Creating, using and sharing merit lists
A merit list or pool may be established when an agency undertakes a competitive selection process.
A merit list is a list of candidates who have been assessed and ranked by relative suitability to fill the vacancy or a similar vacancy. Candidates can only be selected to fill a vacancy in the order they are ranked on the merit list.
A merit pool is a group of candidates for a vacancy who have been assessed as being equally suitable. As these candidates are not ranked, any candidate can be selected to fill the vacancy or a similar vacancy.
Creating merit lists or pools
Where an agency has established a merit list or pool, it can be used to fill the same vacancy or similar vacancies within a period of 18 months from the date the initial vacancy was notified (advertised) in the Public Service Gazette (PS Gazette), as provided by section 25(1) of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2022 (the Directions).
Agencies can decide whether or not to create a merit list or pool from a selection process. The availability of merit lists and pools provides flexibility for the recruiting agency and other Australian Public Service (APS) agencies to select candidates to fill future vacancies quickly, and reduces the need to undertake multiple recruitment processes. Candidates also benefit as they have an increased opportunity to be offered employment in the APS (within the 18 month term of the merit list or pool) without having to undergo another recruitment process.
When considering whether to create a merit list or a merit pool, agencies may consider factors such as the number of current and future roles to be filled, or whether the skills sought are in high or frequent demand within the agency and across the APS. For example, creating a merit pool may be beneficial when undertaking a bulk recruitment process due to the large number of candidates and the possible range of roles.
Primary and secondary considerations
The assessment of candidates’ relative suitability to perform the relevant duties for a vacancy must be the primary consideration in making an employment decision in accordance with section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act). If candidates are otherwise equal on merit, secondary considerations are taken into account. Further information on primary and secondary considerations is on the APS Merit Principle page.
Sharing a merit list or pool
Agencies can use an existing merit list or pool to fill a vacancy, or a similar vacancy, provided the written decision to engage or promote a person is made within 18 months of the original vacancy being notified in the PS Gazette (as set out in section 25(1) of the Directions).
Agencies may use a merit list or pool created by
- an APS agency
- an intelligence agency (established under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979; or section 16 or 27A of the Intelligence Services Act 2001) or
- a Department of the Parliament (established under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999)
to fill a similar vacancy as set out in section 9 of the Directions.
A merit list created by an intelligence agency may only be utilised by an APS agency where the agency head of the APS agency is reasonably satisfied that the process was merit based in accordance with section 10A of the PS Act.
The sharing of a merit list or pool for similar vacancies with another agency supports the efficient use of resources and managing talent, and is strongly encouraged. Sharing is at the discretion of the agency that created the merit list or pool.
For merit lists or pools created from a Senior Executive Service (SES) selection process, the Circular 2018/5: SES Recruitment sets out the expectation of agencies to share SES merit lists or pools.
When sharing a merit list or pool, agencies are encouraged to provide the selection report and any other relevant information used to determine a candidate’s suitability for a vacancy, such as the candidate’s resume and reference checks. This will assist the requesting agency in making an informed selection decision. Agencies must provide all ranked or pooled candidates (yet to accept a role) when sharing a merit list or pool with another agency, where candidates have agreed for their details to be shared.
The agency receiving the shared merit list or pool cannot change the approved selection outcome, including the ratings or rankings (where applicable) that have been assigned to candidates.
Section 9 of the Directions defines a vacancy as similar to a notified vacancy if all of the following apply:
- the same category of employment (ongoing or non‑ongoing)
- the work-related qualities required by a person to perform the duties are similar
- it is at the same classification or
- a corresponding Parliamentary Service classification or
- at the same corresponding classification made between the Director-General of the relevant intelligence agency and the Commissioner and
- for duties to be performed in a similar location
and any one of the following apply:
- it is an SES vacancy
- it is a vacancy in a centrally coordinated entry‑level program
- the vacancy and the notified vacancy are in the same agency
- the Agency Head of the agency in which the notified vacancy existed and another Agency Head agree, in writing, that the vacancy is a similar vacancy to the notified vacancy. This includes an Agency Head deciding that 2 vacancies within their own agency are similar
- the Secretary of a Department (within the meaning of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999) in which the notified vacancy existed and an Agency Head agree, in writing, that the vacancy is a similar vacancy to the notified vacancy
- the Director-General of the intelligence agency in which the notified vacancy existed and an Agency Head agree, in writing, that the vacancy is a similar vacancy to the notified vacancy.
In deciding what constitutes a similar location, agencies should consider whether relocation would be required of a candidate to undertake the job. Agencies should also consider whether advertising a vacancy as available in a particular location would attract a different field of candidates.
Privacy implications for sharing merit lists or pools with other agencies
Prior to an agency sharing a merit list or pool, it has a responsibility to ensure it has obtained the candidate’s permission to share their details with other agencies. Agencies may obtain this permission during the selection process or when asked to share a merit list or pool.
Where a candidate has advised that they do not want their details shared with another agency, the candidate’s details must be removed when sharing a merit list or pool.
It is recommended that agencies advise SES candidates that if they are placed on a merit list or pool, their details will be provided to the Australian Public Service Commission and will be shared with other agencies, if access to the merit list or pool is requested.
Agencies creating a merit list or pool formed from a centrally-coordinated entry level recruitment process, are encouraged to share merit lists or pools with other APS agencies if there are candidates remaining following offers made by participating agencies. Centrally-coordinated refers to a recruitment exercise undertaken by an agency to fill vacancies and similar vacancies on behalf of participating agencies; for example, the Australian Government Graduate Program and the Indigenous Graduate Program.
Agencies must be mindful when classifying entry-level positions that there are 2 classification options available in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Rules). Agencies may classify these positions as either a training classification (Schedule 2) or an operational classification (Schedule 1). The distinction is important when agencies are using a merit list or pool to fill an entry-level vacancy, as the agency must ensure that the vacancy is the same classification in accordance with section 9 of the Directions. For example, if a merit list or pool was created using the Graduate APS training classification (Schedule 2 of the Rules), an agency cannot use this merit list or pool to fill its entry-level vacancy if it is classified as an APS Level 3 classification (Schedule 1 of the Rules).
Candidates remaining on a merit list or pool
A candidate who declines an offer of employment remains on the merit list or pool for future consideration of similar vacancies, unless they ask to be removed from the merit list or pool.
If a candidate accepts a non-ongoing opportunity, they remain on the merit list or pool for an ongoing vacancy, where the original vacancy was notified as ongoing.
Merit lists or pools from affirmative measures processes
Agencies can use merit lists or pools created from an affirmative measure (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or disability) recruitment process to fill similar vacancies. The use of such lists or pools are not restricted to filling affirmative measure vacancies.
Agencies are encouraged to undertake one recruitment process when advertising a vacancy using an affirmative measure. When planning to undertake an affirmative measure recruitment process, including deciding whether to undertake a concurrent recruitment process that is open to all candidates, visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Recruitment Guide webpage and the Disability webpage for more information.
To undertake concurrent recruitment processes for the same vacancy, agencies must publish 2 notifications in the PS Gazette: one notification open to all candidates, and an affirmative measure notification open only to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people or people with disability, in accordance with section 31 or 33 of the Directions.
If the agency decides to create a merit list or pool from concurrent recruitment processes, it will result in the creation of 2 separate merit lists or pools. Agencies should make every possible effort to fill a vacancy allocated for an affirmative measure using the merit pool or list created from the affirmative measure process.
HR practitioners seeking more information on creating and sharing merit lists or pools can contact the Employment Policy team for advice via firstname.lastname@example.org or call the enquiry line on 02 6202 3857.