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Section 5: Recruitment and retention

Recruitment of good staff and retaining them once engaged is a crucial aspect of managing an organisation’s human capital. The APS has a number of initiatives either planned or under way aimed at improving agency’s ability to recruit and retain staff.


The Snapshot asked respondents what factors attracted them to their current position. The three most frequently reported factors were:

  • 56% were attracted by the area of work and/or the opportunity to use their skills
  • 26% were focussed on the pay and conditions of the position including issues the use of flexible working arrangements
  • 10% were attracted by the opportunity to make a difference either to the APS or the wider Australian community.

Of particular relevance in this case, 8% of respondents were attracted by the idea of working in a small agency.

Table 4 shows the numbers of respondents who applied for an APS job in the last 12 months. Twenty-three respondents had applied for at least two positions, one inside and one outside their current agency.

Table 4: Proportion of respondents who have applied for a position in the last 12 months
No 57.58%
Within current agency 25.90%
In another agency 16.25%
Both inside and outside current agency 6.34%
Not Sure 0.28%

The outcome of the respondent’s most recent application is summarised in Table 5. Over half of those who applied for a position were successful.

Table 5: Outcomes of recent job applications
I was offered the job 53.71%
I was not offered the job 26.86%
Other (the position was withdrawn, the applicant withdrew from the process, or the result is not yet known) 19.43%

Table 6 shows the time taken to advise applicants of the outcome of the selection process. Over half of applicants were advised in less than two months from when they submitted their application; this compares favourably with the wider APS. While applicants who were not short-listed will have been advised sooner than those who were interviewed, it is not possible to identify these individuals from this data.

Table 6: Time taken to notify applicants of outcome
Percent APS[15]
Not advised due to agency policy 4.17% 1.88%
1 month or less 19.05% 23.01%
1 to less than 2 months 39.88% 23.90%
2 to less than 3 months 18.45% 20.76%
3 to less than 4 months 8.33% 12.97%
4 months or longer 10.12% 17.49%

Respondents were also asked their opinion of the selection process. Figure 17 shows the proportion of applicants who felt the process took too long by the length of time before they were notified of the outcome. Relatively few applicants who were notified in less than two months felt the process took too long. By contrast, the majority of applicants who had to wait longer than 3 months felt the process took too long.

Figure 17: Percentage of applicants who felt the selection process took too long by time taken to notify applicants of outcome

As Figure 18 shows, one in three applicants found the selection process overly demanding or difficult to understand. One in four felt that it was conducted inefficiently; however the majority (nearly 90%) of respondents did not find the process difficult to understand.

Figure 18: Applicants perceptions of the selection process

As Figure 19 shows, unsurprisingly, successful applicants felt the selection process was fairer and more transparent than unsuccessful applicants. They also had more positive impressions of the agency. Less than half of unsuccessful applicants felt they were provided with enough opportunity for feedback on their application and only one in five reported they were left with a positive impression of the agency which rejected their application.

Figure 19: Applicants’ perceptions of the selection process broken down by outcome


Respondents’ career intentions over the next two years are summarized in Table 7. Over half of respondents either have no intention of leaving their agency or were unsure, which is slightly less than the wider APS.

Table 7: Employee career intentions for the next two years
Not sure 29.12%
Pursue a job in another agency 27.06%
Stay in agency 25.52%
Pursue a job outside the APS 16.49%
Leave to study 3.61%
Leave for other reasons 5.67%
Retire 4.64%

Table 8 shows the career intentions for those respondents who are currently eligible to retire (aged 55 years or older). Only one in four intend to retire in the next two years. The majority either intend to stay in their current job or are unsure.

Table 8: Career intentions: employees aged 55 years or older
Stay in agency 44.44%
Retire 26.67%
Not Sure 15.56%
Leave for other reasons 6.67%
Pursue a job outside the APS 4.44%
Pursue a job in another agency 2.22%

Respondents who intend to leave their agency were asked to rate how important a number of factors were in leading to this decision. The results are summarised in Figure 20.

The most frequently cited reason to leave the agency was a lack of career opportunities which was closely followed by a desire to gain further experience; the proportion of respondents citing other reasons for leaving drops off after this.

Figure 20: Factors influencing intentions to leave the agency

In summary, with only 4.6% of employees intending to retire in the next two years, the primary cause of turnover in Micro-agencies is likely to remain resignation or transfer to other APS agencies. This appears to be driven primarily by a perceived lack of career opportunities in the current agency and a desire to gain further experience.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018