So, you want my job? Chief comms officer (HR & transformation) at the Ministry of Defence

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Max Puller's job as chief comms officer (HR & transformation) at the Ministry of Defence?

Do you know any Oasis songs? asks Max Puller
Do you know any Oasis songs? asks Max Puller
Max Puller

Chief communications officer (HR & transformation), Ministry of Defence

Starting salary/salary band for the job? 
£52,467 - £60,130

What qualifications do you need? 
In all honesty, it’s less about what qualifications you bring to the table, and more about the skills and attitudes you have developed. For instance, gone are the days when you needed a degree to get into the Civil Service – though academic study does help to develop your analytical, written and presentational skills, which are all useful – instead, it’s more important that you are comfortable and effective in leading, influencing and processing often complex ideas and information. So, specific qualifications – none; however, a commitment to your personal development and staying ‘ahead of the curve’ with the latest developments is an absolute must.

What level of experience do you need? 
Well, I studied music at university, before moving to a project management role in the MoD, after which I moved to London and into a series of comms roles… and I haven’t looked back since. So actually, some might say I don’t have as much experience as others in similar roles – but I have benefited from some outstanding development through the Civil Service and the support of some superb line managers and mentors. In my mind, it’s more about having some of those skills I mentioned earlier, and a willingness to get stuck in and learn from your successes and mistakes – and in equal measure.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
Not necessarily. I mean, of course, it’s useful to have experience of the organisation you’re joining, but actually, there’s a lot to be said for bringing in ‘new blood’. Individuals from elsewhere in the public sector, such as local government or other departments, and the private and charity sectors often bring a welcome fresh perspective – and they should be encouraged to challenge the status quo wherever possible: "Sorry, you do what?!"

What are the main day-to-day challenges? 
It will come as no surprise that defence is complex – and it’s no different in my role. I’m the communications lead for the human resources directorate at the MoD, which supports our 57,000 civil servants, who work in a whole range of different roles, and all over the world – and this includes the added challenge of a complex transformation programme. So, for me, it’s making sure we understand the needs and attitudes of such a diverse workforce, in order to transform how we communicate more effectively, and, more importantly, how we best enable a meaningful dialogue with them – that’s what we’re currently working on.  

What is the best part of the job? 
I feel hugely privileged to work at the MoD – there are few organisations, indeed most of them are actually in government, where the collective effort is so in the public eye. Whether it’s watching the new aircraft carrier come into Portsmouth on the news, or seeing military personnel in central London collecting for Service charities, the work we do is really rather fascinating. It’s also the people. Whether we are military, civil servants or contractors, we all know what we are there to do – and that what we do matters. That’s not to say working in defence is without its challenges, but with that as a solid foundation, you can’t go far wrong.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job? 
I couldn’t possibly comment… Actually, one that is safe for print is the fact that few people know that, deep beneath the Ministry of Defence, are buried the old wine cellars of King Henry VIII – and all very tastefully restored into a fascinating exhibition on the old palace. Pretty cool…

If you get an interview, do say? 
In government comms, we love Oasis campaign planning! So, if you can weave a few song titles or lyrics into your interview or presentation, you're sure to impress... 

If you get an interview, don’t say? 
"When will I hear?" Be original! 

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to? 
The joy of the Civil Service is that it’s so permeable – and the opportunities to upskill or transfer your existing skills and experiences to other professions are there. So, actually, rather a lot of jobs: policy adviser, diplomat, HR specialist, working in a private office… to name a few – and the same almost certainly applies to industry and the charity sector.

Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role.

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