Selection procedure

It is recommended that a multi-step selection procedure is adopted consisting of:

  • Short-listing of about six candidates by assessing all applications received
  • Obtaining references for short-listed candidates
  • Giving short-listed candidates an individual tour of the department
  • Each short-listed candidate giving a short presentation to the selection panel which leads into an interview (higher grade posts) or
  • Each short-listed candidate carrying out an "In-tray" test which leads into an interview (lower grade posts)
  • Second interview for the best two or three candidates (higher grade posts only)


To guard against bias, short-listing should be carried out by more than one person. Ideally the shortlist of candidates to be interviewed should be selected by the whole panel but if this is not feasible it could be delegated to designated members of the panel subject to report to the others. It is crucial that the short-listing is carried out on the basis of the selection criteria and all panellists must be thoroughly familiar with these criteria. If necessary, panel members should be briefed on the criteria by the chairman of the selection panel. This will also guard against potential bias or lack of impartiality, for instance where an applicant is known to one or more members of the panel.

Records must be kept of the short-listing process, including an indication of the reasons for selection or rejection in each case. The reasons should relate strictly to the agreed selection criteria and no other comments should be noted down. Such records are potentially disclosable to applicants on request and may be required by an employment tribunal in the case of a complaint of unlawful discrimination. A tabular format may prove the most efficient method of recording.

Applicants who are not short-listed should be notified of the decision and the short-listed candidates invited to interview. In setting the interview date sufficient time should be allowed for the receipt of references and for candidates to make arrangements to attend.

See the main pages for further advice on short-listing, recording and all other aspects of the selection process.

References for short-listed candidates

To maximise the information available to the selection panel references should be sought prior to the interview stage but any caveats placed by the candidates with regard to contacting referees must be respected. Information should be sought from referees in writing, asking specific questions relating to the selection criteria. Including in the reference request letter specific questions on a candidate's disciplinary record, absence rates and salary on leaving should also be considered.

Tour of the department

Inevitably questions will arise about various specific aspects of the department during the selection interview so it is important that all candidates have some familiarity with the department before being interviewed. This is particularly important when there are internal and external candidates otherwise there is the potential for inequality of treatment. Consequently arrangements should be made for a tour of the department. Normally this should be immediately prior to the selection interview. The tour should be conducted by a senior member of the department but the tour should not form part of the selection process unless candidates are informed that it does.

On the other hand, if the tour will be conducted by someone with whom the person appointed will work closely, e.g. Deputy Administrator, Finance Administrator, etc then consideration should be given to obtaining their opinion of the candidates, particularly with regard to the perceptiveness of their questions and interpersonal skills. If this course is taken all candidates must be advised accordingly prior to the tour. This could be done by including the advice in the letter inviting candidates for interview or orally by the tour host at the beginning of the tour.

Presentations and tests

An interview can be a less than perfect means of assessing a candidate's suitability for the complex role of Administrator, so other selection methods should be considered to supplement the information obtained at interview. It is highly desirable that the candidates be required to demonstrate their ability to deal with a complex problem and communicate the outcome confidently and succinctly. By including a presentation in the selection process the panel would see an example of the individual's skills of written and oral presentation, analysis and reasoning, as well as gaining some evidence of their professional knowledge and of their attitudes.

This could all be achieved by asking the short-listed candidates, when invited to interview, to carry out an assessment of the current state of the department using publicly available sources, and to indicate in the letter that they will be required to give to the selection panel a short (10 to 15 minute) presentation of their assessment and suggestions on how the department might develop in future. Alternatively the candidates could be provided with the background to a specific problem and be asked to present their solution. In the latter instance care will be needed to ensure that all candidates receive exactly the same information.

To aid the selection of lower grade Administrators a less involved test should be considered. One such test could be an "in-tray" containing various documents covering a number of facets of departmental administration with varying degrees of urgency and conflicting priorities. Candidates would be required to determine the order in which they would deal with each of the documents and explain to the selection panel the reasons underlying the order they have chosen. The questioning following either this explanation of priorities or the presentation suggested for higher grade posts would lead on naturally to the selection interview itself.

The following suggested candidate instructions and a selection of supporting documents are available on request from Kate Butler, Departmental Administration Project Officer, Tel: 01865 (2)89925

  • Suggested ‘In-tray’ selection test
  • Suggested selection scenarios

Selection interviews

The interviews should contain an introductory phase when the candidate is welcomed and introduced; the ice is broken; the form of the interview explained; basic information is imparted and obtained; and details of curriculum vitae clarified (if necessary). The main working phase will follow during which specific information relating to the candidate's experience, etc., is sought. In the third phase candidates should be able to ask questions; although they should not be put under pressure to do so. The fourth section will be the conclusion. The interview should be brought to a close at the end of the time allowed, and care should be taken to avoid significant discrepancies in the time allowed to different candidates. Not only could this be perceived as being unfair to some candidates, but also the imbalance would make consistent comparisons between candidates difficult. Also candidates should come away from their interview with an understanding as to when they will be notified of its result or what is to happen next.

As the suggested selection panel is relatively large the second, information gathering phase should be structured to allow each panel member the opportunity to question the candidate. This is best achieved by each member of the panel being responsible for eliciting specific information, preferably related to their particular area of expertise. A selection of scenarios covering most aspects of the role and that could form the basis of interview questions is available. Additionally during the concluding phase of the interview candidates should be asked when they would be available to start if they were offered the position.

The following suggested candidate instructions and a selection of supporting documents are available on request from Kate Butler, Departmental Administration Project Officer, Tel: 01865 (2)89925

  • Suggested ‘In-tray’ selection test
  • Suggested selection scenarios

Structuring the interview as suggested above will also ensure that panel members have the opportunity to make notes as the interview progresses. Interview notes, like short-listing notes, should relate strictly to the selection criteria and are potentially disclosable to candidates on request. If a case goes to an employment tribunal, the complainant may request and the tribunal order the 'discovery' of all the notes taken during interviews. The department must therefore retain them in their entirety for a period of six months after which, in accordance with the requirements of the GDPR and related UK data protection legislation, they must be destroyed. A suggested individual interview form reflecting the selection criteria for a higher grade post in Documents.

The selection decision

The assessment of the candidates and final selection should take place as soon as possible following the interviews whilst the impressions gained by the panel members are still fresh. The panel should reach an agreed consensus on each of the selection criteria for each of the candidates and record it on a "Panel" version of the form (see Documents). Based on the criteria the panel should agree on the person to be appointed and preferably also choose a reserve. A copy of the application and references in respect of the selected candidate and any reserve should be sent under a covering letter to the Registrar, via the Director of Human Resources. The covering letter should briefly comment on the following:

  • The overall size and quality of the field of applicants
  • The number and quality of internal applicants
  • The overall quality of the short-listed candidates
  • The reasons for selecting the person offered the post

The department should notify the unsuccessful candidates by letter. The department should hold all applications, interview notes and other recruitment documents for six months and then destroy them in accordance with the requirements of the GDPR and related UK data protection legislation.