The purpose of a selection process is to choose the applicant who will perform successfully in the advertised position and do so better than all other applicants. In order to reduce the risk associated with appointing an applicant before the person has demonstrated the capacity to do the job, the selection panel can use a range of instruments or selection tools designed to predict successful performance on the job. The selection panel should be able to demonstrate the rationale for the selection tools used to identify and assess the required competencies. A number of selection tools will be available to selection panels.

All principal vacancies must be filled in accordance with the Department’s selection procedures set out in this guide and comply with Ministerial Order 1006. All information provided by applicants or obtained during the selection process is confidential.

Selection for advertised principal positions is determined solely on the basis of merit assessed in relation to the selection criteria of the position to be filled. The following principles should be applied in the selection process:

  • the applicant’s skills, knowledge and abilities, relevant to the work to be performed, are fairly assessed
  • selection methods are relevant to the work to be performed
  • decisions and processes provide procedural fairness
  • decisions are documented and capable of review
  • confidentiality is maintained
  • all applicants receive fair and equitable treatment without regard to age, breastfeeding, employment activity, gender identity, disability, industrial activity, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status or status as a carer, physical features, political belief or activity, pregnancy, race, religious belief or activity, sex, sexual orientation, an expunged homosexual conviction, personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes

Panel members should also be aware it is unlawful to discriminate against an applicant on the ground of a protected attribute, in contravention of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 or federal equal opportunity legislation.

When assessing applicants, selection panel members must ensure that they do not directly or indirectly discriminate. Panel members should be aware of individual bias, assumptions and stereotyping which may impede the selection of the best applicant for the position. Panel members should be aware of the diverse pathways of experience and approaches which different candidates may bring to the interview and to the workplace, including people of different genders and from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This diversity should be viewed as an attribute and should in no way diminish the assessment of the applicant’s suitability for the position.

Panel members should be aware that the Department has a positive duty under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to provide reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate discrimination and a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for people with a disability. Further information is available on the Department’s Disability and Reasonable Adjustment — Employees page.

Panel members should focus on abilities, skills, knowledge, potential and qualifications required for the position and not seniority, length of experience or familiarity with the position. This is important as to focus too much on length and continuity of experience may impact negatively on people who take career breaks for family reasons and on those who have not had an opportunity to ‘act’ in the position.

Receiving and distributing applications

Applications will be accessed by the person in the school with ‘recruiter’ access through Recruitment Online (normally the business manager). Where a person is occupying or acting in the principal position at the school, that person should not access the applications. The applications will be provided to the selection panel chairperson by the ‘recruiter’ after the closing date for the vacancy. The selection panel chairperson is responsible for distributing applications (either electronically or in hard copy) to the members of the selection panel.


Shortlisting may be used to identify those applicants who, on the basis of the information available, best meet the selection criteria based on the leadership domains and show evidence that their qualifications and experience are competitive with other suitable applicants.

Any experience and available evidence relevant to the selection criteria should be taken into account by the panel. Account may also be taken of an applicant’s potential to acquire new skills. Specific job knowledge necessary to carry out the duties of a position can be less important where this knowledge can be acquired in a reasonable time.

Only nominated referees may be contacted at the shortlisting stage of the selection process.

A panel may decide that an applicant does not meet one or more of the selection criteria and not shortlist that person.

A record should be kept as part of the selection panel report of the qualifications of applicants and the reasons, in relation to the selection criteria, for not shortlisting applicants for interview.


The selection panel should develop a set of questions based on the selection criteria and assess, at interview, each shortlisted applicant’s ability to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours that best matches the competencies necessary to perform the role. The panel should develop a consistent and fair scoring mechanism to focus attention on the selection criteria and differentiate between applicants’ responses.

The interview complements the written application and detailed referee checks. The interview assists the panel in the assessment of the relative merits of each shortlisted applicant. The performance of an applicant in an interview should be integrated with information provided in the application, referee reports and any other assessment tools used in the selection process.

Shortlisted applicants should be given adequate notice of interview time and location. Where an applicant is unable to attend for interview, other arrangements such as teleconferencing may be used. If such arrangements are not possible, the panel should judge the applicant on the best available information.

To ensure that all applicants are fairly considered, interviews should have a similar structure with each applicant being given the opportunity to respond to similar areas of questioning. Questions are to relate specifically to the selection criteria in the context of the role to be performed and should not be ambiguous or unnecessarily complicated. Before closing the interview, the selection panel is advised to provide an opportunity for the applicant to seek or give any relevant additional information that may not have been covered.

Referee reports

Referee reports are a critical part of the assessment of the relative merits of shortlisted applicants who are in high contention for the position. Such reports allow for a rigorous checking of claims made by applicants and the gathering of evidence on work performance.

Referees are nominated by the applicants to clarify, verify and add information to what is learned in the interview and from other parts of the selection process. The use of non-nominated referees may assist the process by confirming particular perspectives or providing more balanced information. The main purpose of using referees is to elicit information from past employers or employees about the applicant’s ability to perform the essential functions of the role and to verify an applicant’s claims.

Referees should be invited to comment on the applicant in relation to all of the selection criteria. The selection panel may seek referee reports either verbally (by telephone or teleconferencing) in person or in written form. The selection panel should accurately record both written and verbal referee comments. Where referee comments are provided verbally, the comments should be noted and read back to the referee to confirm the comments.

Where an applicant nominates a panel member as a referee, any referee comments made by that panel member should be documented in the same way as other referee comments.

Selection panels may wish to contact persons other than nominated referees to assist in assessing an applicant's ability, capacity and suitability for a position provided that the applicant is advised of these extended inquiries, prior to a selection panel taking any action to contact a person(s) not nominated as a referee. In such instances the applicant is to be informed at or after interview of the name of any person whom the panel intends to contact and provided with an opportunity to comment. The applicant is advised that in such situations information may be disclosed to unlisted referees relating to the application.

Prior knowledge

Members of the selection panel may know or have knowledge of one or more of the applicants. Rather than only disclosing this knowledge as fact in a statement to the panel, members contribute their perspective in order that the panel develops a richer understanding of a particular applicant’s knowledge, skills and behaviours. Prior knowledge statements should be treated on the same basis as referee reports.

Referee reports must remain confidential.

Optional selection tools

A range of other selection tools may also be used by the selection panel provided the use of the selection tool(s) is applied consistently to all applicants or shortlisted applicants. Examples of the selection tools that might be considered by a selection panel are listed below.

Second interview

The selection panel may decide to conduct a second interview for a range of reasons. For example, the outcome of the first interview may indicate that it is difficult to differentiate between 2 quality applicants. The second interview allows the panel to tailor more specific questions or focus on particular criteria.

Presentation to the selection panel

A presentation to the selection panel is a tool that provides supplementary information relating to skills that are difficult to assess in other ways. It also provides an opportunity to observe behaviour that can be used to predict future performance in similar work situations. Presentations are one example of simulated work tests. Other examples include written work, in-basket exercises, role plays and computer tests. These tests have high reliability and content validity since they are a sample of the actual work performed on the job.

Informal meeting with the selection panel

After the interview process concludes and prior to a recommendation being made, the preferred applicant is invited to meet with the panel informally at the school. This social interaction allows the panel to observe behaviours that may not necessarily be evident during a formal interview situation. As the role and responsibilities of school leaders requires a high level of personal and social interaction, this meeting assists the panel in considering the applicant’s suitability for their particular context.

Use of external recruitment agency

In addition to identifying quality applicants during the application stage, contracting a search firm reduces the time spent by the selection panel in shortlisting applicants. However, it can be costly. While some search firms shortlist for the internal interview process, others provide a rank order of applicants. In either case the selection panel remains responsible for ranking the suitable applicants and making the recommendation to the school council.

Assessing and ranking shortlisted applicants

The selection panel must assess all shortlisted applicants against the selection criteria on the basis of their written application, interview, reports provided by referees and any other selection tool used by the panel. It is important that the selection panel does not make its assessment solely on the basis of interview performance. At the completion of the assessment the selection panel must rank all suitable applicants in order of merit.

In determining the priority order of suitable applicants, the selection panel should attempt to reach unanimous agreement on the ranking of applicants. If there is not unanimous agreement the selection panel should attempt to reach majority agreement on the ranking of suitable applicants (for this purpose, a majority means at least 3 members of the panel).

On completion of the selection panel’s assessment and ranking of suitable applicants, and subject to the suitability requirement set out below, the panel is to prepare a selection panel report to the school council as set out in Schedule 3 of Ministerial Order 1006.

Where the selection panel is not able to reach either agreement or a majority recommendation, the panel should report to the school council that it was unable to recommend any applicant.

Suitability for employment

The selection panel must be satisfied an applicant ranked as suitable who is not an existing ongoing teaching service employee is:

  • suitable for child-connected work as defined in Ministerial Order 870, and
  • a fit and proper person as required by Ministerial Order 1006

This includes where a person is being employed for a subsequent period of employment where this information was collected more than 12 months previously.

Reasonable efforts are to be made by one of the Secretary’s nominees on the selection panel to contact the immediate past employer of an applicant ranked as suitable who is not an existing ongoing teaching service employee and asked the following questions:

  • have you directly observed [applicant’s name] work with children?
  • during the period that [applicant’s name] worked in your organisation, did you have any concerns about [applicant’s name] behaviour or conduct when working with a child or children? If yes, what steps were taken to deal with these concerns? Were these concerns satisfactorily resolved?
  • do you have any concerns about [applicant’s name] working directly with children?
  • has any disciplinary action been taken against the applicant in relation to inappropriate or unprofessional conduct towards a child?
  • were there instances where you had concerns that [applicant’s name] did not always behave with integrity in their employment, such as not dealing with others in an ethical manner, not declaring or managing a conflict of interest appropriately or not dealing with sensitive or confidential information in an appropriate way? If yes, what steps were taken to deal with these concerns? Were these concerns satisfactorily resolved?

Where the responses to these questions raise any concerns with the Secretary’s nominee in relation to the person’s suitability for employment, before taking any further action in relation to finalising the selection report, the Secretary’s nominee must seek advice from the Employee Conduct Branch.

This chapter of the Principal Selection Guidelines contains information about the selection process including shortlisting, interviews, referee reports, other selection tools and suitability

Reviewed 10 May 2020

Was this page helpful?