No serious defects in a selection process
An Executive Level 1 employee applied for promotion to an Executive Level 2 role within their agency, which was advertised on APSJobs. Following the selection process, the employee was advised by the agency that their application was unsuccessful.
The employee applied for MPC review (following an agency internal review) as they considered the agency’s selection process contained serious defects.
While most selection and recruitment decisions are not eligible for review, there are some promotion decisions that are reviewable. These include:
- Ongoing employees at APS levels 1 to 5 who have applied for a promotion to APS levels 2 to 6 – we can undertake a merits review of the promotion decision.
- Ongoing employees who have applied for a promotion to Executive Level 1 or 2, where the selection process contained serious defects – we can conduct a review of the selection process undertaken by the agency.
In this case, the employee was an ongoing Executive Level 1 employee who had applied for a promotion to Executive Level 2. In their view, there were serious defects in the selection process undertaken by the agency.
We considered the employee’s review application, and undertook a preliminary assessment to determine if the application was eligible for review. On review, we needed to consider whether the concerns raised by the employee could amount to ‘serious defects’ in the selection process.
The employee’s concerns included:
- they considered they were highly experienced, and highly suitable for the role
- they had acted in the role as an acting Executive Level 2 employee for more than 12 months prior to their application
- they were selected for interview, and prepared for the interview by considering the role description and duty statement
- at interview, the selection panel stated they had not read the employee's application or CV, and declined an offer that the employee provide them with a copy for their consideration
- the interview questions were not related to the duty statement of the role, and the applicant had not prepared for those questions.
The employee considered it was a serious defect in the selection process for a selection panel to rate the suitability of applicants solely on their performance in a short interview, without broader consideration of the skills, qualifications and experience outlined in their written application and CV.
In the employee’s view, this type of selection process was unfairly biased towards outgoing or extroverted applicants, rather than fairly considering the relative merits of all applicants.
In the agency's primary review, they did not agree there had been serious defects in the selection process. They therefore decided the application was not eligible for review. In the agency’s view, the selection panel had fairly assessed the applicant against the requirements of the job. The agency noted there were no policy restrictions on the manner in which the agency conducted its selection process, nor any requirement to give equal weighting to the written and oral components of the process.
The employee was not satisfied with the agency’s review decision, and sought secondary review by the MPC.
On review, we noted the merit principle refers to the APS as a career-based public service that makes decisions relating to engagement and promotion that are based on merit. This is outlined at s 10A of the Public Service Act. The Act provides that decisions are based on merit if:
- all eligible members of the community were given a reasonable opportunity to apply to perform the relevant duties
- an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates to perform the relevant duties, using a competitive selection process
- the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates’ work‑related qualities and the work‑related qualities genuinely required to perform the relevant duties
- the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the relevant duties
- that assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision.
The Act does not restrict the way in which agency’s assess applicants for their relative suitability. This means that agencies have considerable scope for setting their own selection processes that best suit their business needs.
To assist us to determine whether this matter was eligible for review, we contacted the agency and obtained copies of the selection panel’s report. We noted that there were a very high number of applicants for the role, which required different decision makers for different stages of the process. We noted that although it may have been preferable for the decision makers at the interview stage to have copies of the applicant’s application and CV, we did not consider this meant the process was unfair or not based on merit. Each interviewed applicant was afforded the same process, and the panel’s decision was based on an assessment of each candidate’s relative suitability to perform the duties of the role.
As we did not consider there were serious defects in the selection process, we decided the application was not eligible for review. We did however write to the agency to encourage them to consider how they may improve their selection processes in the future.