Recruitment, including independent selection advisory committees (ISAC)

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Important steps in establishing an ISAC

How to ensure a successful ISAC?

Partnering and preparation is the basis for establishing a successful independent selection advisory committee (ISAC).

A sound understanding of the requirements of the role delivers tailored, quality outcome.

The tried and tested approach to project management is:

Planning: sound needs analysis and planning
Implementation: ongoing project management and reporting throughout the exercise
Delivers: quality, timely selection outcomes. 
                QUALITY IN = QUALITY OUT

When does an ISAC work best?

Independent selection advisory committees (ISACs) can be used for selection processes of any size.

ISACs are especially useful for large or sensitive processes, particularly where good workplace relations are at risk if the process is not seen to be independent and impartial.


Agency focus...ISACs help:
Small agencies and specialised roles with a small pool of candidates
  • Manage perceptions: ISACs ensure process impartiality, integrity and transparency.
  • Provide insider technical knowledge: ISACs allow for different assessment methods for internal and external candidates.
  • Balance business as usual outcomes and expertise: ISACs allow agency staff to focus on core business without loss of APS expertise.
For large bulk rounds, ISACS also…
  • Deal with complexity: ISACs simplify the process when many applicants are competing for roles across locations and skill sets.
  • Provide flexibility: ISACs accommodate a range of selection methods including assessment centres, online screening and traditional interviews.
  • Target groups: ISACs allow for ongoing analysis to test for unconscious bias.

I’d like an example of how an ISAC works

This diagram demonstrates an approach used in a bulk round selection exercise with an APS agency.

an approach used in a bulk round selection exercise with an APS agency

QA = quality assurance

What outcomes can be expected from an ISAC?

There are 2 important outcomes.

The primary outcome is the delivery of high quality, technically competent and role-ready staff in a timely manner.

Secondary outcomes include:

  • an open, transparent process for staff selection
  • a cost-effective approach that allows the database to be re-used in the future and further reduce costs
  • the enhancement of an agency's position as a professional, innovative organisation.

What about costs and the procurement process?

Independent selection advisory committees (ISACs) are provided on a cost-recovered basis.

They result in savings for agencies by ensuring:

  • the selection of quality, role-ready candidates
  • efficient and timely outcomes
  • transparency throughout the process.

Costs for bulk rounds can be further reduced where a data base of questions are either re-used or refreshed for later use.

The opportunity cost for agency staff is an additional benefit. The agency has the benefit of expert APS recruitment and selection services, while agency staff can focus on core business.

Best practice selection training is included for agency staff involved.

As this is a statutory function, procurement arrangements are necessary (exemption 2 from Division 2 of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules).

Agencies can direct source this service from the Merit Protection Commissioner.

Other questions and where can I get more information

What MUST an ISAC do?

An independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) must (Regulation 4.4 and 4.5):

I want more information on ISACs?

Other available information on ISACs include:

For further information about an independent selection advisory committee (ISAC), including questions about running a recruitment exercise as an ISAC, contact the Merit Protection Commissioner Business manager:

Tel: (02) 8239 5317


What is an ISAC and how do they work?

What is an ISAC?

An independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) is an alternative to traditional internal recruitment approaches, which:

  • is an independent 3-person committee established by the Merit Protection Commissioner on a fee-for-service basis (Public Service Regulations, Part 4)
  • conducts APS merit-based staff selection
  • assesses a candidate's suitability for APS 1–6 level vacancies.

An ISAC guarantees promotions are non-reviewable if the ISAC's recommendations are accepted.

Why use an ISAC?

An independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) aligns the business requirements of agencies with a tailored selection exercise. The ISAC then assures and reinforces the integrity of that outcome with staff.

Agencies use ISACs, for a range of benefits, including:

  • having merit-based recruitment solutions that are streamlined, cost-effective and timely
  • maintaining good workplace relations through transparent, independent, impartial selection processes
  • delivering cost-savings for agencies by staff placements not subject to promotion reviews
  • relying on flexible process that accommodates multiple selection methodologies
  • creating merit pools of preferred candidates ranked by relative suitability
  • enabling agencies to make staff placements for similar job vacancies over a 12 month period
  • gaining expert knowledge in best practice staff selection.

What are the benefits to an applicant?

The Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner undertakes the recruitment and selection process.

The Committee:

  • applies Commissioner's standards on good practice selection processes
  • understands and signs declarations of member impartiality
  • has APS recruitment expertise and credibility.

This means, the applicant can be confident:

  • about the process and outcome
  • that merit has been applied.

The Merit Protection Commissioner establishes the Committee. If the agency accepts the recommendations, there is no right to review of a promotion decision.

If the agency does not accept a recommendation or departs from it, any subsequent promotions are open to review.

Who are the ISAC members?

There are 3 members (Regulation 4.3):

  • a convenor nominated by the Merit Protection Commissioner
  • the requesting agency's nominee
  • an APS employee approved by the Merit Protection Commissioner.

How is an ISAC independent?

The independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) works in partnership with the agency.

However, the committee operates under the powers of the Merit Protection Commissioner (Regulation 4.2), not the agency.

Each member:

  • signs a declaration of impartiality
  • determines candidate assessment processes and evidence
  • forms an independent judgement about candidates and cannot be directed.

The convenor has had special training in merit-based staff selection. The other 2 members also receive best-practice selection training.

What does an ISAC do?

The independent selection advisory committee's (ISAC) main roles are to:

  • establish, in consultation with the agency, the best selection methodology to assess candidates
  • conduct a staff selection exercise by, for example:
    • assessing candidates
    • preparing reports
    • making recommendations to the agency on the relative suitability of candidates
  • assess the claims of all job candidates—both internal and external to the APS.

The ISAC considers the skills and attributes of candidates relative to the skills and attributes required to successfully perform the duties of the job vacancy.

Are outcomes binding on an agency?

Independent selection advisory committee (ISAC) recommendations may result in the:

  • promotion or movement of candidates within the APS or
  • engagement of candidates from outside the APS.

The ISAC recommendations are not binding on agencies. If the recommendations are not accepted, subsequent promotion decisions are generally subject to promotion review (Regulation 5.2).

The agency head may write to the Merit Protection Commissioner where a breach of the Code of Conduct has been proven or an essential qualification has been lost and a candidate is no longer considered suitable for promotion.

Where this occurs after recommendations are made, the Merit Protection Commissioner considers their impact on a recommendation. The agency head may then move to the next suitable candidate and will still be following the recommendations of the ISAC. Therefore the subsequent promotions are not subject to promotion review.