How to hire staff in 40 days

The ACT Auditor-General has released a performance report on ACT Public Service Recruitment Practices in four agencies.

The audit covers the period from January 2009 to December 2011. The four agencies reviewed are:

  • Canberra Institute of Technology;
  • Education and Training Directorate;
  • Health Directorate; and
  • Justice and Community Safety Directorate.

The audit reviewed these agencies’ compliance with the Public Sector Management Act 1994, relevant standards, policies and guidelines.

The audit examined:

  • whether ACT Public Service recruitment practices comply with the Public Sector Management Act 1994;
  • whether recruitment practices demonstrate an open and competitive process with selection based on merit;
  • whether the competitive selection process provides for the selection of suitable applicants in a timely manner;
  • the efficiency and effectiveness of higher duties (acting) arrangements; and
  • the engagement of Shared Services Human Resources, within the Treasury Directorate, in providing centralised and consolidated human resource (and recruitment) administrative services to ACT Public Service agencies.

The report found that: ‘ACT Public Service recruitment practices are overall effective and generally comply with key requirements of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. However, there are shortcomings that need to be addressed and improvements need to be made to the efficiency of recruitment practices and the management of higher duties (acting) arrangements.’

One area for improvement is the length of a recruitment action. ACT government agencies take almost 11 weeks to decide who should fill a job vacancy. The government’s target is 40 days.

Dr Cooper found the average time-to-hire – the period between a vacancy being identified to an offer of employment being made – had improved from 62.7 working days in 2010-11 to 54.3 last financial year. This is still well short of the target.

Is it possible to meet this target? Yes, easily, if there is planning and commitment. Here’s how.

Days 1 – 5

  • Once a vacancy has been agreed, devote time to identifying what the role, responsibilities, outcomes, relationships, and key skills, experience, qualifications and qualities are. An informative job description helps applicants decide if they are interested and helps the selection panel to understand what they are recruiting to.
  • Identify what selection methods will be used to gather evidence across the spectrum of skills, experience, qualifications and qualities. Resist assuming an interview and referee report will suffice.
  • Establish an assessment standard for each of the key skills, experience, qualifications and qualities. How will you know if an applicant meets the requirements of the job? If this benchmark is not established there is a risk that each panel member will use their own version of what a suitable applicant is. There is also the risk that any assessment will be more subjective, rather than linked to an agreed, stated standard.
  • Identify a selection panel.
  • Determine where the job will be advertised.
  • Obtain approvals.
  • Schedule the recruitment and selection process, including interviews.

Days 6 – 15

  • Job is advertised.
  • Draft interview questions, work tests.

Days 16 – 20

  • Decide a shortlist.
  • Invite shortlisted applicants to interview.
  • Complete interview questions, work tests.

Days 21 – 25

  • Conduct interviews, work tests, reference checks.
  • Draft selection report.

Days 26 – 30

  • Complete selection report.
  • Selection report approved.

Days 31 –35

  • HR advised of appointment.
  • Offer of job.
  • Unsuccessful applicants advised of result.

Dr Cooper also criticised the lack of training for staff involved in hiring, particularly members of selection committees. Rather than seeing this as desirable, it should be mandatory for at least one person, and preferably the chair, to have been trained not only in the relevant rules (laws, policies and procedures), but also in the fine art of interviewing, in bias awareness and in conducting a selection process that stands up to scrutiny.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.