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Attorney-Generals Department

Staff
Selection
Techniques
Handbook








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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
RELEVANT ACTS & POLICIES..........................................................1
PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT STANDARDS............................................1
APPLICATION OF MERIT PRINCIPLE TO SELECTION..............................2
PSM ACT - DEFINITION OF MERIT ...............................................2
GUIDELINES ON USE OF MERIT DEFINITION....................................3
USE OF MERIT DEFINITION PART A.......................................................................................................................4
USE OF MERIT DEFINITION PART B.......................................................................................................................4
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN SELECTION...............................................6
INTRODUCTION.....................................................................6
TYPES OF DISCRIMINATION.......................................................7
THE SELECTION PROCESS .............................................................9
SELECTION PROCESS CHECKLIST................................................. 10
GUIDELINES FOR JOB & PERSON SPECIFICATIONS............................. 11
JOB ANALYSIS.................................................................... 11
JOB AND PERSON SPECIFICATIONS............................................. 11
WRITING PERSON SPECIFICATIONS ............................................ 12
CONSIDERATIONS..........................................................................................................................................................12
THE SELECTION PANEL .............................................................. 13
WHO SHOULD BE ON IT? ........................................................ 13
ROLE OF CHAIRPERSON .......................................................... 13
DESIGNING THE SELECTION PROCESS............................................ 14
SHORTLISTING........................................................................ 14
SHORTLISTING MATRIX..............................................................................................................................................14
DECIDING ON THE PROCESS........................................................ 16
THE STRUCTURED INTERVIEW PROCESS.......................................... 16
STRUCTURED INTERVIEW ........................................................ 16
QUESTION TYPES AND THEIR USES ............................................ 17
OPEN QUESTIONS...........................................................................................................................................................17
CLOSED QUESTIONS.....................................................................................................................................................17
BEHAVIOURAL QUESTIONS.......................................................................................................................................18
HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS....................................................................................................................................19
PRE-INTERVIEW STEPS:.......................................................... 20
INTERVIEW SETTING............................................................. 20
CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW .................................................. 20
1. OPENING THE INTERVIEW...............................................................................................................................21
2. DEVELOPING THE INTERVIEW........................................................................................................................21
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3. CONCLUDING THE INTERVIEW......................................................................................................................21
ALTERNATIVE SELECTION TECHNIQUES.......................................... 21
SOME EXAMPLES: ............................................................................................................................................................22
DETAILED EXAMPLE............................................................... 22
IN-BASKET..........................................................................................................................................................................22
REFEREE REPORTS..................................................................... 24
GUIDELINES....................................................................... 24
HOW TO COLLECT REFEREE REPORTS ........................................... 25
ACCESS TO REPORTS ............................................................. 25
DECISION MAKING................................................................... 26
IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS ................................. 26
COMMON FAULTS ................................................................. 27
HALO EFFECT.....................................................................................................................................................................27
STEREOTYPING................................................................................................................................................................27
EMPHASIS ON NEGATIVE INFORMATION.........................................................................................................27
SEQUENCE EFFECTS......................................................................................................................................................27
OVER-EMPHASIS ON THE INTERVIEW................................................................................................................28
RUSHED FINAL DECISION.........................................................................................................................................28
FEEDBACK FRAMEWORK .............................................................. 28
PROMOTIONAL APPEALS............................................................. 29
APPEAL RIGHTS ................................................................... 29
THE APPEAL PROCESS............................................................. 30





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RELEVANT ACTS & POLICIES

J PUBLIC SECTOR MANAGEMENT ACT 1995
http://www.ocpe.sa.gov.au/ref_docs/publsect.doc

J EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ACT (SA) 1984
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/eoa1984250/

J PSM ACT DETERMINATION No. 2 - Recruitment & Appointment of Non-Executive
Employees
http://www.ocpe.sa.gov.au/policy.asp?id=677

J AGD HRM POLICY No. 1 - Recruitment & Selection
http://jpsd.agd.sa.gov.au/hr/Policies%20PDF/HRM/Rec%20&%20Sel%20Policy.pdf

PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT STANDARDS
The Public Sector Management Act requires that the following personnel management
standards are to be observed in the Public Sector:
a) Base all selection decisions on a proper assessment of merit; and
b) Treat employees fairly and consistently and not subject employees to arbitrary or
capricious administrative decisions; and
c) Prevent unlawful discrimination against employees or persons seeking employment in the
public sector on the ground of sex, sexuality, marital status, pregnancy, race, physical
impairment or any other ground and ensure that no form of unjustifiable discrimination is
exercised against employees or persons seeking employment in the public sector; and
d) Use diversity in their workforces to advantage and afford employees and equal
opportunities to secure promotion and advancement in their employment; and
e) Afford employees reasonable avenues of redress against improper or unreasonable
administrative decisions; and
f) Provide safe and healthy working conditions; and
g) Prevent nepotism and patronage


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APPLICATION OF MERIT PRINCIPLE TO SELECTION
The best or most suitable person is to be selected whenever a vacancy in the SA Public Service
is to be filled. This is a requirement of effective management and it is an obligation under the
Public Sector Management Act (PSM Act).

The definition of best or most suitable does, however, depend on individual perspectives.
Although the Public Sector Management Act defines merit, it is considered that some
further explanation may be of benefit. Advice on the practical application of the Merit
Principle is provided in this handbook, which is a guide to assist those involved in the selection
process.
PSM ACT - DEFINITION OF MERIT
merit in relation to selection processes for the filling of positions means

a) the extent to which each of the applicants has abilities, aptitude, skills,
qualif ications, knowledge, experience (including community experience), characteristics
and personal qualities relevant to the carrying out of the duties in question;

and

b) if relevant
(i) the manner in which each of the applicants carried out the duties or f unctions of
any position, employment or occupation previously held or engaged in by the
applicant; and
(ii) the extent to which each of the applicants has potential f or development.



This definition is designed to:
a) ensure that judgement of abilities, experience and qualifications is made against the
requirements of the position in question;
b) help ensure that applicants are judged fairly as to their personal attributes, experience
and qualifications;
c) allow the opportunity for experience gained in areas other than paid work to be viewed as
providing relevant experience; and
d) allow for performance in related areas to be considered indicative of an applicants
potential ability to do the job.


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GUIDELINES ON USE OF MERIT DEFINITION
Applicants for positions rarely (if ever) match person specifications exactly. The process of
selection therefore involves -

a) identifying the skills stated in the person specification possessed and displayed by
each applicant;

b) balancing these with those present in other applicants; and

c) making judgements about how well applicants will fulfil those tasks which require
skills they have not yet had the opportunity to display.

The application of merit is an inexact process. Every opportunity to improve this process
should be taken. Consequently:

J In assessing applicants, selection panels should base the procedures used on properly
prepared job and person specifications;

J The procedures developed and used should be designed to give reliable and valid measures
of the skills, etc, reflected in the person specification and of the likelihood that the
duties required in the position will be carried out adequately;

J Selection panels are encouraged to use techniques in place of, or in addition to, the
traditional ones (eg alternative selection techniques) as appropriate. Advice on these can
be obtained from the Human Resource Services Branch; and

J The major emphasis during selection should be on those items specified as essential.
Selection panels are warned against listing many items as desirable and using these to
justify a selection, save in exceptional circumstances (eg where two applicants are
judged of nearly equal ability).



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Use of Merit Definition Part A
Part A of the merit definition reads as follows:
the extent to which each of the applicants has abilities, aptitude, skills, qualifications,
knowledge, experience (including community experience), characteristics and personal qualities
relevant to the carrying out of the duties in question.

There are four broad areas involved in Part A. These are:
1. Abilities, Aptitudes and Skills
In person specification terms these include things such as clerical aptitude, communication
skills, management or supervisory ability, conceptual or reasoning skills, manual dexterity, etc.

While these are to be assessed in relation to the duties in question, it is not essential that
proof of the presence of an ability, aptitude or skill must derive from actual job performance.
It is possible to get accurate assessments of these by other means such as standardised (or
other) assessments of ability, achievement or skills, work sample approaches, etc, and to
consider these in conjunction with or in place of actual job performance. It is not necessary to
have direct actual job performance measures of, for example management ability, if it is
possible to derive valid and reliable information by some other means or where an applicant has
not had the opportunity to display such abilities on the job. This example is most clearly
evident in positions at the first level of supervisory responsibility and where applicants are
drawn from those without such experience.
2. Qualifications and Knowledge
The proper application of the merit principle in regard to qualifications and knowledge requires
that any essential or desirable specification of these should be clearly relevant to the duties in
question and for equal opportunity reasons worked so as not to exclude applicants who might
reasonably be expected to be able to carry out the duties satisfactorily.
3. Experience (including community experience)
Non-occupationally obtained experience that is relevant to the duties in question is to rank
equally with relevant occupationally obtained experience. If, for example, an applicant has
been involved in management of some volunteer or social group then this should be judged
according to the same criteria as the management of a work group. Obviously some
appropriate test of competence of both types of experience should be applied. This is
important because it will sometimes by difficult to obtain reliable reports of peoples
experience and ability where non-occupational experience is claimed.
4. Characteristics and Personal Qualities
These terms are taken to mean the collective qualities or peculiarities which distinguish an
individual. In this context, terms often used are initiative, patience, assertiveness, diligence,
sensitivity, responsiveness and such like. That is, terms which describe a person as much as the
skills required on the job. While again these are to be relevant to the duties in question and
therefore tied to the person specification, there are sometimes personal qualities which, while
unstated, are inherent in a contract of employment, eg punctuality or timeliness.

Use of Merit Definition Part B
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This part of the merit definition reads as follows:
if relevant -

(i) the manner in which each of the applicants carried out the duties or functions of any
position, employment or occupation previously held or engaged in by the applicant;

and

(ii) the extent to which each of the applicants has potential for development.

Part B(i)
Where evidence which bears directly on the duties in question is either wholly or in part absent
then it is appropriate to consider under Part (B) of the definition the way in which an applicant
has carried out duties not relevant to the position in question. In using Part B(i) a selection
panel would need to satisfy itself that the manner in which other duties might have been
carried out is a sufficient indication of how the relevant duties might be performed. For
example, if written communication skills were required for a position, would ability to write
form letters necessarily indicate an ability to write reports? It would be better to undertake
some more objective and relevant test of report writing ability through some work sample
exercise and assessing skills relevant to the duties in question can often be taken even where
no directly relevant work experience exists.

Use of Part B(ii)
This provision allows for assessment of the potential applicants have to develop their skills and
apply them to the position requirements. It is important for selection panels to recognise that
considerations of potential should not go beyond the requirement of the position as expressed
in the job and person specification documents.

It should also be appreciated that this provision is clearly meant to be used in restricted
circumstances as it is specified to be used only where relevant. The following describes the
conditions of its use.

Part B(ii) of the definition would normally come into play when considering school or
educational institution leavers for entry level positions (eg ASO1) where they do not have work
histories of any kind.


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EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN SELECTION
INTRODUCTION
The following Acts make certain types of discrimination unlawful in employment generally and,
therefore, also cover the total selection process from advertising to appointment:
Equal Opportunity Act, 1984 (S.A.)
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/eoa1984250/
Sex Discrimination Act, 1984 (Cth)
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sda1984209/index.html
Racial Discrimination Act, 1975 (Cth)
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/rda1975202/index.html
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/dda1992264/index.html
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth)
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/hraeoca1986512/

The abovementioned Commonwealth Acts will only come into effect if a basis of unlawful
discrimination is not covered by the South Australian Act (eg mental illness). We will
concentrate on the South Australian Act as this covers the majority of grounds of unlawful
discrimination in employment.

The South Australian Equal Opportunity Act, 1984 makes it unlawful for anyone to be treated
unfairly on the grounds of:
J AGE
J SEX
J MARITAL STATUS
J PREGNANCY
J SEXUALITY
J IMPAIRMENT (Physical or Intellectual)
J RACE


In South Australia, each ground of discrimination is defined as follows:
AGE - this covers all ages. For example, not recommending an applicant for a position because
he or she is perceive to be too young or too old. This is unreasonable because a persons age is
not a determinant of their ability.

SEX - defined as male or female and the most familiar aspect of the law to the general
community. Most complaints come from women about sex discrimination. However, employment
complaints do also come from men who are usually employed in non-traditional areas of work
such as nursing or keyboard work.

MARITAL STATUS - defined as married, single, separated, divorced or defacto.
Discrimination would usually happen in employment or accommodation. For example, employers
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assuming that a single woman will leave to get married, or a landowner refusing to let premises
to a defacto couple.

PREGNANCY - is the state of being pregnant and obviously is only applicable to women.
Discrimination is often seen in employment, where women are sacked because they are
pregnant.

SEXUALITY - is defined as homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality and trans-sexuality.
It is intended, in the main, to protect homosexuals and bisexuals from discrimination by the
heterosexual majority. However, it does also protect heterosexual people from discrimination
on the basis of their sexuality. This may happen in establishments that attract a homosexual
clientele.

IMPAIRMENT - this includes physical disability, and intellectual impairment.
J Physical disability covers the total or partial loss of any function of the body, or the loss
of a limb, or the malfunctioning of a part of a persons body, or any malformation or
disfigurement. A wide range of disabilities is covered such as partial or total blindness,
AIDS, diabetes, asthma, etc.
J Intellectual impairment means the permanent or temporary loss or imperfect development
of mental faculties (except where attributable to mental illness) resulting in reduce
intellectual capacity.

RACE - this can mean a persons country of birth, ancestry, colour of skin, or nationality. For
example, a person may be third generation Greek, but if he or she is discriminated against
because they are presumed to be of that race, then the discrimination is unlawful.
Alternatively, if an Aboriginal person is discriminated against because they are Aboriginal, this
would be covered by the colour of skin or ancestry provision in the law. That is, the Aboriginal
person would usually be Australian, and therefore the person would not be discriminating on
the basis of country of birth or nationality.

TYPES OF DISCRIMINATION
1. Direct Discrimination
This occurs when there is:
J less favourable treatment in comparison to another person of a different group; or
J less favourable treatment on the basis of a characteristic or presumed characteristic
that is associated with the group the person comes from.

Examples:
J Choosing a man for a truck drivers job who is less experienced than a woman simply
because truck driving is a mans job would be illegal. Similarly, choosing a woman for a
child care worker position over a man who is more experienced because child care is a
womans job.

J Not recommending applicants for a position because they are either perceived to be too
young or too old. This is an unreasonable because a persons age is not a determinant of
their ability.
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2. Indirect Discrimination
This occurs when there is a policy, rule or way of doing things that might appear on the
surface to be fair or neutral, but which has an unequal effect on certain groups of people.
Indirect discrimination is unlawful when the rule or requirement is unreasonable.

Example:
An agency makes a rule that to be eligible for an promotion to an executive position, an
applicant must have had at least five years experience in a similar job. younger applicants may
have had the skills, knowledge and capacity required to perform the job, but not the stated
length of experience. this may be indirect discrimination on the ground of age.

A selection panel organises to hold all interviews prior to 8:30am or after 5pm in order to suit
their business. However this indirectly discriminates against applicants who have reasonable
family responsibilities which result in them being unavailable at these times.

A similar situation could arise if a written test required a knowledge of Australian history.
Unless this was a required aspect of the job and not just a measure of intellect or general
knowledge, then the test would be unlawful. IT would discriminate against those who did not
grow up in Australia.


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THE SELECTION PROCESS
Selection is not simply an interview. It is a process with a number of steps which helps to
ensure that the best person is chosen for the job after receiving fair and full consideration.

The process can be represented by this flow chart:

REVIEW JOB AND PERSON SPEC

ADVERTISE (FILLING OF
VACANCIES)

FORM SELECTION PANEL

DESIGN SELECTION PROCESS

SHORTLIST

INTERVIEW/ALTERNATIVES

DECISION MAKING

DOCUMENTATION

APPROVAL

FEEDBACK

POST SELECTION ACTION

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SELECTION PROCESS CHECKLIST
ACTION DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED
Supervisor/Manager reviews and/or prepares Job and
Person Specification for approval of delegate (and
remuneration level advice form HR is required)
Job and Person Specification
Delegate approves filling of position Request to Fill Vacancy Form
Establish the panel - panel should consist of chairperson
(usually immediate supervisor), staff rep, client rep.
No formal documentation required
Design selection process No formal documentation required
Maintain a confidential list of names, contact numbers
and addresses of people issued with Job and Person
Specification in prepared schedule
List
Record the applications and acknowledge receipt of
applications in writing immediately following closing
date
Standard acknowledgment letter
Shortlist Selection matrix (or other format)
Advise applicants not shortlisted for interview in writing Standard Letter
Notify shortlisted applicants of the interview format,
venue, date, time and names/roles of panel members by
phone and in writing
Standard Letter
Conduct Interviews/Alternative Selection Techniques Interview notes, results of tests, etc.
Seek referee report(s) - if required Notes
Prepare selection report for approval of delegate
(HR Services will peruse if required)
Selection report to Delegate
Once approved, advise the successful applicant by
phone
No formal documentation required
Advise the unsuccessful applicants by phone of the
selection outcome and offer feedback
No formal documentation required
Send confirmation in writing to all unsuccessful
applicants immediately
Standard Letter
Fax Vacancy Selection Outcome Advice form to the
Office for Commissioner for Public Employment
Vacancy Selection Outcome Advice form
Forward letter of offer of employment (after appeal
period if ongoing position)
Standard Letter of offer (ie ongoing or
contract)
All information relating to selection is placed in the
Schedule of Applications and forwarded to HR for
filing.
Schedule of applications

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GUIDELINES FOR JOB & PERSON SPECIFICATIONS
JOB ANALYSIS
As soon as a position becomes vacant, it is important that the Supervisor/Manager take the
opportunity to review the job and person specification. In order to make effective staff
selection, it is necessary to have a current, accurate description of the job and an
understanding of how it relates to other jobs in the organisation. That is, the jobs principal
functions and its accountabilities: Why, how and what is done? and What does it take to do
it?.

A vacancy provides the opportunity to reconsider the duties of the position and to update the
Job Specification in line with current organisational demands and practices (ie what do you
need the job to achieve?). Such a review involves an analysis of the job that may result in a
revised job and person specification. Because of the importance of both of these documents in
the selection process, particular attention should be paid to the job analysis.

Where a job and person specification is being created, or has been reviewed and there has
been a change in reporting or organisational structure, new responsibilities or increased work
value added to the position, remuneration level advice must be sought from Human Resources
to ensure that the position is set at the correct level. If you are unsure of whether a revised
job and person specification requires this action to be taken, contact HR for advice.

I mportant:
All too of ten the review of the j ob and person specif ication is omitted or hurried in
order to expedite the selection process. Do not hurry this critical step as it may have
a signif icant bearing on the selection process (eg select wrong person f or the j ob, appeal,
etc).

Information concerning the job can be obtained from a variety of sources including:
a) from someone directly in charge of the work, such as a Supervisor, Branch Manager, or the
Director concerned;
b) from personal knowledge or observation of the job being done;
c) from current or former job incumbents; and
d) from existing staff in the work area.
JOB AND PERSON SPECIFICATIONS
Supervisor/Manager to prepare or review.
JOB SPECIFICATION
Outcome Terms
Accurate
Clear
Non-Discriminatory
Realistic

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PERSON SPECIFICATION
Based on Job Specification
Essential or Desirable
Reasonable
Non-Discriminatory
Demonstrable

WRITING PERSON SPECIFICATIONS
CONSIDERATIONS
In preparing a Person Specification, a key point to ensure is that the personal skills and
attributes identified are clearly job related and are specified in terms that may be recognised
and measured objectively so far as possible. It is equally important to ensure that those skills,
attributes etc, which are identified as being essential are truly essential.

1. THE TOTAL JOB

The specific job description, including other considerations, such as the organisational climate
and management style indicate the social and other influences that will bear on the worker,
and the personal job attributes and skills that the successful applicant should possess.

2. PREVIOUS JOB INCUMBENTS

It is useful in preparing a Person Specification to consider previous job incumbents or
incumbents of similar jobs in an effort to identify the personal attributes and skills that
contribute towards effective performance of the job and also those which are irrelevant
and hinder effective performance.

3. BE REALISTIC

In seeking to replace someone who has held down a job for a number of years, it is pointless to
have a Person Specification which accurately portrays the former incumbent minus
blemishes but with all relevant knowledge. This will almost certainly be an impossible
specification against which to select. It is necessary to get right down to the absolute
essentials and think in terms of what the newcomer must have if he or she is to perform
this task satisfactorily.

4. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY POLICY

It is important to ensure at all stages of the selection process that adherence to the principles
of Equal Opportunity in employment is maintained. Care should be taken to identify the
personal skills and attributes required in relation to the demands of the job and to avoid
basing the Person Specification on traditional stereotypes.

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5. BE RELEVANT AND PRECISE IN SPECIFYING FACTORS

It is important to ensure that the requirements listed are clearly job related and are
specified in terms that may be recognised and measured objectively so far as possible,
rather than in abstract human qualities. Precise language is thus important in preparing the
Person Specification.



THE SELECTION PANEL
WHO SHOULD BE ON IT?
J People who collectively know the job.

J People who understand Selection and EEO principles.

J Aim for no less than two and no more than four.

J Aim for a gender balance.

J Immediate Supervisor.

J Staff representative.

J Client representative.



ROLE OF CHAIRPERSON
J Ensure panel members have all applications, job & person specification, familiar with
selection guidelines.

J Ensure members understand equal responsibility and maintain confidentiality.

J Open, direct and close interview.

J Co-ordinate the evaluation and decision making process.

J Document selection process.

J Ensure that post selection action is professionally conducted.


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DESIGNING THE SELECTION PROCESS
There still tends to be a perception amongst many employees that the interview is the only
selection tool used to fill vacant positions. However, the interview can be an ineffective
selection tool if used in isolation especially if it is not structured. In addition to using a
structured interview, the selection panel should also consider the merit of using other selection
tools in order to improve the reliability and validity of their selection decision. These include
the use of alternative selection techniques and referee reports. Therefore to assist you to
design of an appropriate selection process, these tools will be discussed in more detail in the
following sections (they may also form part of the shortlisting process).

SHORTLISTING
After the selection process is designed each panel member reads the applications privately and
shortlists the applicants based on the degree to which they meet the person specification.

The panel then discusses their individual shortlisting and reaches agreement on the applicants
who will proceed to the next stage in the selection process. Referee statements can be sought
as part of the shortlisting process. This process can be summarised as follows:
J All members participate.
J Shortlist against Person specification - essential requirements.
J Check overseas qualifications.
J Referee reports may be sought as part of this process.
J Record reasons for not shortlisting.
J Advise unsuccessful applicants.

Shortlisting Matrix
Client Services Officer ASO2
John
Smith
Sue
Jones
etc

Personal Abilities/Aptitudes/Skills
Interpersonal skills to effectively relate to a wide range of client groups, in particular
clients who may present as angry or in crisis.

Ability to work under limited supervision and to take the initiative in managing
workload.

Ability to deal with confidential matters with tact and discretion.
Experience
Experience in providing services to a wide range of client groups.
Knowledge
Knowledge of word processing and data base facilities
Knowledge of effective telephone and reception techniques.
Desirable Characteristics
Experience
Experience in data base management.
Knowledge
Knowledge of equal opportunity principles and practices.
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Educational/Vocational Qualifications
Post secondary studies in human services or related field.
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DECIDING ON THE PROCESS
Once the shortlisting process has been completed, the selection panel needs to determine the
process by which the shortlisted applicants will be assessed. This may involve the identification
of alternative selection techniques in addition to the application, interview process and referee
checks. The panel also needs to determine the weighting which will be given to each part of the
process in order to provide an objective framework for their decision making.

The weighting should be decided in light of the requirements of the position. For example, if a
position requires significant data entry skills, then the weighting given to a test which covers
skills such as attention to detail and typing speed needs to reflect this.

In addition the panel may wish to create a matrix which highlights which parts of the process
are providing them with information about each of the criteria in the person specification. This
may make the decision-making process easier once all the information has been gathered.


THE STRUCTURED INTERVIEW PROCESS
STRUCTURED INTERVIEW
The interview is the most commonly used selection tool in Australian society. However, if the
interview is to be of value as a serious assessment tool, it needs to be structured. This means
that:
J the questions asked must be based exclusively on the
job and person specification;
J the same core questions must be asked of each and
every applicant;
J sample answers to questions are to be determined in
advance; and
J interviewee responses are rated.


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QUESTION TYPES AND THEIR USES
It is essential that all panel members be skilled in the use of questioning techniques, and that
the panel as a whole be able to coordinate its questioning and probing. The interviewees
impression of your overall competence will probably depend largely on your skills in this area.

Interviews are best commenced on grounds familiar to the applicant, such as current work
responsibilities. As a rule, any one selection criterion should be introduced and fully probed
with applicants before the selection panel passes to the next; the direction and depth of
questions should be varied to achieve this result.

There are many ways in which questions can usefully be classified, and these notes will
probably only cover some of them. However, if you are able to have these question types in
mind as you interview, you will be able to use them to some extent to direct and control the
course of the interview. Most questions fall into one of the two categories - open or closed.
OPEN QUESTIONS
Open questions are those which are framed to put the onus of structuring the reply onto the
interviewee, and in such a way as to avoid single word or brief answers. An example would be:

Q. Please tell the panel about the problems you have handled as a supervisor?

The advantages of open questions are that they:
J encourage an applicant to do most of the talking; and
J sometimes turn up unexpected information or leads.

The disadvantages of open questions are that they:
J can sometimes be difficult to phrase succinctly, where the question is a complex one; and
J are often phrased inexactly or ambiguously, leaving the applicant floundering as to what
sort of answer is expected or suitable.

CLOSED QUESTIONS
Closed questions are phrased in such a way as to encourage answers of very few words, usually
yes or no. The narrower the range of possible answers, the more closed the question. The
closed version of the above open question would be:

Q. Have you handled problems as a Supervisor?

The advantages of closed questions are that they:
J can be used to direct an interview into specific areas, or to introduce some probing open
questions;
J can be used to tactfully slow down or quiet a talkative applicant; and
J can be used for clarification.

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The disadvantages of closed questions are that:
J they can appear to be collecting valuable information, when in fact they are not;
J applicants will often seize the opportunity to answer with only a yes or no, where a
properly phrased open question might have collected worthwhile information and picked
up new leads for further questions; and
J their overuse can destroy the flow of an interview, turning it into an interrogation.

When a lot of information of this kind is sought, give consideration to collecting it on a
modified application form.

Examples of closed and open questions:

1. a) Do you work well within a team? (Closed)

b) Please tell the panel how you work well within a team? (Open)

2. a) You dont like this work, do you? (Closed)

b) What do you dislike about this work? (Open)

3. a) Are you able to deal with conflict? (Closed)

b) Please give us an example of how you have dealt with conflict within your
team? (Open)

While most questions can be termed open or closed, there are other ways of classifying
questions. These are discussed below.
BEHAVIOURAL QUESTIONS
Behavioural questions are an excellent way of assessing an applicants past skills. They are the
preferred type of question to be asked of applicants during an interview.

These type of questions:
J ask for examples of past behaviour;
J are used to assess the presence or absence of a skill; and
J are very specific.

EXAMPLES OF BEHAVIOURAL QUESTIONS
1. Describe a time in any job you have held when you were faced with problems or pressures
that tested your ability to cope. What did you do?
2. Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
3. Please tell the panel about a job experience in which you had to speak up in order to be
sure that other people knew what you thought or felt?
4. What do you do when one of your people is performing badly, just not getting the job
done? Give an example.
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5. Give an example of a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy with which you did
not agree.
6. Give an example of a time when you had to use your fact-finding skills to gain information
in order to solve a problem - then tell me how you analysed the information to come to a
decision.
7. Describe the most significant written document/report/presentation that you have had to
complete.
8. Please give the panel an example of a time when you were able to communicate with another
person, even though that individual may not have liked you personally.
9. What did you do in your last job in order to be effective with your organisation and
planning?
10. Describe the most creative work related project which you have undertaken.

HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS
These set up a hypothetical situation or problem for the applicant, about which one or more
questions can be asked concerning possible courses of action in such a situation. Such
questions should be planned before the interview. If a selection panel is intending to use
hypothetical questions, they should ensure they are sufficiently general to allow for different
applicant backgrounds and experience. Be careful that these questions do not become too
long-winded, and turn into heavily prefaced questions, as discussed below.




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PRE-INTERVIEW STEPS:
Before the interview, ensure that:
J Applicants are informed of the selection process.
J Applicants are given no less than 2 days and preferably at least 1 weeks notification of
interview.
J Applicants are advised of the names and positions of those conducting the interview.
J Core questions are structured, agreed to and allocated to specific panellists. Selection
criteria that have been given priority are the basis for determining questions.
J The panel has agreed to the structure of the interview, ordering it in a logical, consistent
way.
J Adequate time is set aside for each interview, which should include time for the applicant
to ask questions. A suggested schedule is 5 - 10 minutes for pre-interview briefing of
panel, 30 minutes for each applicant, and 10-15 minutes for panel to prepare summary
notes on applicants and discussion.

INTERVIEW SETTING
J The setting should be as relaxed and conducive to discussions as possible.
J The interview should be held in a place that is private - out of hearing of other people and
out of view of incumbents and work peers. Careful consideration should be given to the
venue.
J The interview should be free from interruptions such as telephone calls.
J The room should be tidy, well lit, at a comfortable temperature.
J The furniture should be arranged to encourage communication and to reduce stress, eg.
round table.
J Provide water for the applicants.

REMEMBER:
J The interview is not a test. The objective is to select the most suitable applicant.
J The panel needs to consider the best way to gain information and allow all applicants to
demonstrate their abilities.
J The panel should aim to achieve consensus through
equal input, open discussion and careful consideration
for the information obtained through all aspects of
the process. Disputes may be dealt with through a
minority report or consultation with relevant
personnel for advice.


CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW

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There are three stages to conducting an interview.
1. Opening the Interview
If an interview is not opened properly, the entire interview may suffer. Therefore, it is
important to establish rapport and orient the interviewee.

J Establishing Rapport
In establishing rapport, we are looking to put the interviewee at ease and set the
scene for an effective interview. The use of small talk (eg How was the trip in?)
can help to reduce the interviewees level of nervousness. This is also the time to
introduce the panel members to the interviewee and to give some indication as to
how the interview will proceed.
2. Developing the Interview
Once you have commenced the interview, it is important to maintain a climate that is as
communicative and as comfortable as possible for the interviewee. The panel should
allow the interviewee to talk for about 80% of the time. This is where the use of good
listening skills by panel members is imperative.
J Attending Skills
panel should adopt relaxed body postures.
at least one panel member should maintain eye contact with the interviewee.
This expresses interest and a desire to listen.
use of appropriate gestures (eg nodding, smile, etc).
J Following Skills
use of open questions to allow interviewee to talk freely
use of silence after a question has been answered serves as a gentle nudge to
the interviewee to provide more information.
use of minimal encourages (eg OK, yes, I see, etc) displays to the
interviewee that you are listening.
J Reflecting Skills
paraphrasing each topic of questioning in the interview demonstrates to the
candidate that you have understood what theyve been saying.
3. Concluding the Interview
J Thank the interviewee for participating
J Ask if they require any further information or want to
follow up any matter discussed.
J Ensure that referee names and telephone numbers are
provided.
J If possible give an indication of when applicants will be
advised of the outcome.
ALTERNATIVE SELECTION TECHNIQUES

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The interview is certainly the most commonly used selection technique in Australian society.
However, it can be an ineffective selection tool if used in isolation.

For example, the interview is a communication process whereby the interviewee learns more
about the job and the organisation and begins to develop some realistic expectations about
both. In order to obtain the services of reliable people (eg those in short supply) it may be
necessary to sell the job and the organisation to the applicant. This is most often done
through the interview. If an applicant is rejected, an important public relations function is
performed by the interviewer, for it is important that the rejected applicant have a favourable
impression of the organisation.

As a selection device, the interview serves two major functions: firstly, to fill information
gaps in other selection devices (eg incomplete or questionable application information) and
secondly, to assess those factors which can only be measured in a face-to-face situation (ie
certain kinds of verbal fluency, language usage, interpersonal skills and sociability). This
information is often used to indirectly determine whether or not the applicant is likely to fit
in and get along with others in the organisation.

The advantage in using alternative selection techniques is that they actually measure job skills,
rather than asking a question about job skills, the answer to which the panel must then
interpret. This interpretation can involve much hidden discrimination.

SOME EXAMPLES:
J developing an in-basket exercise where an applicant must prioritise tasks and decide
what action, if any, is necessary;
J asking an applicant to provide a written report on a topic;
J asking an applicant to conduct a verbal presentation;
J asking an applicant for a gardening job to demonstrate an ability to identify plants;
J assess the physical fitness of a fitness instructor;
J typing speed and accuracy test, etc.

The advantage in using alternative selection techniques is that they actually measure job skills,
rather than asking a question about job skills, the answer to which the panel must then
interpret. In summary, they must be
J Relevant;
J Valid;
J Reliable;
J Easy to administer; and
J Adding value.

If in doubt, seek advice from human resources on
developing an alternative selection process.

DETAILED EXAMPLE
IN-BASKET

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In this exercise each participant is told that they are the new person appointed to the vacant
position.

They are then required to process the papers (eg letters, telephone messages, notes and
memos) that have collected in the persons in-tray. The person participating in the exercise is
given appropriate background information concerning the organisation involved so that they
can be reasonably expected to deal with each situation effectively.

As part of the process, the participants might be expected to write letters, prepare agendas,
make notes and telephone calls as required.

In an in-basket simulation, participants might be evaluated on:
J planning abilities;
J organisational abilities;
J written communication;
J oral communication;
J decision making; and/or
J delegation skills.


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REFEREE REPORTS
Reports of peoples previous work are important in helping a selection panel make its decision.
However, like the interview, they are not as useful and accurate as is often thought if
conducted inappropriately. This is because they rely on a subjective judgement. The person
being asked for an opinion may be poor at judging people, biased, unwilling to reveal the truth
or unable to understand your particular needs.

GUIDELINES
The following are some guidelines you should adhere to when seeking referee reports:
J Obtain reports from current or recent supervisor(s). They have had the best chance of
observing the person but may still not be able to comment on all the relevant aspects.
J It is appropriate for selection panel members to act as a referee for applicants. This
often occurs when the immediate supervisor/manager is on a selection panel considering
an applicant who has been acting in the position over a period of time.
J Before you contact the referee, prepare a set of questions based on the person
specification items. This ensures your enquiries are relevant to the job. Obviously you
may need to ask follow-up questions as well, but these should always be appropriate for
the job.
J Verbal reports are usually quicker to get but you will need to check the meaning of
comments carefully.
J Written reports are likely to be very guarded and carefully worded to avoid conflict, as
it is more likely these will be made available to the applicant. Contact at lease two people
- either those nominated by the applicant or otherwise identified. If the latter course is
followed it is advisable to let the applicant know.
J The same panellist should not seek reports from all referees of a particular applicant. A
phone link-up where all panellists can hear the responses is the most effective way of
gaining referee information.
J Do not rush the referee. Make sure both of you have time to give suitable consideration
to the matter.
J Seek evidence via examples of how the person responded in specific situations which are
relevant to perform the duties of the position.
J It is not necessary to go to referees for all applicants, however, you should contact two
referees per person and decisions about this should be consistent and equitable.
J Take care to ensure that information received is accurate, correct and relevant.

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HOW TO COLLECT REFEREE REPORTS
J Applicants are informed (either during the interview or later) if you intend to
contact referees.

J One panel member does not collect all referee reports for any one applicant.

J Panel members agree beforehand on the questions to be asked of referees.
Structure improves relevance of information collected.

J Referees are only requested to report on the extent to which the applicant
meets the job and person specification. Generalisations are inappropriate.

J Reports are obtained from at least two referees, either orally or in writing.

J One of the referees is a current or recent supervisor.

J Accurate notes are taken, by reading them back to the referee or sending
the referee a written transcript of the report.

J Referees are informed that the applicant will be notified of the report given
and have no objection.

J Applicants are informed if you intend to contact other than nominated
referees.

J Unfavourable referee reports that cannot be confirmed from at least one
other source are rejected.

J Under no circumstances is an external applicants current employer to be
approached without the formal authorisation of the applicant.

ACCESS TO REPORTS
Applicants have a right to know why they were not selected. If non-selection was based on an
adverse work report then the person is entitled to know what was said. HR can provide advice
in relation to any additional information requested by an unsuccessful applicant.


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DECISION MAKING
The decision making process requires the selection panel to analyse and evaluate all sources of
information used in the selection process, ie application, interview, alternative selection
technique(s) and referee reports. This needs to be undertaken in accordance with the
weighting agreed to at the beginning of the process.

IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS
Individual panel members, as well as the selection panel as a whole, can improve their decision
making skills by deliberately collecting information in a structured and systematic manner, and
then thoroughly evaluating this information against a predetermined set of criteria and
standards. In this way, they should be able to reduce the common decision making faults
outlined later.

The panel should adopt the following approach, known as consensual decision making.
Consensus in group decisions is reached when members have an opportunity to discuss and
explore applicants and come to some tentative working agreement in the selection of the best
applicant.

Steps toward consensus in the decision making process are:
1. each person independently decides an order of merit on the basis of all selected
information (it is a good idea to document this on a whiteboard or paper);
2. each panel member then explains his or her decision as logically as possible, using evidence
or back up opinions. Good communication skills are required throughout, eg listening and
clarifying for understanding;
3. panel members should not try to agree automatically with the most vocal or forceful panel
member. Any initial agreement should be viewed as open to change, and discussed to
make sure that people have arrived at similar conclusions for the same basic reasons or
for complementary reasons;
4. differences of opinion can be seen as both natural and helpful, rather than a hindrance in
decision making. Generally, the more ideas expressed, the greater will be the likelihood
of conflict, but this should also lead to more thorough consideration of all information.
5. members should avoid arguing in order to win as individuals. What is right is the
collective judgement of the group as a whole.
6. panel members should not change their minds just to avoid conflict and to reach
agreement and harmony, but should thoroughly discuss the reasons for the disagreement.
If an impasse occurs, the panel should look for the most acceptable alternative for both
parties.

This process enables a panel to be in a position to make a final group decision as to individual
assessments, comparative assessments, and a final order of merit before final documentation
is prepared.
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There may be occasions where a panel is unable to reach a consensus. If this occurs, a minority
report should be submitted to the delegate setting out clearly the reasons for the
disagreement.

COMMON FAULTS
A selection decision should be reached only after all information has been collected, and then
only after full consideration of each applicants claims relative to the job. Unfortunately,
selection panels or individual panel members often simplify this task and fall into one or several
of the following traps:
HALO EFFECT
Some interviewers rely on global impressions of applicants rather than carefully assessing and
comparing information on individual criteria. The Halo effect occurs when the interviewer,
having been impressed favourably by one attribute of an applicant, allows her/his judgement of
the applicants other attributes to be swamped, and assigns correspondingly high ratings.
These impressions could be based on the applicants appearance, educational, economic, ethnic
or geographic background to name a few. Interviewers are likely to distort other information
and refute objections raised by fellow panel members so as to uphold their global impression.
A good selector, by contrast, would be open-minded and would seek information from as many
sources as possible before making assessments of an applicants character or abilities.

The horns effect is the same as the halo effect except that it occurs where an unfavourable
characteristic creates a generally low opinion of the applicant.
STEREOTYPING
The term stereotype refers to the tendency to categorise or label people. It reflects a
standardised mental picture that represents an over-simplified opinion. Stereotyping may
attribute favourable or unfavourable traits to the person being interviewed. However,
because each individual is unique, the person will generally be quite different from the
stereotype.
EMPHASIS ON NEGATIVE INFORMATION
Many researchers have found that negative information carries more weight
with interviewers than positive, and that the interview often tends toward a search for
negative information.
SEQUENCE EFFECTS
Sequence effects are noticeable if a selection panel makes different assessments according
to the order in which applicants are interviewed. It has, for instance, been found that if
interviewers evaluate a candidate who is just average (according to their criteria) after
evaluating several unfavourable candidates the average person will be evaluated more
favourably than should be the case. When any one set of applicants is not reinterviewed this
effect is hard to detect, but it may be present all the same.

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OVER-EMPHASIS ON THE INTERVIEW
Many selection panels try to gain information on all criteria during interviews. It has been
shown, however, that few personal abilities are reliably and validly assessable at interview, and
that some information such as applicants efficiency and standard of work can only be
assessed by other methods (eg work samples, referees, etc).
RUSHED FINAL DECISION
Selection panels often fail to fully consider all information obtained, and instead make a hasty
decision on the basis of impressions. Alternatively, the majority vote prevails, with some panel
members changing their minds or having to accept a decision about which they still have serious
doubts.

While the selection process may seem lengthy process, a poorly conducted one can have
a signif icant detrimental impact on the workplace and the organisation (eg selecting
wrong person f or the j ob, appeals, etc). Theref ore, the process should be viewed as a
short term loss f or a long term gain.


RECOMMENDATION TO DELEGATE
Once a decision has been made, the chairperson needs to draft a recommendation to the
delegate for their approval - this document is also known as the Selection Write-up. It is
important that the write-up includes the following:
information about the advertising of the position, the panel and the process they
undertook;
information about the shortlisting process with reference to any alternative selection
techniques used;
an overview of each shortlisted applicants performance against the criteria of the
person specification in all aspects of the selection process, and
a clear recommendation for the delegates consideration.

This recommendation is from the panel and therefore should be signed by all the panel
members. There are rare occasions where the panel is unable to agree, and therefore a
dissenting member of the panel may prepare a separate report outlining their views. In these
circumstances the delegate is presented with the two reports and makes their decision using
the information provided to them.

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FEEDBACK FRAMEWORK
For those applicants not shortlisted or not selected following interview:
J Base feedback only on Person Specification;
J Focus feedback on behaviour and evidence rather than assumption;
J Focus on value feedback may have to receiver;
J Be constructive;
J Be sensitive (choose appropriate time and place); and
J Provide a manageable amount of feedback.

PROMOTIONAL APPEALS
APPEAL RIGHTS
Effective from 17/10/95 appeal rights exist for all ongoing positions at or below Executive
Level 1, ie for positions with a salary level less than $65,314.
No appeal rights exist for vacancies designated as contracts (including casual, temporary and
longer term contracts).

Section 43 ( Promotion Appeals) of The Public Sector Management Act 1995 states:
(1) Where an employee has been nominated for appointment to a position, any other
employee who applied for the position and is eligible for appointment to the position
may, within seven days after the publication of the notice of nomination, appeal to the
Promotion and Grievance Appeals Tribunal against the nomination.
(2) An appeal against a nomination may only be made on one or more of the following
grounds:
(a) That the employee nominated is not eligible for appointment to the
position;
(b) That the selection processes leading to the nomination were affected
by nepotism or patronage or were otherwise not properly assessed on
the basis of merit;
(c) That there was some other serious irregularity in the selection
process.
and may not be made merely on the basis that the Tribunal should redetermine
the respective merits of the appellant and the employee nominated.

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THE APPEAL PROCESS
J Following a selection process the nomination(s) is published in the Notice of Vacancies;
J Employees wishing to appeal against a selection process have seven (7) days from the date
of publication of the nomination;
J Following receipt of the grounds for appeal, the Promotion and Grievance Appeals
Tribunal will advise the agency that an appeal has been lodged and request that
conciliation be attempted. The conciliation process may involve the appellant and
departmental staff only, or the Presiding Officer of the Promotion and Grievance Appeal
Tribunal may assist in the process;
J If the conciliation process is not successful, the agency must advise the Promotion and
Grievance Appeals Tribunal, and the matter will be scheduled for hearing.
J Where, on an appeal under this section, the Tribunal is satisfied that there has been some
serious irregularity in the selection process leading to the nomination such that it would
be unreasonable for the nomination to stand, the Tribunal may -
set aside the nomination; and
order that the selection processes be recommended from the beginning or some
later stage specified by the Tribunal


For further information about the subject matter of this handbook, or for copies of
the handbook, please contact your Division/Sections Human Resource/Administrative
Officer or A-Gs Human Resources Services Branch on (08) 8207 1719.