Recruitment : Guidelines

Last updated: 30 Nov 2017

This page is: current

This information should be read in conjunction with Managing the size of the Australian Public Service.

For more information go to Management essentials.

Arrangements in individual agencies may also be included in internal agency policies.

Recruitment is about attracting and selecting the right person for the job.

Recruitment processes do not need to be complex. They need to support sound, evidence based decision making.

In the APS, there is a legal requirement in the Public Service Act 1999 (the PS Act) that engagement and promotion decisions are based on merit (as defined). There are also additional responsibilities in relation to fairness and transparency to meet community expectations on the way the APS operates.

For more information see Merit in recruitment.

There are special conditions that apply when the vacancy is for a Senior Executive Service (SES) role. More information on SES recruitment can be found here.

The following is general information on each stage of a recruitment process.

Planning

Scoping the job

When a vacancy arises, take the opportunity to decide whether the job still needs to be performed and in what form.

Redeployment

All APS agencies are required to comply with the Government's APS Redeployment Policy. Before commencing recruitment action, you must check the APS Redeployment Register or the SES Redeployment Register.

Document the details of the job

Creating a document that details the duties to be performed and the skills, qualifications, experience and capabilities that you are looking for (‘selection document’) will assist:

  • the agency to target the right applicants in the job advertisement
  • candidates to focus their applications on what is important, and
  • the selection panel to form an opinion about who best meets the job requirements.

Filling a vacancy

A vacancy can be filled in any of the following ways:

  • assign duties to an existing APS employee in the agency. See Assignment of duties within an APS agency.
  • assign duties to an existing APS employee who transfers from another APS agency. See Movement between APS agencies.
  • promote an APS employee—from within the agency or from another APS agency. See Promotions.
  • engage a person from outside the APS in one of the following categories of employment:
    • as an ongoing employee, or
    • as a non-ongoing employee.

Note: Where a non-ongoing employee successfully applies for another APS job—either ongoing or non-ongoing—this is not a transfer or a promotion, it is a new engagement.

A merit process

Promotions and engagements must be supported by a merit process.

The rules applying to advertising and assessment will depend on whether the vacancy is for a period of 18 months or less, or more than 18 months.

For a summary of advertising and assessment requirements, see Table 1 below.

Advertising and assessment – Table 1
Initial vacancyAdvertisingAssessment Share merit list
Ongoing Must advertise in Public Service Gazette (Gazette). Competitive selection process – in accordance with section 10A(2) of the PS Act and section 19 of the Directions. For a similar vacancy (defined)
  • For all SES and centrally coordinated entry level vacancies–agencies must provide access to a merit list when asked.
  • All other vacancies–an agency may agree to provide  another agency with access to a merit list.

Applicants must agree that their details can be shared.

Non-ongoing - more than 18 months Must advertise in Public Service Gazette (Gazette). Competitive selection process – in accordance with section 10A(2) of the PS Act and section 19 of the Directions.
Non-ongoing – 18 months or less Bring to the attention of the community. The delegate must be satisfied that the person to be engaged has the work-related qualities genuinely required to perform the duties of the job.
Irregular or intermittent (casual) Bring to the attention of the community.The delegate must be satisfied that the person to be engaged has the work-related qualities genuinely required to perform the duties of the job.

Advertising

All eligible members of the community must be given a reasonable opportunity to apply for a job in the APS. This means that all jobs that may be filled by engaging a person into the APS or promoting an existing APS employee must be brought to the community’s attention.

Agencies can do this in a way that will attract the right people, for example, on the APSjobs website, agency websites, professional journals, job seeker sites, social media, and/or by making use of a Temporary Employment Register.

Ongoing jobs and jobs for more than 18 months

Job vacancies

  • which may result in the promotion of an ongoing employee; or
  • where the engagement of an employee is expected to be for more than 18 months

must be advertised in the Public Service Gazette (the Gazette) on the APSjobs website.

A decision to fill a vacancy must be made within 12 months of the date on which it was notified in the Gazette.

For more information, including timeframes, see Public Service Gazette requirements

Jobs for 18 months or less, or irregular/intermittent duties

These do not need to be notified in the Gazette–although they can be.

See also Temporary employment.

Conditions of engagement

Where engagement will be subject to conditions, these should be noted in the job advertisement. See Conditions of Engagement.

Supporting diversity

Vacancies in the APS, whether ongoing or non-ongoing, can be filled by an affirmative measure that allows agency heads to restrict eligibility for the job to:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants, and/or
  • applicants who have a disability, or a particular type of disability.

For more information, see:

Vacancies can also be advertised under the RecruitAbility scheme which supports people with disability applying for jobs in the APS.

For more information, see Recruitability.

Extending periods of employment

For rules applying to the extension of non-ongoing  employment, see Temporary employment.

Assessing

Applicants for all APS jobs must be assessed against the requirements of the job. There are no restrictions on the way in which applicants are assessed. Agencies can use methods that suit their operating environment and the nature of the job.

Examples of ways to gather information about the suitability of an applicant include, but are not limited to:

  • requesting a c.v. and/or a written application
  • asking applicants to address specific requirements of the job, or make a ‘pitch’–written or by video
  • conducting interviews face to face or via video
  • written or verbal testing, including psychological or aptitude testing
  • seeking examples of past work
  • contacting referees.

Whatever methods are used, applicants must be assessed and compared fairly. The assessment method and outcome should be clearly set out in evidence provided to the delegate - the person who has the authority to employ the successful candidate.

The delegate should be presented with a sound basis for making a decision and be confident that the process is in accordance with the APS Values and Employment Principles—including in relation to merit—and all other relevant legislation and policies.

Ongoing jobs and jobs for more than 18 months

Section 10A(2) of the PS Act  and section 19 of the Directions set out what is required for a selection process based on merit

The following must apply:

  • the aim and purpose of the selection process is determined in advance
  • information about the selection process is readily available to applicants
  • the selection process is applied fairly in relation to each eligible applicant, and
  • the selection process is appropriately documented.

When making a decision using such a selection process:

  • merit is the primary consideration; and
  • if any eligible applicants are otherwise equal on merit—secondary considerations may be taken into account.

Note: Secondary considerations are matters within the control of the applicant - for example - the applicant’s ability to start by a particular date, willingness to relocate, or ability to meet other reasonable agency requirements.

Jobs for 18 months or less, or irregular and intermittent

Section 22(4) of the Directions sets out the minimum assessment requirements when the vacancy is for a non-ongoing job i.e. is for a specified term, a specified task or is irregular or intermittent.

More information is at Temporary employment.

As a minimum, the delegate must be satisfied that the person to be engaged has the work-related qualities genuinely required to perform the duties of the job.

Selection committees

A selection committee is often-but not always-used where a number of candidates are to be assessed. The committee will make a recommendation to the delegate.

The delegate may be on the selection committee but does not have to be.

It is good practice for any committee to reflect a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

If a committee member has a relationship with an applicant that may lead to a conflict of interest, such information should be declared to all committee members and to the delegate. The delegate can decide if the committee member Should be excluded from the selection process.

If a committee member is asked by an applicant to provide comments as a referee, the committee member should provide these comments to other committee members before accessing information on any other applicants.

A selection committee for an SES vacancy must include the Australian Public Service Commissioner , or his or her representative. Further information on SES recruitment can be found here.

Recruitment companies

Where a recruitment company is used to assist with the advertising, shortlisting or assessment for an APS job, the selection committee remains responsible for the final recommendation to the delegate. The delegate must be confident that all aspects of the recruitment process have been conducted in accordance with the APS Values, Employment Principles, and other relevant legislation and policies.

Bulk recruitment

A single selection exercise can be conducted for vacancies at different classification levels. This is usually done where the duties at the levels are similar but vary in the level of supervision or degree of complexity.

Applicants should be asked to nominate the classification/s at which they wish to be considered before any assessment takes place.

An applicant can only be engaged or promoted to the classification level they have nominated. If they nominate more than one classification level, then they must be assessed against each and compared against the other applicants for each classification.

Referee reports

Referee reports are one of the ways to gather information and assess the suitability of an applicant. They should focus on establishing whether the person possesses the work-related qualities needed to perform the duties of the job.

A report can be requested from any source. The referee does not have to be nominated by the applicant.

Generally, where an applicant may be found suitable, comments are sought from their current manager. For some applicants there may be sensitivities around approaching current employers. A decision can be made not to request a report unless the applicant is likely to be recommended for a job.

Referee reports are subject to the Privacy Act 1988 and the Freedom of Information Act 1982. For more information see the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

As a matter of procedural fairness, applicants should be given the opportunity to respond to any adverse comments.

Merit lists

A merit list or merit pool created as part of a selection process can be used to fill similar vacancies for 12 months from the date the original vacancy was advertised in the Gazette. A similar vacancy is defined in the Directions.

Merit lists record the relative suitability of candidates. If there is a ranked order of merit, then applicants are listed in order of suitability (first, second, third and so on). The first offer of employment must be made to the highest ranked applicant. Any subsequent offer of employment using the merit list to fill the same or a similar vacancy must follow the ranking.

There is no requirement to list candidates in order. Candidates can be grouped into a single category of suitable, making up a merit pool. Candidates can also be grouped into different merit pools of, for example, highly suitable and suitable.

If there is a merit pool , offers of employment must first be made to candidate(s) in the highest group.

The first offer of employment is made to the most suitable person remaining in the pool, assessed against the requirements of the particular vacancy. Any subsequent offer of employment is made to the most suitable applicant remaining in the pool, assessed against the requirements of the same or a similar vacancy to be filled.

Generally, an applicant who declines an offer of employment stays on the merit list or in the merit pool as long as it remains current, unless they advise that they wish to withdraw from further consideration.

An agency can decide to stop using a merit list or merit pool at any time.

Similar vacancy

The Directions define a vacancy as similar where:

one of the following applies:

  • it is in the same agency
  • it is an SES vacancy
  • it is a vacancy in a centrally coordinated entry-level program
  • the agency that advertised the vacancy, another agency and a candidate agree, in writing, or
  • if the vacancy relates to a function that was moved to another agency by a machinery of government change—it is in the agency to which the function was moved

and all of the following apply:

  • it is the same category of employment (ongoing or non‑ongoing)
  • it comprises similar duties
  • it is at the same classification, and
  • it is to be performed in a similar location.

Sharing merit lists

Job vacancies should be worded so that applicants are aware that - if they are found suitable - their details may be shared with other APS agencies, unless they specifically "opt out".

A search function is available to agencies via the APSJobs website to help identify similar vacancies advertised in other APS agencies in the last 12 months.

An agency looking to fill a similar vacancy - as defined in the Directions - can approach another agency and request access to a merit list or merit pool.

Where applicants have agreed that their details can be shared:

  • For all SES and centrally coordinated entry level vacancies - for example Graduates - an agency must provide access to a current merit list or pool to another agency, if asked.
  • For all other vacancies - an agency may agree to provided another agency with access to a current merit list or pool.

Where a merit pool or list is provided to another agency, then the second agency can use the information on suitable applicants as if the pool or list had been created in their own agency.

Any merit list has to be followed in order. If there is a merit pool, an offer of employment is made to the most suitable person remaining in the highest group, assessed against the requirements of a particular vacancy.

Employing

Implementing the decision

Making a decision to employ the successful candidate will lead to a number of actions in relation to the person’s employment.

An engagement

An engagement is made under section 22 of the PS Act.

Other actions can include:

  • imposing conditions of engagement under section 22(6) of the PS Act
  • assigning duties under section 25 of the PS Act
  • allocating an approved classification in accordance with the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 – Rule 6

A promotion

A promotion requires:

  • assigning duties under section 25 of the PS Act
  • allocating  an approved classification in accordance with the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 – Rule 6

Where the promotion is between agencies, it also requires:

  • movement between agencies under section 26 of the PS Act, supported by agreement in writing between the gaining agency and the employee

A movement at level

Where a movement at level (transfer) is inside an agency, it will require

  • assigning duties under section 25 of the PS Act

Where a movement at level is between agencies, it also requires:

  • movement between agencies under section 26 of the PS Act, supported by agreement in writing between the agency and the employee
  • Where the move is for a temporary period, it also requires the agreement of the losing agency.

Australian Citizenship

A person who is not an Australian citizen cannot be engaged in the APS unless an agency head considers it appropriate to do so and specifically waives the citizenship requirement.

For more information, see Citizenship .

Probation

A period of probation can be established as a Condition of Engagement.

Probation is a critical part of recruitment and selection.

Not all selection decisions result in an outcome that is right for the employee or the employer. During probation, an agency can assess whether a person is suited to the APS, the agency and the job.

For more information, see Probation.

Record keeping

It is important to create and keep documents in relation to employment actions on an employee's personnel file. This information can be important later in calculating the employee's entitlements or in the case of any review of a decision.

Information on record keeping can be found at National Archives of Australia.

Agency record keeping must also comply with the Privacy Act 1988. More information is at the Office of the Australian  Information Commissioner.

Providing feedback

It is good practice to notify unsuccessful applicants and offer them feedback.

Individuals have a right to request selection documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). Each agency should have information on its website about how to make FOI requests to that agency.

Individuals may also seek access to personal information under the Privacy Act 1988.

For more information see the Office of the Australian information Commissioner.

Reviews

A limited number of employment decisions—including in relation to promotions in certain circumstances—may be reviewed by the Merit Protection Commissioner.

For more information see the Merit Protection Commissioner’s webpage.

Cancelling employment decisions

More information is available at cancellation of employment decisions.

People who have received redundancy benefits

There are restrictions on engaging a person who has received a redundancy benefit from the APS.

See Engagement of people who have received a redundancy benefit.

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