The Public sector is often considered an 'attractive employment choice' given that it offers favourable salaries, coushty benefits and generous holiday allowance (not to mention the impressive career advancement tracks most government employees are on!) But is it really as good as it looks from the outside? Does it really differ that much from private sector employment? To find out, I interviewed a Public Administration and Personnel Department Official in Cyprus, and discovered everything a young graduate needs to know about working for the Public sector. While much of the data collected may refer to the Cypriot Public sector, there are many useful tips and insights that are applicable across the EU.
What is the hiring process for Public sector positions?
When hiring Public sector employees we take into consideration the following: results of the written exams (0-100 points), results of the oral exam (0-100 points), qualifications related to the particular position (0-5 points), any other academic qualifications (0-3 points), relevant working experience (0-5 points), evaluation of the Director of the Department at the interview (0- 5 points).
Is your hiring strategy in line with European standards? (i.e. Do you have to follow a set recruitment process stipulated by the European Union?)
How do you ensure transparency in the hiring process?
As you can see from the answer of Q1, the results of the written examination is the most significant factor among others for the final decision of the Public Service Commission, which is the constitutionally assigned independent authority for the appointment of public servants.
What criteria do you look for when hiring employees in the Public sector?
We examine academic qualifications as well as post-graduate qualifications, relevant work experience, good communication skills and personality skills.
Do you consider graduates from specific universities (e.g. top universities)?
Are international candidates eligible for Public sector positions?
Yes they are, provided that they possess the qualifications that are stipulated by the Scheme of Service of the particular post they apply for. Fluency in Greek language is nevertheless essential for all positions.
What kind of exams are candidates required to take when applying for a position in the Public sector?
Written exams (Greek, English, and exams on a specific subject) and oral exams (depending on the position).
Some people say "It's not what you know, it's who you know" that helps people land a job in the Public sector. How do you respond to this?
It is a fact that many people believe that the recruitment process for public servants is driven by nepotism. However the criteria set in the hiring process (see answer 1) along with additional criteria ensure that the results of the wriitten exams is the most significant factor in the recruitment process.
Are newly hired employees provided with training? If so, what kind of training are they provided with and how long does it last for?
Newly hired employees are provided with training by the Cyprus Academy of Public Administration. CAPA provides a 10-day training programme for newcomers, aiming at their smooth induction into the civil service through familiarization with the machinery of Government and the institutional framework and wider environment, Cypriot and EU, within which civil servants act.
Is there a probation period for newly hired employees? How do you measure employee productivity?
There is a 2-year probation period and productivity is measured through performance appraisal of the newly hired employees every six months during the 2 years period. When the 2-year probation period is completed a report is prepared and sent by the Director of the Department to the Public Service Commission about the performance of the employee which shall decide whether the appointment of an officer shall be confirmed, extended or terminated.
Are there mobility opportunities for Public sector employees? (e.g. the opportunity to work elsewhere in Europe for a certain period)
There are opportunities to work in Europe mainly at the Permanent Representation of Cyprus to the EU.
Are there any striking differences between working in the Public sector and the Private sector?
Public sector employees enjoy job security, standard working hours, reduced medical fees in public hospitals. On the other hand, Public sector employees do not benefit from bonuses and are not motivated to the same degree as private sector employees (as far as employee empowerment, praise and recognition are concerned).
What is it like being in control of HR for the Public sector in Cyprus? How do you cope with the pressure of being in charge of all hiring decisions?
The responsibility for the appointment of public servant belongs to the Public Service Commission which is the constitutionally assigned independent authority for the appointment of public servants. The Commission consists of a President and four other members appointed by the President of the Republic.
What advice would you give to young people aspiring to secure a job in the Public sector?
I’d advise them to firstly keep themselves informed about changes that take place in the public sector and secondly to keep up-to-date on vacant positions in the Public sector.
What advice would you give to young people who seek to improve their employment prospects?
To follow post-graduate programmes that are related to the subject of their academic background and that will count as an advantage for them in relation to other candidates and to improve their communication and personality skills.