In debating merit, the APS needs to acknowledge that there is a subjective element to assessing applicants. The subjective element has been called 'the personal fit principle' where selection panels looked at how a person would fit within the organisation.
This is not a new perception. In his introduction to a seminar on merit in 1996, the then Public Service Commissioner (Shergold 1996) stated:
'Too often commitment to merit is seen by selection panels as a clarion call to reproduce their own talents. It is as if merit is to be transmitted by the process of cloning '
However, it is important to acknowledge that in assessing work-related qualities required, agencies can legitimately take into account such considerations as relevant personal qualities (i.e. integrity) and ability to contribute to team performance (i.e. a team player) that are reflected in the selection criteria. It is entirely appropriate, and within the spirit of merit in the APS to determine and select on the basis of what could be called the 'professional' fit as opposed to 'personal' fit.