Shortlist applicants

Under section 45 of the Public Sector Act 2022 (the Act) recruitment panels must select the eligible person best suited to the position.

Hiring managers and panel members should use the following steps to ensure they apply shortlisting practices to meet obligations under the Act.

Shortlisting is not always required for a recruitment and selection process. For example, shortlisting is not required if:

  • there is a small applicant pool and the panel decides to interview all applicants
  • there are not enough quality applicants in the pool and the panel decides not to shortlist anyone and readvertise, or not fill the vacancy.

Targeted recruitment or recruitment for an identified role

If you’re undertaking targeted recruitment or recruitment for an identified role, shortlist any applicants identifying within this group that meet the role criteria.

Panel members should work together to determine how they’ll shortlist and conduct the broader recruitment and selection process.


  • a plan of what a person best suited to the position looks like
  • a variety of assessment types (relevant to the role as part of your selection process) that will be used to help you shortlist applicants fairly and equitably. For example, as well as information directly addressing the selection criteria, you can consider cover letters, resumes and any other supporting information submitted. At the discretion of the panel, referee reports can also be undertaken as part of the shortlisting process
  • how the shortlisting process will be accessible, inclusive and culturally safe (as relevant to each circumstance and organisational context)
  • how you will provide for fairness in the selection process so that all applicants have the opportunity to show their eligibility and suitability for a role. For example, if the panel needs to seek any other information from any or all of the applicants that would give them the opportunity to show how they fit with the role, and demonstrate that they are the person best suited to the position
  • how you will remove unconscious bias from your shortlisting
  • how you will clearly document why a person is assessed as being suitable to move onto the next step in the recruitment and selection process.

Involve all panel members

All panel members should be involved in shortlisting, wherever possible. Where a panel member has not been part of the shortlisting process, this should be noted in the recruitment and selection process records.

For identified or targeted roles, First Nations panel members should be involved in the shortlisting process to help avoid errors in decision making processes and to ensure a cultural lens is applied.

Document your agreed process

Use the Shortlisting matrix template (DOCX, 282.4 KB) to help document each shortlisting strategy you use and your assessment of each applicant against that strategy.

Ensure you and your panel members are aware of your unconscious biases. We all have them.

Unconscious bias is positive or negative judgment of, or behaviour towards, others that we’re not aware of. We develop our unconscious bias through the environment we grow up in and live in, and our experiences. It’s a product of our need to organise our social world into categories.

Complete the Harvard implicit association test. Get your panel members to complete it too. Being aware of your unconscious biases will help you and your panel members watch and adjust for it during the selection process.

Use these considerations to help you avoid unconscious bias in shortlisting:

  • shortlist applicants according to the requirements of the job. Do not allow personal bias, myths or stereotypes to influence your decision
  • make sure you are consistent with your decision-making and clearly document your reasons for making decisions to help you to provide feedback to applicants later
  • consider and make reasonable adjustments for inclusion and diversity, including cultural matters, to ensure applicants are assessed equally. A process does not need to be identical for every applicant. Rather, it must promote equity so that each applicant can take part in a way that is inclusive, flexible, unbiased, culturally safe, and accessible.
  • use blind shortlisting
  • track the number and ratio of diverse applicants through your shortlisting process. Identify any significant shifts and address any underlying causes. For example, if 50% of your applicants are female, but only 10% of the applicants you have shortlisted to interview are female, you should review and adjust your shortlisting.

See the Australian Human Rights Commission’s publication—A step-by-step guide to preventing discrimination in recruitment—for helpful information about how to recruit in different ways.

You must put the public interest first during your recruitment process by selecting the eligible person best suited to the position, in a fair and unbiased way.

A conflict of interest is when your private interests interfere, or appear to interfere, with the performance of official duties. Private interests include personal, professional or business interests, as well as the interests of individuals that you associate with, such as family, dependants and friends.

Use the Identify conflicts of interest in recruitment and selection tool to determine if any actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest exist for you or your panel members.

Complete the Mandatory conflict of interest in recruitment and selection declaration form (PDF, 1.3 MB) to declare any actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest, or confirm that no conflict of interest exists.

If a conflict of interest exists, assess the conflict, and determine if you can appropriately manage it during the recruitment process. If you cannot, the panel member will have to remove themselves.

If you manage a conflict of interest during the recruitment process, your delegate will need to confirm with a senior delegate that the conflict is resolved in the public interest before they approve your appointment.

Prior knowledge of an applicant

If you have prior knowledge of an applicant, you must disclose the relationship and declare if it is a professional relationship, personal relationship, or both.

You must discuss all panel members’ prior knowledge of applicants during the merit assessment, ensuring you remain objective throughout the process.

If prior knowledge of a applicants will stop you from shortlisting them or appointing them to the role, you should advise them and give them an opportunity to respond.

You must provide details of prior knowledge and conflict of interest decisions in the selection report.

Recruitment agency conflict of interest

If you’re using a recruitment agency, they may have a conflict of interest if they provide services to any applicants you’re considering. For example, they may provide executive coaching services for some applicants. This is a conflict of interest.

Recruitment agencies must declare any conflicts of interest, or that there are no conflicts of interest, for each recruitment process.

If your agency uses Queensland Shared Services (QSS) to advertise your vacancies and manage your job applications, see Manage job applications (Springboard). Find out how to shortlist applications with your panel online and workflow applicants through the selection process.

If your agency doesn’t use QSS to advertise your vacancies, see your intranet or speak to your HR team for help.

Panel members must actively select the most suitable candidate for the position by considering both the individual's eligibility and their overall contributions. A holistic assessment of their suitability should be conducted, rather than relying solely on merit. The Recruitment and Selection Directive outlines specific attributes that the panel may take into account, particularly during the shortlisting process.

Consider applicant eligibility

Panel members must ensure applicants are eligible for the role and that they meet:

  • citizenship or residency requirements under section 47 of the Act, to ensure that they are either an Australian citizen, or reside in Australia and have permission, under a law of the Commonwealth, to work in Australia. This information is available in Springboard under the ‘work status’ question, and the panel may also confirm this information directly with the applicant
  • meet any mandatory conditions or qualifications of the position
  • for identified roles, the mandatory attribute/s applicants must possess for the role, and any required evidence of the attribute/s.

Conduct a holistic assessment

Panel members must conduct a holistic assessment of applicants to decide who is best suited to the role by considering:

  • if the applicant has the ability to perform the requirements of the role, including the extent to which the person has the abilities, aptitude, skills, qualifications, knowledge, experience and personal qualities relevant to the carrying out of the duties of the position
  • compliance with any relevant direction given by your chief executive to reflect the equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations found in chapter 2 of the Act. This direction may be given based on a relevant policy, an equity and diversity plan or audit (where relevant), the specific requirements of a vacant position, or any other basis the chief executive considers relevant having regard to the purpose in chapter 2 of the Act
  • how the applicant carried out any previous employment
  • the applicant’s potential to make a future contribution to the organisation (including the extent to which the person has potential for development)
  • where relevant, the extent to which the proposed decision would contribute to 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. These criteria may be considered even if the chief executive has not given a relevant direction.