In recognition of the ‘war for talent’, especially for increasingly rare and expensive knowledge workers, becoming an ‘employer of choice’ is a central human resource and business imperative (Greening and Turban 2000; Martin, Beaumont et al. 2005; Wilden, Gudergan et al. 2010). With a workforce that is aging faster than the labor force in general, public organizations face the challenge of attracting and retaining young people in public-service careers (Äijälä 2002; Lewis and Frank 2002; Leisink and Steijn 2008).
Several authors (Carpenter et al. 2012; Christensen and Wright 2011; Doverspike et al. 2011; Leisink & Steijn 2008; Lewis and Frank 2002; Lyons et al. 2006; Perry and Wise 1990; Vandenabeele 2008) have argued that individuals’ public service motivation (PSM) affects their preference for government as the employer of choice and that therefore, recruitment for the public sector should be different from that for the private sector (Van der Wal and Oosterbaan 2013). However, specific recommendations about how PSM can be used in the attraction of public employees seem to be largely missing. As Ritz et al. (forthcoming) argue, one of the recommendations is to use PSM in the context of HR marketing. This stresses the use of public service related values in the recruitment process, creating a public service brand and emphasizing the availability of jobs suited to fulfill public service motives.
Such a perspective of HR marketing, also called employer branding, will be used in this project to consider how employers can become an employer of choice by marketing their unique ‘value proposition’ to potential employees (Backhaus and Tikoo 2004; Wilden et al. 2010). More specifically, this project introduces the concept of ‘public service employer branding’ by focusing on public values as symbolic – or subjective – benefits offered mainly by public sector employment. Based on person-organization fit theory and the assumption that PSM is related to a subset of public values (e.g., Kim et al. 2013), it is expected that individu-als with higher levels of PSM will be attracted to organizations with higher public values. This study, therefore, examines the key question of how employer branding can be used to improve organizational attractiveness, and whether levels of PSM moderate this relationship.
Answering these questions is highly relevant due to the labor market backdrop. In ad-dition, from a more theoretical point of view, this project answers the call to investigating the importance of PSM in public service employer attraction (Leisink and Steijn 2008; Perry and Wise 1990), thereby focusing on the specific fit between public values at the organizational level and public service motives at the individual level (Van der Wal et al. 2008; Van der Wal and Huberts 2008).