teams who were awarded the 2023 Commissioners’ Mark of Excellence recently took part in an online event to share the innovative ways in which they had recruited new talent into Civil Service roles.

Hosted by the First Civil Service Commissioner, Baroness Gisela Stuart, and the Government’s Chief People Officer, Fiona Ryland, the event introduced teams from the winning department, the Ministry of Justice, and highly commended departments: the Government Legal Department, Intellectual Property Office, the Scottish Government, the Office for National Statistics, and the Home Office, to talk in more detail about their innovative approaches to bring in external talent into the Civil Service.

The presentations from government departments and public sector organisations covered the following topics:

  • Initiatives to encourage and help candidates to apply for roles who haven't previously considered a job in the Civil Service, including prison leavers, army veterans, and encouraging more women in STEM to join the IPO. 
  • Improving job descriptions and adverts to attract more external candidates who may not be familiar with Civil Service jargon. 
  • Preparing external candidates for Civil Service interviews and initiatives to help candidates through the process.
  • Improving geographic diversity and tackling groupthink in the Civil Service by attracting candidates outside of London through setting up offices in different parts of the country and implementing local recruitment strategies in those areas. 

In 2022, new rules were introduced to ensure that all Senior Civil Service jobs must be advertised externally. During the event, the hosts Baroness Stuart and Fiona Ryland, advocates of this policy, highlighted how bringing in people with different skills and abilities – on merit after fair and open competition – strengthens the Civil Service.

Currently 7,000 senior Civil Service positions are covered by the external by default policy, but there is still more work to be done to ensure that the grades below senior appointments are also open externally.  Recruitment to the Senior Civil Service still remains predominantly from internal promotion. In 2022/23, 80% of SCS recruits were from within the Civil Service, with 14% from the private sector and 6% from the public sector so the Civil Service Commission is continuing to advocate for a more open approach to recruitment to ensure the best possible candidates are found for the right roles. 

The Mark of Excellence – now in its second year – was set up to celebrate and share excellent recruitment practice under the Commission’s Recruitment Principles. This year the Commissioners' Mark of Excellence has focused on rewarding innovative recruitment efforts by departments and organisations to open up more positions externally, and bring in, induct and retain outstanding external candidates for public sector positions. 

Teams are able to display the Mark on all their recruitment advertising for a year. The overall winner, the Ministry of Justice, also took part in a winners event at the House of Commons last month.

Baroness Gisela Stuart said:

“The Civil Service has an incredible range of roles on offer. We hope that the winners and highly commended entries for this award provide useful ideas to teams across the public sector, on how to open up these roles to prospective talented candidates.”

Download the slidepack from presenters for the event here

We are currently planning for the 2024 Mark of Excellence. Watch this space to find out how to submit your team’s entry.

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