If your organisation employs staff it will be important that you have sound selection procedures in place. The following broad principles provide a guide to staff recruitment processes:

  • Job applicants should be assessed on merit, ability, skills and experience
  • English language ability should be assessed fairly against the requirements of the job - remember, ability to speak a language other than English can be an advantage
  • The required experience and qualifications should be directly related to the tasks and duties of a position
  • The organisation should strive continuously to be an Equal Opportunity Employer
  • Non-discriminatory language should be used in reference to all positions - this involves avoiding reference to characteristics such as ethnicity, gender and age (unless a characteristic is essential to doing the job properly)

The following section describes the steps you should go through in selecting and employing staff.

Clarify The Need For The Position

If your organisation has been operating for some time and a position becomes vacant it may be a good time to review the purpose of the position. Consider the following questions:

  • Has the need for the service changed in any way?
  • Has the organisation changed in any way or are there plans for change?
  • Has the role of the worker changed over time?
  • Is the job description accurate and realistic?

It is often valuable to include workers and management in this review process and, if possible, to include the worker who is leaving. It may also be appropriate to involve some of the consumers of your services in this process.

Develop A Position Description

After clarifying the role of the position, you should develop a clear and concise position description to provide to applicants.

Position descriptions need to describe the broad duties expected of an employee and describe the criteria for meeting the requirements of the position. Do not include selection criteria which would exclude applicants on the basis of characteristics such as sex, ethnicity, cultural identity or disability, unless there are legitimate and lawful grounds. As a guide, each position description should contain the following information:

  • Position title, location, range and grade or level of pay
  • An overview of the main purpose of the job, possibly including a description of the function of the organisation
  • The lines of reporting relationships and supervision within the organisation, e.g. the position description might state that monthly reports will be required, or that the worker will be required to attend interagency meetings
  • A list of selection criteria describing the skills and experience considered necessary to perform the job
  • A list of the position's responsibilities and duties
  • Contact details for further information
  • The address where the application is to be forwarded


The best way to attract a wide range of applicants for a job is to advertise where job-seekers may be looking. This could include the internet, newspapers, notice boards, Centrelink, colleges and professional journals.

There are two approaches to advertising.  If you are sure about the type of skills and abilities you expect from the worker, and you are confident that there is a large enough pool of people who will apply for the position, then it makes sense to have an advertisement which is quite specific, and which encourages only those people who clearly meet the criteria to apply. This cuts down on the work involved for your organisation in processing applications and limits the number of unsuccessful candidates.

However, if you are not sure about what type of person you want to fill the position, or if you doubt that there will be many people to choose between, then it can be of value to write the advertisement in very general terms. This will increase the pool of people available for you to choose from.

All advertisements should include:

  • Contact numbers for further information and/or job description
  • The job title
  • The name of your organisation and a brief description of the services it offers
  • A description of the position
  • The qualities essential and desirable in the applicant
  • The required hours of work: full time, part time or casual
  • The closing date
  • An address for written applications

Don't forget that ‘word of mouth’ is often effective, but selection of the successful applicant should always be based on merit. A selection process based purely on recommendations from ‘a friend on the committee’ or ’old school mates’ are not a fair way of selecting people and may reflect adversely on the organization.


After receiving all the applications, a list needs to be developed of those applicants who will be interviewed. This list of people to be interviewed is often called a shortlist. It is important to decide who will be involved in this short listing process. The management committee, sub-committees and external representatives such as representatives from a funding body, clients and staff could be involved as they all have to work with the new person and have different understandings of the job requirements.

Shortlisting helps eliminate bias in a structured way. One approach to shortlisting is set out below:

  • Rate each of the selection criteria on a scale of 1-5, based on how important each of these is to the overall job, e.g. if you have five different selection criteria, you may rate one as essential (rating 5); three as almost essential (rating 4); and the other as comparatively least important (rating 2).
  • Award a score on how well the application meets each of the selection criteria - if an application is good on a rating 2 point, but poor on a more important rating 5 point, that application would be rejected; while an application that is strong on a rating 5 point and poor on a rating 2 may be retained.
  • Numerically rate all applications by multiplying the rating value (1-5) by a score of (1-10), based on the quality of response to the criterion, e.g. if selection criterion A was rated as level 3 importance and the applicant provided a very good response which you rated as a score of 9, the overall score would be 9 x 3 = 27 (and so on for each criterion).
  • Copy the applications and provide them to all the people involved in shortlisting - give people time to read the applications properly, preferably working independently rather than as a group.
  • Combine the scores of each of the members of the selection panel and ask the top four or so applicants to come for a personal interview.

There could be several reasons for large differences between the scores which members of the selection panel have given for an applicant's selection criteria. It may be that one panel member has misinterpreted what he or she has read, or that different panel members place different levels of significance on the information in the application. It is important to discuss an application in more detail; numerical ratings should act as a guide only. The final decision on who to interview needs to be made on a full appreciation of the application.

Interview Preparation

There should be enough people on the interview panel to make an appropriate and fair selection. However, if the panel is too large, this may be intimidating for applicants.

The interview panel will ideally include:

  • Representatives from management and staff
  • A mix of sexes, ages or cultural backgrounds, if appropriate

In some cases you may consider involving a person from outside your organisation on the interview panel. Interviewing requires panel members to have a knowledge of your organisation's role and an understanding of the duties of the job. To assist them with this, provide each interviewer with a copy of the job description, a copy of each application and details of employment conditions such as wages and hours. The panel should develop questions which relate to the job description and the qualities you are seeking.

Plan the interviews to allow approximately 30-40 minutes for each interview with a break of 10-15 minutes between each applicant. Decide who will meet the applicants and introduce the panel, and who will ask what questions.

A similar format to that described previously for the shortlisting process may be used to score the performance of candidates at the completion of interviews.


To be fair in your interviews, plan the process well and apply a standard format to each individual applicant.  Points worth considering in conducting interviews include:

  • Ensuring that the space you intend to use is quiet, private, well lit and well ventilated.
  • Checking the seating arrangements to ensure everyone can see each other and is comfortable - sometimes a desk intimidates people and it may be preferable to use a coffee table with comfortable chairs.
  • A panel member welcoming each applicant, introducing the panel members and making a short standard statement about the intended format of the interview.
  • Being sensitive to the applicants' needs - have a glass of water available, take time to speak clearly and allow applicants time to answer your questions fully.
  • Asking your prepared questions in the same way for each applicant allows you to judge the responses more fairly. If English is not the first language of the applicant, be careful to explain questions when necessary. Similarly be prepared to use other types of communication for people with auditory disabilities.
  • Ask open ended questions - those that start with “what”, “how”, or “why”, usually allow applicants the best chance to tell you about themselves and their experiences.
  • Allow the applicant to ask questions.

It is important that your behaviour as an interviewer is fair and non-discriminatory. Use language which is non-sexist. Avoid comments or questions which are not relevant to the duties described in the job description and be wary of assumptions or stereotypes commonly held about particular groups.  In addition don't assume that a lack of facilities, such as proper access, means that you can't employ people with disabilities. There may be short-term creative solutions to such issues, while longer term renovation options are considered. These matters should be considered in appropriate circumstances.

Failure to conduct any part of your employment process in a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory way may leave your organisation open to appeals, grievances or discrimination claims.


The final selection decision is based on a consideration of all available information about each interviewee in terms of the selection criteria. This information includes the written notes and scores of the panel, the application of each candidate and contact with referees.

Sometimes a second interview is necessary to finalise the selection decision.  Once a decision has been reached, but before contacting the unsuccessful applicants, check that the successful applicant is still interested in your position, is content with the salary and other employment conditions and can give you a firm starting date. When the position has been verbally accepted, a letter of appointment or offer should be written to the successful applicant. This letter should include details of the position, starting date, wages, conditions, and a contract if appropriate. The successful applicant should be asked to sign the original and a duplicate and return the original to the organisation.

It is good practice to write to all unsuccessful applicants, thanking them for their application.

Most employers are now National System Employers and fall within the operation of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act). The Act requires you to provide all new employees with a Fair Work Information Statement either before, or soon after, they start employment. 

The statement contains information about:

  • the National Employment Standards;
  • the effect on an employee's NES entitlements when there is a transfer of business;
  • modern awards;
  • agreement making under the Fair Work Act 2009;
  • individual flexibility arrangements;
  • the right to freedom of association;
  • termination of employment;
  • right of entry; and
  • the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia.

This statement can be accessed via www.fairwork.gov.au.  Penalties may apply if you fail to provide this statement.

New workers often need time and assistance to adapt to their new position. They need to understand policies, management structure, how decisions are made, the background and history of the organisation, how funding works, and so on. It is a good idea to prepare a package of this information, and any other useful documents, to give to the new worker.

Make sure you show the newcomer how things are done, including the simple things that may be taken for granted, such as how the answering machine works and where coffee mugs are kept. Someone should be available to answer questions - it can be a good idea to assign a `buddy' to the new worker for this purpose.

If more than one employee is starting, organise a special program of training.  This could also be attended by new members of the management committee or volunteers, particularly if the training deals with the history, funding and policies of the organisation.

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