How we select our people

The aim of the NHMRC’s selection process is to select the best person for the job. We assess the suitability of applicants to perform the duties of the job in accordance with the Employment Principles outlined in Section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999.

Merit based selection

Section 10(2) of the Public Service Act 1999 defines a decision relating to engagement or promotion being merit based if:

  1. all eligible members of the community were given a reasonable opportunity to apply to perform the relevant duties; and
  2. an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates to perform the relevant duties, using a competitive selection process; and
  3. the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates’ work-related qualities and the work related qualities genuinely required to perform the relevant duties; and
  4. the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the relevant duties; and
  5. the assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision.

The selection panel

A selection panel is established to assess the suitability of applicants for the job, and to make a selection recommendation to the delegate. The panel will typically consist of three people, taking into account equity and diversity requirements and appropriate ability to assess candidates against the position. A scribe may also be present to assist in documenting the interview.

The selection panel may consider the following matters when shortlisting your application:

  • current abilities;
  • skills and knowledge;
  • experience;
  • qualifications, training and competence;
  • standard of work performance and a demonstration of capability for potential further development; and
  • personal qualities.

The selection panel may use one or more of these assessment methods:

  • written applications (including selection criteria, expressions of interest and resumes);
  • interviews (either structured or informal);
  • referees reports (see below), either verbal or written (see Referees); and/or
  • work sample testing (such as work simulations and technical aptitude testing).


Your application should include the names and contact details of two referees. Your referees should be able to comment on your skills and abilities in relation to the position, and give examples from their own observations. You should advise your nominated referees that they may be contacted, before submitting your application.

Referees reports may be obtained verbally, or by asking a referee to complete the Referee Report Form (see below). Referee Report Forms should be completed with regard to the

Verbal referee reports may be used to:

  • confirm claims made by the preferred applicant(s) following interview,
  • distinguish between similarly ranked applicant(s) following interview, and
  • clarify claims or issues raised at any stage of the process.

Verbal reports are documented and given back to the referee so that they can confirm that the comments accurately reflect what they said. This ensures transparency and fairness and is in line with Australian Privacy Principles. If a referee report does not support your claims, or requires further substantiation, the selection panel may contact a person not nominated by you as a referee. In accordance with the Privacy Act 1988, a Chairperson will advise you before seeking additional referee comment, and provide you with an opportunity to address any adverse comments that may arise.

If your nominated referee is on the selection panel, that panel member should provide a written referee report before interviews are conducted, and, a second referee should be contacted. Applicants can be asked to nominate additional referees if a panel member does not feel that they can remain impartial having been exposed to information gathered during the selection process.

Selection results

All applicants will be advised of the outcome of the selection process in writing. Applicants who are not shortlisted for further assessment will be notified as soon as practicable and will not have to wait for the selection process to be finalised. If you have been interviewed, you may seek feedback from the Chair of the selection panel after the selection process is finalised.

See Recruitment and Selection Timeframes below.

Our responsibilities

The NHMRC uses a streamlined recruitment and selection process which aims to fill a vacancy in the quickest practical timeframe. We notify all applicants, in writing, of their progress in the selection process. We aim to provide you with at least two days' notice of your selection for interview.

See Recruitment and Selection Timeframes below.

Applicants’ responsibilities

It is recommended that you carefully consider your ability to meet the requirements of the advertised vacancy before preparing an application. If you will be unavailable for interview within the month following the closing date, you should advise the selection panel in your application. It is suggested that you provide alternative contact details to use in the event of your absence. You should also ensure you are able to meet the conditions of engagement outlined in Working at the NHMRC. If you wish to withdraw your application from consideration after the closing date, please advise in writing as soon as possible.

Recruitment and selection timeframes

The NHMRC understands the benefit of a quick recruitment and selection process for all involved. The following table outlines the timeframes NHMRC aims to meet in each recruitment activity. While these times follow a very streamlined approach to filling a vacancy, individual circumstances may cause a variation.

Phase Time from advertising Notes
Applications close Day 14
Shortlisted candidates notified for next assessment (eg interview) Day 20 Unsuccessful applicants notified in writing.
Interviews completed Day 27
Selection panel makes recommendation for delegate Day 29 If approved, successful applicant receives an offer.
Successful applicant commences with NHMRC Day 57 Commencement date is subject to individual circumstances, and may be sooner.