Frequently asked questions: Merit lists

Last updated: 19 Oct 2016

This page is: current

Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions

These frequently asked questions have been designed to assist agencies prepare for the commencement of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016.

Download the frequently asked questions

Can I access a merit list from my agency created before 1 December 2016 after the new Directions commence?

Yes. Agencies can continue to use merit lists created before 1 December to fill a similar vacancy for the usual period of 12 months from notification in the Public Service Gazette.

Legislative reference: Section 55 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

Can I access a merit list established under the 2013 Directions in another agency?

Yes. From 1 December 2016, agencies can share an existing merit list created before 1 December with another agency.

Before providing candidate details to any other agency, the original recruiting agency will first need to confirm with individual candidates that they agree for their details to be forwarded.

Legislative reference: Section 55 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

Agencies can share merit lists from 1 December 2016. Is this mandatory?

Where vacancies are similar, as defined in the Directions, an agency will be able to fill the vacancy with a candidate found suitable through a process conducted in another agency. A vacancy is 'similar' where it:

  • is at the same classification
  • is in a similar location
  • comprises similar duties, and
  • is the same category, i.e. ongoing or non-ongoing.

Agencies must provide access to merit lists created for SES vacancies and centrally coordinated entry level programs.

Access to merit lists for other vacancies is at the discretion of the agency and by agreement with individual candidates. Refer to What is the difference between 'entry level' and 'centrally coordinated entry level' recruitment?

Agencies can continue to use merit lists for similar vacancies within their own agency.

Legislative reference: Section 9 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

Are there privacy implications for sharing merit lists with other agencies?

Yes. From 1 December 2016 applicants will be alerted through the Public Service Gazette that similar employment opportunities may be offered by other Australian Public Service agencies.

Agencies are encouraged to amend their recruitment processes to allow applicants to 'opt out' of consideration should another agency seek to fill a similar vacancy.

Agencies should review their privacy policy to address the handling of and access to personal information of job applicants.

Candidates included on a merit list established before 1 December 2016 would not be aware that existing merit lists may be used to fill vacancies in another agency after 1 December. Before sharing details of merit listed candidates an agency must obtain the agreement of those candidates first.

Legislative reference: Australian Privacy Principle 6

I'm happy to share my agency's merit list. Do I provide details of everyone on the list to another agency?

Agencies need to provide access to merit lists generated for SES vacancies and centrally coordinated entry level programs. Access to other merit lists is at the discretion of the original recruiting agency, by agreement with individual candidates.

Where a suitable candidate has advised that they do not wish to be considered by other agencies, do not include their details.

Where candidates are ranked, only the details of the next highest ranked candidate need to be provided.

Where candidates are grouped in a merit pool, details of all applicants remaining in the highest pool need to be provided. The second agency would then undertake its own assessment to identify the most suitable candidate for its similar vacancy. Another full merit selection process is not necessary.

Legislative reference: Sections 9 and 19 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016; Australian Privacy Principle 6

I've got a merit list and anticipate filling further vacancies. Do I have to share the list with other agencies?

Agencies need to provide access to merit lists generated for SES vacancies and centrally coordinated entry level programs. Access to other merit lists is at the discretion of the original recruiting agency, by agreement with individual candidates.

Candidates included on a merit list established before 1 December 2016 would not be aware that existing merit lists may be used to fill vacancies in another agency after 1 December. Before sharing details of merit listed candidates an agency must obtain the agreement of those candidates first.

Legislative reference: Section 9 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016; Australian Privacy Principle 6

Can I keep the top 3 ranked candidates for potential future vacancies in my agency and share the remainder of the merit list with other agencies?

No. Offering engagement or promotion to candidates ranked lower than other candidates on the list would be inconsistent with merit.

If an agency provides access to a ranked order of merit list to another agency, candidates can only be offered positions in the order they are ranked.

If the candidates have accepted roles but not yet commenced, the remaining candidates can be considered for a similar vacancy.

Legislative reference: Section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999; Section 19 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

My preferred candidate has been included on another agency's merit list. Can I offer them a job?

Yes, provided that you have undertaken an assessment of suitable candidates on the merit list to identify the preferred candidate. Another full merit selection process is not necessary.

If the merit list has candidates ranked in order, the order of merit must be followed when filling any similar vacancies, including where your preferred candidate is ranked lower than others.

If the vacancy is not at the SES level or a centrally coordinated entry level program, you will need to seek the agreement of the original recruiting agency and the individual candidate before you proceed.

Refer to I'm happy to share my agency's merit list. Do I provide details of everyone on the list to the other agency? and Agencies can share merit lists from 1 December 2016. Is this mandatory?

Legislative reference: Section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999; Section 19 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

A merit-listed candidate has opted out of consideration for similar roles in other agencies. What does this mean for the merit list?

The individual retains their place on the merit list for the original agency and can still be considered for other jobs in the recruiting agency. However, their name should be withheld when other agencies are granted access to the merit list. This means that the other agency can make a job offer to the next suitable candidate on the merit list.

A decision to opt out will not affect the application of merit for determining that the person is suitable for the role they applied for or other similar vacancies in the same agency. It just means that where other agencies wish to access the order of merit, the individual's details will not be passed on for consideration.

Legislative reference: Section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999; Sections 9 and 19 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

What is the difference between 'entry level' and 'centrally coordinated entry level' recruitment?

Most agencies conduct their own entry level recruitment. Entry level classifications would generally be training classifications, such as trainees or graduates, or APS 3 or APS 4 classifications. Access to an entry level merit list is by agreement between the agency, a second agency, and the individual applicant.

Centrally coordinated entry level recruitment refers to a selection exercise undertaken by an agency to fill similar jobs across multiple agencies. For example, the Australian Public Service Commission conducts an Indigenous Graduate Program for graduate roles across the APS. Applicants are aware at the outset they are not applying for a position with a specific agency, although some programs may allow an applicant to nominate a preference. The coordinating agency must allow other agencies access to the order of merit.

Legislative reference: Section 9 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016

The person most suitable for my vacancy is ranked in a 'suitable' pool in another agency. Although there are candidates rated as 'highly suitable', can I offer the 'suitable' applicant a role?

No. Allowing candidates ranked lower to be offered engagement or promotion before candidates ranked higher on the list would be inconsistent with merit.

If the particular skillset or experience makes that candidate the most suitable for your vacancy, over candidates rated higher, then it is likely the vacancy is not similar, and use of the other agency's merit list would not be appropriate.

Refer also to My preferred candidate has been included on another agency's merit list. Can I offer them a job?