Unadvertised public sector jobs filled behind scenes

Survey and labour experts concur: public sector jobs filled by word-of-mouth, not required job ads

Although employers at the local councils, regions and state are required to advertise all permanent job vacancies, recently released figures from a labour study suggest that a significant number of public-sector jobs are never advertised, but are instead filled through word-of-mouth and network connections.

“Whether it’s omitting to publish a job notice or put together a hiring committee with employee representatives, itÂ’s as though itÂ’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission,” Winnie Axelsen, the chairman for HK Hovedstaden, the labour union representing clerical and administrative workers in the Greater Copenhagen region, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

“Based on information I’ve gotten from our trade union representatives, I can tell you that, by and large, hiring practices at the highest administrative levels in the municipalities have changed. When a position has to be filled, often the process goes too quickly now,” Axelsen added.

Newly-released figures from a DR News/Magasinet Penge survey of 796 members of the labour union DJØF, which represents public and private sector lawyers and economists, indicate that the practice of filling public jobs without advertising them and going through the proper hiring protocol is widespread.

Some 28 percent of the DJØF survey’s respondents who work in the public sector reported their own jobs were never advertised.

That number surprised Per Hansen, who represents public sector hiring managers for DJØF. But Hansen admitted that the problem was not new.

“We’ve raised the issue before, and we’ll do it again. It’s just a sound principle that all public sector jobs should be advertised. The Ministry of Finance is unequivocal that that’s the rule for all state positions,” he said.

“But I don’t think the rules are followed to a tee on the municipal level, since local arrangements are also possible with the unions,” Hansen continued.

Karsten Thystrup, head of personnel- and municipal law at Kommunernes Landsforening (KL), the association of local councils, acknowledged that councils too are bound by a rule that states they must advertise public sector jobs. Whether that rule is actually followed is another question.

“The rule for the state and councils is the same – and it’s clear cut. The rule is that permanent vacant positions must be advertised. And KL’s position is that the rules ought to be followed,” said Thystrup.

Questioning the accuracy of the DJØF survey, Thystrup suggested that some of the employees who got their jobs through network connections or word-of-mouth might not have realized that the positions were also advertised.

A vast majority of the surveyÂ’s respondents believed it was easier to get a job through oneÂ’s network connections than through the vacant job listings.

An even larger majority reported that they had recommended an acquaintance or friend in their network for a vacant job in their company or department.