How IT contractors go from public to private

Top 5 contractor tips for jumping from public to private 

1/Get it in writing: Qualifications

With agents and clients looking closely at the skill claims of contractors leaving Whitehall, put your capabilities beyond doubt by taking advantage of an industry-recognised training and training providers.

Business organisations, such as the IoD, provide intensive courses that can help candidates from the public sector head off private sector individuals' fears that their commercial nous is wanting. Recommended for IT workers with a recent history in the public sector, and particularly for career civil servants with established IT careers.

2/Re-package yourself: CV skills

Focus your CV on what you've done, uniquely if possible, rather than where, IT recruiters Outsource UK recommends. Tailor your CV so it is more skills-based rather than organisation-focused. "You can still then list your attributes under headings such as IT Technical, People Management," said Paul Jameson, managing director of Outsource UK, "but highlighting the diversity of your actual skills" is the priority.

3/Show and tell: CV talking points

Bearing in mind what your prospective private sector client is looking for, or may even be concerned about from your non-profit background, quantify your CV, as palpable examples count. "Position yourself as someone who makes a difference," Jameson said. This involves highlighting where you improved business performance or saved revenue - achievements that may not have needed as much prominence on a CV submitted for public sector work.

4/Take in the culture: Your fit

IT contractors with highly in-demand skills will be able to make the transition easier, as clients will see their expertise as collateral to take more of a risk on cultural fit, said Parity. However for career civil servants from the IT department, Rommel cautioned they must adapt to a profit-oriented sector, with cultures they may have never experienced. For example, the public sector is seen as having a risk averse culture, whereas in the private sector there is more of a risk management culture.

Some of this Brave New World can be prepared for. Outsource said: "Research the private sector [firm's market] and the specific industry/organisation. Each possess their own endemic features to which you can align your CV and interview style to. "

5/Stepping stone approach: Method

Government IT contractors whose skills are without an immediate or equivalent fit in the private sector will need to use a 'stepping stone' approach. Using this method, said Potton, ex-government IT staff can eventually end up working for corporations.

Start: Public sector
Step 1: Charity/third sector client
Step 2: Small and medium-sized enterprise
Step 3: Large company


Start: Public sector
Step 1: Services or IT outsourcer for state bodies, or an IT/management consultancy
Step 2: A business similar to the end-clients of the outsourcer/consultancy

"And if you do take this alternative route, try and be competitive on your pay rate," IT contractor job agency SQ Computer Personnel advised. "At the moment, the consultancies and outsourcers will really like this."

Editor's Note: Further Reading - Contractors' Questions: How to break into the private sector?

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