The South Australian public sector and local government employs over 100,000 people, making them the State’s largest employment sector. Given that people are the most valuable asset of every agency and that payroll is a significant expense for the sector, what could possibly go wrong?

There are many risks inherent in the recruitment process, which if not well managed, can turn out to be costly and have far reaching ramifications for an agency.

Selecting the wrong person for the job can have a negative impact on the morale of colleagues and it can affect their productivity. A poor selection decision has the potential to consume a lot of resources in an attempt to manage the situation. It can result in industrial disputes or other legal issues arising from the selected person’s inability to do the job. More importantly it commits the agency to mediocrity as opposed to the excellence that can be gained by striving to attract the top talent.

An agency’s security might also be jeopardised by poor recruitment practices. There are known cases where agencies have been infiltrated by people associated with organised crime groups or where ‘safe’ people have been placed in positions by someone trying to cover up their own wrong doing or poor performance.

Problems arise if the process is not fair and transparent, conflicts of interest are not well managed and best practice processes and procedures are not followed.

Although risks in recruitment cannot be entirely eliminated they can be managed. Every recruitment process should begin with a recruitment plan and a relevant and up-to-date job and person specification. Diverse selection panels that avoid conflicts of interests and both direct and unconscious bias should be assembled. The interviewing process ought to be structured and well documented and the preferred candidate should be properly reference checked and if appropriate, security checked.

There will always be interest in who gets the jobs, how they get them and why they get them. With the right processes and procedures in place, answering these questions should not pose too much of a problem.

This article was published in Issue 4 - April 2016 of ICAC's newsletter.