Selecting and appointing

Information about choosing the best applicant for the job and what to do once you’ve decided.

Making the decision and choosing the best applicant for the job means comparing each applicant to the job requirements (including any personal attributes needed).

You can do this in two stages, ask yourself:

  1. Which of the applicants could do the job?
  2. Of these, which applicant is the closest match for the job requirements?

Using a rating system

One method to use is to weight and rate the most important components of the job requirements and then rate the applicants against these. If you don’t have a job description, you can still list the most important tasks, skills and characteristics for the job and rate the applicants against them to guide your thoughts.

Be careful that any rating system you use is fair. Don’t rate applicants against components that amount to unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993. Visit the Human Rights Commission website (external link) for more information.

Your ratings can also be used to identify matters to check with referees. Test that the referee has a similar feeling for the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, and probe more deeply in areas where you’re uncertain.

When you are making a selection decision, remember that your process and supporting information may be examined if your decision is challenged by, for example, an unsuccessful applicant on the grounds of discrimination.

Public sector internal applicants may have a general right to challenge appointments.

When to make the decision

Don’t make a snap decision and offer an applicant the job during the interview or before you have interviewed all of the shortlisted applicants. Taking time to compare applicants and checking with referees before making final decisions will lead to better decisions.

If you are using psychometric testing or assessment centres, make sure you use the information you have from this in your decision, you may want to discuss any contradictions with the person who conducted the testing. If you’re concerned or unclear about anything, you can clarify matters with the applicant at any time prior to offering the job.

If there are no suitable applicants

You don’t have to make a job offer to anyone if the applicants aren’t at the right standard, or if circumstances change during the process and you no longer need a new employee. You should advise all applicants of this.

If you decide that you still need the job filled, but you can’t find the skills you need in New Zealand you may be able to hire someone from overseas.

Immigration New Zealand’s website (external link) can help you with hiring someone from overseas.

Reference checks

You should always do at least one reference check before offering a person a job. These checks can be used to test your assessment of the person (especially if you have a particular concern) and you can get valuable information about:

  • what their skill level is
  • any concerns the referee has about the person
  • how to best manage the person
  • what areas of development they have
  • how they will fit with your team.

Referees are usually contacted:

  • when the decision has come down to between two people, or
  • when a preferred applicant has been chosen but before any offer is made.

In addition, referees may be contacted

  • rarely, when considering internal applicants; at the interview stage you might contact internal referees for internal references.

Reference checks should be done consistently for all applicants being checked. The following can help avoid common mistakes:

  • You should specifically get the applicant’s agreement, preferably in writing, to you contacting referees or other sources, and what you will use the information for. An easy way to do this is to include it in an application form that the applicants fill out and sign.
  • The Privacy Act 1993 means you must make sure that collecting information doesn’t intrude unreasonably on the applicant’s personal affairs.
  • You must take care with any pre-employment health screening, for example, you can’t use this to discriminate against applicants with a disability (where this is not a listed exception in the Human Rights Act 1993). The information you are requiring must be relevant to the proper and safe performance of the job.

When getting a reference, ask yourself what information is important and relevant. Prepare in advance and ask concise, open-ended questions that make the referee use their judgement, rather than say ‘yes’ or ’no’.

If certification or registration is required for the position, consider the procedures and timescales of industry registration bodies.

Consider if this is a job where checking prior criminal convictions or credit history is relevant to the job.

The Privacy Commissioner's Office website (external link) has more information about privacy.

Questions to ask referees

Example questions include the following.

  • Confirm that their start and end dates of employment, job title and general duties match what the person has said on their CV/resume or at the interview.
  • What were the person’s biggest achievements at work?
  • How did the person get on with their workmates, are they a team player?
  • What are the person’s strengths?
  • What did they not do so well?
  • What was their response to positive and negative feedback?
  • How did the person handle conflict/stress/pressure?
  • How much supervision did the person need? What management style did they work under best?
  • Were there any issues or concerns, such as, lateness or absenteeism?
  • If it was you hiring the person now, what would you want to know?
  • Would you hire the person again? If not, why?

Offer of employment

Once you have chosen the person you want to employ, you need to make an offer of employment. See our templates of sample appointment letters.

Psychometric testing and assessment centres

Find out about psychometric testing, which can be used for shortlisted applicants to assess such things as their mental ability and personality.

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