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Introduction & Overview

This is the first edition of the Public Appointments Service Recruitment and Selection Toolkit. It has been designed to assist HR personnel and line managers across the Civil and Public Service(s) in recruiting and promoting the best people to serve the current and future needs of their respective Departments / Offices. It provides practical advice on implementing transparent and effective merit based selection systems and includes guidance on interviewing.

This Toolkit has been developed in association with the Personnel Officers Network and with the help of experienced and highly skilled people throughout the public service. It brings together tried and tested public service recruitment values and best practices.

It is, above all, highly practical and provides:

  • advice on how to develop thorough job descriptions and person specifications;
  • guidelines on organising and conducting shortlisting and interviewing processes;
  • cross-checks with the Commission for Public Service Appointments (CPSA) Codes of Practice on each of the key activity areas in recruitment and selection;
  • advice on good practice in documenting different aspects of the process;
  • a range of case studies and examples;
  • advice on equality and diversity friendly initiatives and actions.

Recruitment and selection are essentially concerned with finding, assessing and engaging new employees or promoting existing ones. As such, its focus is on matching the capabilities and interests of prospective candidates with the demands and rewards of a given job. Recruitment and selection decisions are amongst the most important of all decisions that managers have to make because they are a prerequisite to the development of an effective workforce.

It should be noted that recruitment is only one aspect of human resource management. It needs to be underpinned by a clear linking of the objectives and strategy of the organisation to the jobs people are asked to do.  It should be supported by properly evaluated HRM systems, such as resource management, training and development programmes, career progression, performance management, health and safety and welfare issues.

Figure 1.1 - The recruitment Process

Principles of Public Service recruitment and selection

The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 provides a modern and efficient framework for public service recruitment which allows for greater flexibility in meeting changing business needs while maintaining the traditionally high standards of probity and integrity in public service appointments.

The CPSA has published a number of Codes of Practice (available on ) which set out the principles to be observed in respect of recruitment and selection procedures and practices in relation to the appointments covered by the Act. The principles are:

  • Probity
  • Appointments made on merit
  • An appointments process in line with best practice
  • A fair appointments process applied with consistency
  • Appointments made in an open, accountable and transparent manner

Summary descriptions of each of these principles are contained on page 13

The CPSA accepts that recruitment practices need to evolve in order to keep abreast of good practice in every sense and does not wish to limit such scope by prescribing a fixed process for recruitment. The Code has been developed, therefore, to take account of a changing work and social environment, the different business demands that this has placed on the Civil Service and the consequent need for flexibility in recruitment practices. As such the dynamic nature of recruitment systems is acknowledged and encouraged.

This Recruitment and Selection Toolkit is designed to help HR personnel in putting recruitment, selection and internal promotion systems in place that are consistent with those principles. To this end, each section of this Guide concludes with a cross check with the CPSA Code of Practice for the relevant stage of the recruitment process.

The following chart provides an overview of the process required for good practice in recruitment and selection:

The following is an overview of the key areas covered in each section of this toolkit:

Section 2: Defining requirements

Section 2 provides advice on how to analyse jobs and prepare good job descriptions and person specifications.  It also deals with some of the more common pitfalls in relation to discrimination and how to avoid them.

The section emphasises the importance of focusing on the purpose of the job, its main accountabilities and the essential skills needed to perform it effectively.

Accurate job descriptions and person specifications:

  • provide the relevant criteria against which candidates can be measured throughout the selection process and which can be justified in accordance with relevant legislation;
  • provide valuable information to ensure that selection techniques and tools are customised to reflect the requirements of the job;
  • generate good quality information which will help assessors to make better decisions.

Section 3: Selection options

Section 3 gives an overview of selection methods, including their appropriate uses and advantages and explores some of the issues which should be considered when using different approaches.

The selection process should be designed to assess the skills and criteria determined in the job description and person specification.  Deciding which methods are most appropriate for a given situation often involves finding the right balance between the ideal approach and the money and time available.

There are many different selection situations, from internal promotions to selecting candidates from the open market. In all cases the objective is to choose a high quality selection procedure based on the skills/competencies relevant to the job. This section outlines some of the most commonly used selection techniques, including:

  • Application forms & Curriculum Vitae
  • Psychometric tests and work sample tests
  • Interviews
  • Personality questionnaires
  • Assessment centres

A number of case studies are presented which demonstrate how different selection options can be deployed in different circumstances.

Section 4: Attracting the right applicants

Section 4 emphasises the importance of clearly describing the job and presenting a positive image of both the position to be filled and the organisation.  It gives practical advice on how to ensure that the advertisement catches the eye of suitable candidates.  It emphasises the importance of presenting useful information that will help them in making the decision to apply.

Whether the process is advertised internally or externally, the aim at this stage is to attract high quality and suitable applicants to increase the chances of ultimately finding the right person for the job.

This section concludes with some practical advice on how to ensure that advertisements are equality and diversity friendly and looks at the issues HR practitioners need to be aware of in relation to recruitment advertising and the Official Languages Act 2003.

Section 5: Applications & shortlisting

Section 5 deals with developing or designing an application form which will elicit sufficient information to inform the selection process.  It considers the relative merits of different types of application forms.

The section gives advice on how to shortlist candidates on the basis of their applications.

The decisions made at short-listing are crucial as they eliminate some candidates from the selection process. Short-listing should be done in a careful and systematic manner by considering each application and evaluating it against relevant criteria. The importance of good process and practical guidelines on how the selection board can justify the decisions taken are covered in this section.

Section 6: The Interview

Section 6 deals with the interview, which is usually the last major step in the selection process.  It focuses on two main areas: the features of effective interviews and the management of the interview process.

This section deals comprehensively with the characteristics of structured and competency based interviews and presents key principles for effective interviewing.

The section also deals with managing the logistics of the interview process, the roles of interviewers and the qualities associated with effective interviewers.  It covers a number of other important elements of preparing and managing the interview process.

It concludes with useful advice and guidelines for facilitating candidates with disabilities and dealing with multiple interview boards.

Section 7: References, medicals and other checks

Section 7 deals with a number of different types of candidate checks. These may include a medical/health check to ensure that the prospective employee is capable of doing the job in the foreseeable future, a character check and assessment of their eligibility to work in this State.

Although a candidate¬ís skills may have been objectively tested through a range of assessment methods, the accuracy of some of the information supplied by the candidate must be independently verified. This section includes details on these checks and concludes with information on Certificates of Appointment.


The appendices include many useful tools that are clearly referenced from the relevant areas throughout the Toolkit.

References and Links

This guide concludes with a list of useful references and links.

Commission for Public Service Appointments
Code of Practice: Principles of Good Recruitment & Selection


A key objective of the Commission is to ensure acceptable standards of probity in all recruitment and selection processes. The principles established by the Commission in this Code of Practice are underpinned by the core values that define probity such as integrity, impartiality, fairness, reliability and ethical conduct. The Commission is concerned to nurture a values-based culture of trust, fairness, transparency and respect for all, and to ensure that probity standards are subject to consistent, rigorous standards and oversight through its audit function. Licence holders must be committed to these values and must ensure that all aspects of the recruitment process are effective, efficient and ethical.

Appointments made on merit

Appointment on merit means the appointment of the best person for any given post through a transparent competitive recruitment process where the criteria for judging suitability of candidates can be related directly to the qualifications, attributes and skills required to undertake the duties and responsibilities to the required standard. It is a fundamentally fair and just approach to dealing with individual applicants resulting in the selection of individuals whose competencies, abilities, experience and qualities best match the need of the organisation in question.  Merit is therefore an integral principle which must underpin all recruitment policies and practices.

Throughout any merit-based process, it is essential to ensure that the selection process should not provide unjustifiable advantage or disadvantage to any particular group of candidates.  The selection process should embrace issues of inclusiveness, diversity, and genuine equality of opportunity, and these issues should be integral to the processes by which appointments are made.

An appointments process in line with best practice

All recruitment processes and practices should be efficient, cost effective and in line with best practice.  Best practice extends to all aspects of the recruitment process including defining job and person specifications, advertising the vacancy and selecting appropriate assessment mechanisms. It also includes the supporting management arrangements and training provided.

A fair appointments process applied with consistency

The Commission wholly opposes any form of direct or indirect discrimination, whether active or passive.  The selection process adopted and the manner in which it is applied must be undertaken fairly and with real commitment to equality of opportunity.  Licence holders have an obligation to treat candidates fairly, to a consistent standard and in a consistent manner.

Appointments made in an open, accountable and transparent manner

Transparency in the processes and the openness with which candidates are dealt with by licence holders will enhance candidate confidence. Open and active communication on the process and the basis for assessment should be adopted. There should also be a real commitment to offering meaningful feedback to candidates who seek it.


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