Selection Criteria – Desirable or Not?

Every now and then, I come across a public sector client who wants to supplement their Essential criteria with a couple of Desirable ones. They put forward that if you include some of the nice-to-haves you might just get lucky and find someone with them. Plus, you’ll get to the end of the selection process, there’ll be two or three candidates that are good, and you’ll be able to pick the one that offers the most of the extras. Bonus!

Good sensible thinking?

Perhaps if you’re in the private sector that will work… Just between you and me – private sector don’t always even write down the essential criteria and have been known to create a job on the fly when they’ve chanced on a good operator.

However, this isn’t valid thinking in the public sector.

The public sector selection process is strictly focused on specifying the essential criteria needed to perform the job and then finding the best person who fits them using a process that’s impartial and free from bias. So these same criteria get used for:

  • potential applicants to address in their application
  • scoring those applications for shortlisting
  • as the basis of interview questions and ultimately
  • any referee checks

Your final decision on who will be the recommended applicant must be based on all parts of the selection process and the candidate’s ability to show they have the strongest range of knowledge, skills and experience relative to the essential selection criteria.

So let’s say you decide to use desirable criteria: you’ve got two candidates who have been rated equally in all stages of a selection process against the essential criteria, but one of them has some additional skills in the areas listed as desirable in the job description. You want the one with the bonus skills.

The Public Sector Commission is clear – you can’t make your decision on this: both candidates would still have an equal claim to the advertised position.  As the desirable attributes are not essential to the role they cannot be used to give one candidate the advantage over the other who does not have them.
So there’s no point including criteria you can’t use and you’re probably best not knowing about those nice-to-haves.

More importantly, including criteria you don’t really need and can’t use may drive away good candidates who might reason that they won’t be able to compete without those desirable skills or knowledge. You may also potentially open yourself up to a breach claim if unsuccessful candidates think you considered desirable criteria.

You’re far more likely to achieve a successful a outcome by concentrating on getting your essential criteria right for the job. If you have a deadlock situation, you design an additional step in the process to further test the candidates’ abilities and knowledge against these criteria.

Save your desirable criteria for RSVP…

If you found this topic interesting, you may like to consider attending our upcoming selection panel training course.