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What is bulk recruitment?

Bulk recruitment is the term used to describe a single recruitment process to fill multiple vacancies across different locations, classifications or roles.
Where there are similar vacancies[1] in multiple agencies, an agency can conduct a bulk recruitment process on behalf of a number of participating agencies.

For more information, also see Creating Using and Sharing Merit Lists

Is there any difference between bulk recruitment and other types of recruitment?

All recruitment in the APS must comply with the principle of merit described in the Public Service Act 1999 and the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016.

See Management Essentials for more information.

You must also comply with your agency’s recruitment policies and procedures.

Why do bulk recruitment?

Bulk recruitment can be efficient and effective when resources are pooled within and between agencies.

However, assessing and comparing many candidates across multiple locations, classifications or roles can be complex; it is essential that each step of the process is fair and transparent.

Bulk recruitment vacancies often attract large numbers of applicants. Advertising a single vacancy or a defined group of vacancies may be more appropriate when seeking candidates with particular specialist experience or qualifications, as well as those roles that traditionally attract significant public interest. 

Can a vacancy be advertised without a closing date?

The principle of merit requires that a decision to engage a person for a period of more than 18 months, or to promote an employee, must be based on an assessment of the relative suitability of candidates to perform the duties of the job, using a competitive selection process.

If there is no specified closing date, it is not possible to undertake a fair and accurate comparative assessment of all candidates. At any point, it is only possible to compare the cohort of applicants who have applied up to that date. You cannot compare this cohort of applicants with another cohort who may apply while assessment is already being undertaken.

In order to be consistent with merit, a comparative assessment cannot be completed before all applications have been received. Agencies should also be mindful that an engagement or promotion decision must be made within 12 months of the Gazette notification.

For vacancies of less than 18 months, agencies can make use of a temporary employment register, which does not list specific vacancies or fixed closing dates.

Can we make offers if the selection process is not finished? 

No. In a merit-based process all applicants must be comparatively assessed against each other. If an assessment process has not been completed, then it is not consistent with merit to make any offers.

Can we offer an applicant a job at a different classification level?

No. An offer of employment can only be made to a successful applicant for a position and classification level they have applied for. If the candidate has only applied at one level, then they can only be offered a job at that level.

How do we assess applicants across different classification levels?

  1. If an applicant nominates a classification level, then they are assessed against all other applicants who also nominate that level. The applicant can be included in merit lists for that level, where they have been assessed as suitable.
  2. If an applicant does not nominate a level, then they are assessed against all other applicants at all levels. The applicant can be included in merit lists for any level, where they have been assessed as suitable.
  3. If applicants are invited to nominate a preferred level, then they are assessed against all other applicants at all levels. The applicant can be included in merit lists for any level, where they have been assessed as suitable. Their preference can be taken into account when offers are being made.

Option iii may provide the greatest flexibility in selecting a candidate when looking to fill multiple vacancies at more than one classification level, from a single recruitment process.

How do we assess applicants across different locations?

  1. If an applicant nominates a location, then they are assessed against all other applicants who also nominate that location. The applicant can be included in merit lists for that location, where they have been assessed as suitable.
  2. If an applicant does not nominate a location, then they are assessed against all other applicants at all locations. The applicant can be included in merit lists for any location, where they have been assessed as suitable. The applicant can also be included in a single merit list intended to fill all locations.
  3. If applicants are invited to nominate a preferred location, then they are assessed against all other applicants at all locations. The applicant can be included in merit lists for any location, where they have been assessed as suitable. The applicant can also be included in a single merit list to fill vacancies at all locations. Their preference can be taken into account when offers are being made.

Option iii may provide the greatest flexibility in selecting a candidate when looking to fill multiple vacancies across locations, from a single recruitment process.

How do we assess applicants across different roles?

  1. If an applicant nominates a role, then they are assessed against all other applicants who nominate for that role. The applicant can be included in merit lists for those roles, where they have been assessed as suitable.
  2. If an applicant does not nominate a role, then they are assessed against all other applicants at all roles. The applicant can be included in a merit list for any role, where they have been assessed as suitable. The applicant can also be included in a single merit list to fill roles with similar duties.
  3. If applicants are invited to nominate a preferred role, then they are assessed against all other applicants for all roles. The applicant can be included in a merit list for any role, where they have been assessed as suitable. The applicant can also be included in a single merit list to fill roles with similar duties.  Their preference can be taken into account when offers are being made.

Option iii may provide the greatest flexibility in selecting a candidate when looking to fill multiple vacancies across different roles, from a single recruitment process.

Can we use multiple panels to split up the assessment process?

It is possible for an agency to use more than one selection panel to assess applicants in a single process, provided decisions are based on a comparative assessment of the candidates.

In this case, it is important for agencies to consider how the assessment of different panels can be moderated to ensure that a comparative assessment can be made.

Alternatively, an agency may consider whether it is more appropriate and effective to run a series of separate processes with different panels.

Can affirmative measures be used in bulk recruitment?

Agencies are able to run bulk recruitment rounds as an affirmative measure. Agencies on occasion choose to run an affirmative measures round side by side with an ‘open’ recruitment round.

Before commencing an affirmative measures round, agencies should set clear guidelines for what they are aiming to achieve. Where possible, the agency should identify a vacancy or a number of vacancies that will be filled by people who have applied through either the Indigenous or Disability Affirmative Measure.

The affirmative measures recruitment process can be run side by side with a general selection round. If this is the case each vacancy will need to be gazetted separately – one for the open recruitment round, and one for each of the affirmative measures being applied.
See Creating, Using and Sharing Merit lists – Concurrent Processes using affirmative measures

In addition to affirmative measures, agencies are encouraged to make use of the opt-in RecruitAbility scheme to support people with disability entering the workplace. Applicants who apply under the scheme are advanced to the next stage of assessment, provided they meet the inherent requirements of the vacancy, have a disability and have opted-in.
See RecruitAbility

Should you have further questions regarding bulk recruitment you can contact the Staffing Policy team on (02) 6202 3857 or by email at staffingpolicy [at] apsc.gov.au 


[1] The legislative definition of a similar vacancy can be found at section 9 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2016

Last reviewed: 
13 August 2019