Short-list the applicants

The merit principle states selections must be based on merit alone. Selecting an applicant from a list of candidates who have responded to a job advertisement does not constitute a merit process.

While the selected applicant needs to meet all the essential capabilities (including any mandatory qualifications), in general this will be all short-listed applicants. The test then becomes who is the most suitable, having regard to the broad range of merit components:

Merit criteria includes the extent to which the person has:

  • abilities
  • aptitude
  • skills
  • qualifications
  • knowledge
  • experience
  • personal qualities relevant to the role

And, if relevant:

  • the way any previous employment or duties were carried out, and
  • potential for development

Recognising unconscious bias in the selection process.

Selection principles

These selection principles will help make good predictions about the successful applicant:

  • validity—the assessment approach must measure what it proposes to measure
  • reliability—the degree of dependability, consistency or stability of the assessment approach
  • utility—the cost of the assessment approach provides the appropriate level of benefit
  • fairness—maintaining a focus on removing bias from the process. Fairer results are achieved when the role description clearly specifies the link between characteristics of the job requirements and how candidates will be assessed.

Assessing merit

The panel should determine selection techniques relevant to the role that enable them to assess the overall merit of applicants and avoid limiting their assessment to one component of merit or one aspect of the process.

The panel needs to decide how they will evaluate applicants in relation to the key capabilities (selection criteria), to assess a candidate's merit.

Referee reports are not to be weighted or rated.


Weightings reflect relative importance of key attributes. They are decided by the panel before shortlisting, and not modified once the process commenced. In the interests of a transparent process, shortlisted applicants are to be informed of the selection panel's priorities.


Rating scales (quantitative or qualitative) have traditionally been used to assess applicants' performance against key capabilities. Rating scales are not required, however if used, the rating scale is to be consistent throughout the selection process.

The Queensland public service is moving away from using quantitative scoring, to minimise the application of a formula or a formulaic approach to selection outcomes. Where rating scales are used, panels need to articulate why a particular rating was given, referencing the information / evidence gathered throughout the selection process and reflect this in the selection report.


The selection panel will need to determine what information or demonstrated behaviours they seek from applicants (sometimes referred to as a benchmark) to differentiate candidates.

Benchmarks describe the level of competency required. They are:

  • finalised before shortlisting
  • developed by all panel members so they understand the assessment process
  • developed for each key capability and assessed separately
  • not to be used to eliminate candidates because they didn't use 'key words or statements'.

Short-listing matrix

Use the short-listing matrix to describe how the panel determined which applicants should proceed to the next assessment step. A separate matrix should be prepared for each short-listing strategy used.

Download the short-listing matrix template (DOCX, 459 KB)