Job interview in the municipal job market

Your Guide to the Municipal Job Market: A Comparison of Public and Private Hiring Processes

Finding a job can be challenging, no matter the industry. But for those seeking employment in the public sector, the search can be even more difficult. With limited job openings and intense competition, landing a role in the municipal job market (those who are employed by government entities such as federal, state or local government agencies), can be even more difficult—especially because hiring processes for municipalities often differ significantly from the private sector. 

In this blog post, we’ll share an overview of the hiring processes in the public and private sectors, common mistakes to avoid when applying for jobs in both sectors, and factors to consider when choosing between public and private sector employment. 

An Inside Look at the Hiring Process in the Municipal Job Market

For candidates seeking a municipal job, being well prepared with what to expect from the hiring process is crucial, especially if you’re new to applying in the public sector. There’s a level of intimidation that comes with entering a new job market, so going in prepared and with realistic expectations is key to setting yourself up for success with ample confidence.  

While the process can vary by agency and position, there are some general steps and practices that are often followed. The process typically involves several stages, including an application review, skills assessment, interview, and background check. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) outlines general steps in the hiring process right on their website, but here’s a high-level overview of what you can expect: 

Step 1: Prepare Your Resume or Application

Make sure your resume or application clearly showcases your skills and competencies that match the position’s qualifications listed in the job announcement (JOA). Emphasize your relevant job duties and accomplishments in a way that demonstrates how qualified you are. Submit any additional documents outlined in the JOA, such as transcripts, performance appraisals, and proof of eligibility.

Pro Tip: Read through the DOL’s tips for writing a federal resume before you dive in.

Step 2: Apply for the Job

Submit your application before the closing date and ensure that it arrives on time. 

Step 3: Interview for the Job

If you are one of the best-qualified candidates, the hiring official may interview you in person or by telephone. Be prepared to answer competency-based questions that measure your ability to perform on the job.

Pro Tip: Check out the DOL’s interview tips to help you go into the interview as your best self.

Step 4: What to Expect Next

Your application will go through many levels of review, starting with basic eligibility requirements, followed by additional qualifications listed in the JOA. If your application rates among the best qualified, it will be forwarded to the hiring manager who will make the final selection.

Pro Tip: Want even more clarity on what happens next? The DOL has you covered with this handy resource outlining what happens post-interview. 

On paper, this process doesn’t seem all that different from the private industry—but there are still significant differences due to the many laws, executive orders and regulations that govern federal employment. 

So, What Are the Differences Between the Public and Private Hiring Processes?

While both the public and private sectors are seeking to fill a position with the best candidate, the hiring processes differ significantly. While the hiring process isn’t necessarily always an accurate reflection on what an organization’s culture is like, or what the trajectory of the role will be—the candidate experience begins with the application process, so it’s important to understand these differences and their implications to determine which type of job is the best fit for you. 

Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing between public and private sector jobs: 

Time-to-Hire Efficiency

Public sector time to hire is 119 days on average—more than three times the average in the private sector with its time to fill being 36 days. That’s a difference of over two months.

Transparency in Workplace Practices

The public hiring process is often more transparent and objective than in the private sector due to many laws, executive orders and regulations that govern federal employment. Of course, plenty of private companies value transparency in their work as well, but there’s talking the talk, and then there’s walking the walk. Look for companies that demonstrate transparency.

 Flexible Work Schedules 

The private hiring process may offer more opportunities for negotiation and flexibility in terms of job duties, compensation and benefits than the public sector. However, in the public sector, there are more structured job descriptions and compensation packages that are often governed by union contracts. There are pros and cons to both that will vary depending on your wants, needs and values in a career—all of which should be points of discussion with your potential employer regardless of the sector.

Job Stability 

The public sector generally offers more job stability than the private sector, with better job security and benefits. In the private sector, job stability may be impacted by changes in the economy, company financial performance and other external factors more easily than in a municipal job.

Workplace Culture

Workplace culture is certainly going to differ between the public and private sectors. While public sector jobs may have a more bureaucratic and structured environment, private sector jobs may be more entrepreneurial and competitive. This culture shock is something to prepare for if you’re coming from the private sector seeking public employment for the first time. 

Ready to Move into the Public Sector? TeamSoft Is Your Connection.

Just like with any individual position, there are pros and cons to both public and private sector employment. The job market can be challenging no matter what—but with the right preparation, approach and support, you can increase your chances of success. Remember to stay positive, remain persistent, and keep an open mind. Whether you end up in the public or private sector, both offer rewarding career paths that can lead to personal and professional growth. 

At TeamSoft, we have many years of experience in the IT staffing industry and can help you navigate the hiring process in both the public and private sectors. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find your next career opportunity.