Recommend a preferred applicant

Find out how to recommend a preferred applicant for appointment as part of your recruitment process.

Use a referee check to verify the information the applicant provided during the recruitment process. You can include the referee’s general comments in your selection report.

You can conduct a referee check at any time during the recruitment process for any number of applicants. See Select a recruitment approach (assessments).

You must conduct a referee check for an applicant before you recommend them for appointment or include them on an order of merit.

Number of referees

You may choose to speak with multiple referees. At least 1 referee (unless there are extenuating circumstances) must have thorough knowledge of the applicant’s work behaviour, conduct, and performance during the last 2 years.

You can ask an applicant to provide additional referees if you think they might be better positioned to answer some of your questions or verify your information.

If the applicant is a current or previous government employee, ask them to nominate a referee who can report on their work while in government. Government supervisors and managers must provide an honest account of an applicant’s performance and workplace conduct. See the Recruitment and selection directive.

Speaking to a referee

Use a structured approach rather than a casual conversation. Document the conversation and send it to the referee to verify once complete.

Ask the referee to:

  • describe their experience working with the applicant
  • explain the applicant’s role and their effectiveness in the role
  • describe the applicant’s strengths and areas for development
  • provide behavioural examples of the applicant's effectiveness in the key attributes (selection criteria)
  • confirm any required or specified qualifications and training
  • explain why they think the applicant left or wants to leave.

Use follow-up questions to test and clarify the information.

Negative reports

If you receive negative information about an applicant, consider the source and check its accuracy with other sources.

If you’re not going to proceed because of the negative report, you must tell the applicant and give them a chance to respond before making the final decision.

Your agency’s chief executive determines what employment screening checks you need to complete. See your agency’s intranet or speak to your HR team if you’re not sure.

Adopt a risk management approach. The greater the position of trust the more justified you are screening applicants.

You must tell your applicants what employment screening checks you’ll complete as part of your recruitment and selection process. See the Recruitment and selection directive.

Conduct a criminal history check

You can undertake a criminal history check. This can include information about a person's criminal history in New Zealand.

See the Employment screening directive for minimum requirements.

Speak to your HR team to find out how your agency completes this.

Conduct a serious discipline history check

You can ask an applicant to complete a Declaration of previous serious disciplinary action (DOCX, 153 KB) . This requirement needs to be stated when a vacancy is advertised.

Where an applicant discloses previous serious disciplinary action, you must assess the applicant’s suitability for employment. See the Employment screening directive for more information.

Verify the information with the applicant’s referees or, if the applicant is a government employee, ask their chief executive to provide their disciplinary information.

Negative reports

If you’re not going to proceed with an applicant due to negative information, you must tell the applicant and give them a chance to respond before making the final decision.

The panel (including the chairperson) cannot appoint an applicant. They must recommend a preferred applicant. The delegate to approve considers the preferred applicant and confirms or denies the appointment.

Prepare a selection report

If your agency uses Springboard, complete a selection report online. If your agency doesn’t use Springboard, use our Selection report template (DOCX, 151 KB) .

Your selection report must outline how you determined the preferred applicant as the person best suited to the position. You must provide enough information for your delegate to make an informed decision.

The report must include how panel members selected the eligible person best suited to the position by considering a person’s eligibility and their whole contribution by using a holistic assessment of their suitability. Considerations should include:

  • abilities, aptitude, skills, qualifications, knowledge, experience and personal qualities relevant to carrying out of the duties of the position
  • how the preferred applicant carried out any previous employment and their potential to make a future contribution to the organisation
  • any relevant direction given by your chief executive to reflect the equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations under chapter 2 of the Public Sector Act 2022 (the Act).
  • where relevant, fulfilment of the organisation’s equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations under chapter 2 of the Act. For example, the objectives, strategies and targets stated in the entity’s equity and diversity plan. This may be considered even if the chief executive has not given a relevant direction.

If there are multiple applicants in the process, the panel should actively conduct a comparative assessment to identify other suitable candidates who would be recommended for consideration should the most suitable candidate decline the offer.

What if the panel does not agree?

The panel does not have to agree on a preferred applicant. Document the panel’s differing opinions and their reasons. Each panel member’s assessment holds equal weight. It will be up to the delegate to decide how to proceed.

The delegate to approve must review the selection report and approve, or deny, the appointment of the panel’s recommended applicant.

For senior executives, the Public Sector Commissioner is the delegate to approve. See Manage a senior executive recruitment process.

The delegate must be able to confirm that the preferred applicant is the person best suited to the position.

If the delegate chooses not to approve, they can:

  • direct the panel to complete further selection activities
  • appoint an alternative applicant assessed as suitable
  • instruct the panel to re-advertise or withdraw the vacancy.

The selection panel must notify all applicants of the selection outcome as soon as possible after you’ve concluded the recruitment process.

Applicants may ask for feedback. You must provide this in a timely and constructive manner that explains the panel's decision. See the Recruitment and selection directive.

Provide an overview of the selection strategy, including the:

  • written application
  • shortlisting and an overview of the assessment process
  • performance at the interview and any other assessment techniques
  • referee checks.

Provide specific comments on:

  • the applicant's performance against the selection criteria
  • where the panel perceived the strengths and weaknesses.

Provide the feedback in a friendly, direct and constructive manner. Be descriptive rather than judgmental.


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