Streamlining the selection process: the NT experience

The NT government has led the way in streamlining recruitment processes, cutting selection criteria and embracing online tools. The territory’s public employment commissioner reflects on the successes.

Why is it so hard to get a job in the public service? It’s a question that I am often asked in my role as commissioner for public employment. But, unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer, because there are many reasons why a person might find it difficult to be selected to the public service. It may well be that when said and done, the person simply doesn’t have the experience and skills to be competitive when assessed on merit against other applicants.

However, there is also no denying other reasons that exist both in the myriad of application hurdles that we place in front of people applying to work in the public sector, and also in assessment processes that may fail to identify good applicants, and often take too long.

There is an immense range of historic, and often cumbersome, recruitment processes and selection “myths” that the public sector clings to. Many of these stem from a mistaken belief that to be fair there must be a consistent, one-size-fits-all system, with clear rules. However, this approach can all too easily create a situation where, in attempting to follow a set process and apply the “rules”, the selection panel loses sight of their real goal, which is simply to select the best person for the job.

One prime example of this, and a situation that probably puts off many prospective applicants, is requiring applicants to painstakingly address each one of a number of selection criteria.  The underlying idea of essential selection criteria makes sense: “Here is a description of the key responsibilities, and a list of the knowledge, skills, qualifications and experiences that we believe you need to have to do this job well.” Such a list helps potential applicants to understand what is really sought in a job, to consider if they have the right capabilities and training, and also provides a framework against which a panel can assess and compare applicants.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.