Public Sector or Public Procurement Job Interview? Here Are 4 Tips

By Peter Smith posted 02-26-2017 19:27

  
Public Sector Public Procurement Interview

Even in times of austerity, the public sector still recruits procurement people. Some will come from other public sector roles, whilst others will be looking to make the transition from the private sector into the government world.

So based on personal experience, as an interviewee, a CPO looking to recruit, and an independent interviewer and selection panel member for senior roles, here are four tips. They are mainly aimed at people looking to move from the private sector, but we hope they also  contain some worthwhile points for anyone, even internal public sector candidates.

  1. Do your research on the organisation

There is no excuse these days for someone to say, as I have heard, “well, I don’t really understand what your organisation does …” . Virtually all public organisations put a lot of information in the public domain on the Internet, so it is easy to discover the organisation’s activities, goals and drivers, financial data, the senior people, even the style and culture of the organisation. Show that you have taken a few minutes at least to do that research and you will be better positioned to answer – and to ask – questions at the interview.

  1. Emphasis the positives

Be able to explain why you want to join the public sector and that organisation. I once interviewed a very capable young woman, who was a lawyer for a big firm in the UK. When I asked why she wanted to join this particular public sector organisation, she said that she was not enjoying working 12-hour days for the law firm, and wanted basically an “easier and less stressful” job.

We knew what she meant, but it did not seem like a great motivator to employ her! Talking about “work life balance” would have been better, even more so if that was the third or fourth reason she gave. We believe that most public sector procurement jobs have their fascinating aspects, so emphasising that would seem to be that is a far better reason to give for applying. “I like the idea of contributing to something more than my organisation making profit” was always a good answer from someone currently in the private sector, I thought. The additional challenges in the public sector, such as handing the political aspects of senior roles, can also be appealing.

  1. Understand public procurement – a bit, anyway

Get at least a basic understanding of the public procurement technicalities. Your interviewer will not expect you to explain the Directives with regard to Part B service contracts of more than five years’ length as they apply to the Bulgarian military. But they might expect you to at least understand the basics around how procurement is different in the public sector. And they will hope that you have thought personally about how you might handle these differences, what you feel about having to work under tighter constraints perhaps than you have been used to.

  1. Don’t be arrogant

You may think private sector procurement is “better” than public sector, and that your experience makes you a great asset for the public organisation. In reality, you will find excellent examples of procurement in the public sector as well as less good – just like in the private sector. So by all means think about how your commercial experience can help your new organisation, and emphasise what you can bring to the new job. But remember that your interviewers are making their career in the public sector, and no-one likes to hear their own career choice slated! So don’t tip over into the arrogance that says “I’m from the private sector, you should just be grateful that I am applying to your useless public sector organisation role.” I have seen that approach more than once …!

So a little bit of preparation, to make sure you have some understanding of the organisation and the environment, enthusiasm for the role you’re talking about, and a degree of humbleness alongside confidence in your own ability. They sound like good tips for any interview to be honest, but we’re sure they will help if you are going for that public procurement role. Good luck!



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