1. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (‘the Assembly Commission’) is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to the principle that recruitment should be solely on the basis of merit.
2. The Assembly Commission welcomes applications from all eligible applicants, irrespective of religious belief, political opinion, race, age, gender, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or people with dependants or without.
3. The appointment process will be fair and applied consistently to ensure equality of opportunity.
4. Recruiting the right individuals is crucial to organisational performance. Good recruitment helps us to recruit the right people, for the right roles, at the right time. It ensures that we have the relevant skills and abilities to meet our current and future needs.
5. The purpose of these Recruitment Procedures is to set out how the Assembly Commission intends to attract and retain people with talent and experience from diverse backgrounds.
6. The Procedures will apply to external and internal recruitment competitions.
7. These procedures provide detail on how external and internal recruitment competitions are administered.
8. On an ongoing basis, the Secretariat Management Group (SMG) will determine what external and internal recruitment competitions are required and whether the roles are recruited on a permanent or temporary basis.
9. All permanent vacancies will be advertised externally. Temporary positions will normally be advertised internally, however, external recruitment competitions may be used to fill temporary vacancies.
10. Before an external recruitment competition is advertised, the Human Resources Office will consider the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code for the role and decide whether a welcome statement is required. A welcome statement will be included in recruitment documents where certain groups are under- represented to encourage applications from these groups.
11. The process for applicants will involve the following stages:
i) Completion of an application form;
ii) Assessment prior to the sift process for high volume competitions (where appropriate);
iii) Sift process based on the information provided on the application form against the essential and, if appropriate, shortlisting criteria;
iv) Assessments which may include testing, presentations, in-tray exercises, assessment centres (where appropriate);
v) Selection interview(s); and
vi) Pre-appointment checks.
12. Please note that staff members will not be able to apply for an internal recruitment competition if, at the closing date for applications, they are: –
13. The Assembly Commission uses a Recruitment and Selection Framework. This Framework sets out a variety of selection options to meet recruitment needs. Assessing against different criteria, using different methods, tailored to specific roles gives the best possible opportunity of finding the right person for the role, improving organisational performance and increasing diversity and inclusion.
14. This approach builds on an individual’s natural strengths and talents, giving job applicants greater opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for a specific role. It also enables recruiting managers to tailor criteria and selection methods to vacancies, maximising their ability to match the best person to each role. The diagram below provides a summary of each element within the Recruitment and Selection Framework.
15. The criteria that can be assessed to find the right applicant for the role are:
Experience – the knowledge or mastery of an activity or subject gained through involvement in or exposure to it. Experience is normally assessed through the application form and interview.
Ability – the aptitude or potential to perform to the required standard. It refers to general mental ability, cognitive ability or aptitude (the innate potential to perform a particular intellectual function or develop a specific set of skills). This can be tested using a variety of methods including psychometric test. Three main types:
Some assessment centre style exercises can also assess ability such as in-tray, written analysis/exercise or presentations.
Technical – the demonstration of specific professional skills, knowledge or qualifications. This can be assessed through a range of methods including the application form, assessment methods including work sample tests and during an interview.
Assembly Skills and Behaviours – the actions and activities that people do which result in effective performance in a role. There are five Assembly Skills and Behaviours, which apply to all roles and all grades within the Secretariat. The selection panel will review the Assembly Skills and Behaviours to select those skills and behaviours that they wish to assess during the recruitment process. The skills and behaviours will be included in the Job Specification and can be assessed in a variety of ways including the application form, presentation, written/oral analysis exercise and interview.
Strengths – the things we do regularly, do well and that motivate us. The Assembly Commission has its own Strengths Dictionary – a set of defined strengths that are relevant to the culture and type of work that we do. Strengths are not defined by grade. The strengths defined in the Strengths Dictionary have been mapped to the most relevant Assembly Skills and Behaviours but any strength can be assessed if suitable for the role. Strengths will be assessed at interview and they will not be listed in the Job Specification.
16. Essential criteria reflect the experience, ability, technical knowledge, skills and behaviours that an applicant must possess in order to be able to undertake the role. In setting essential criteria, selection panels must also consider the minimum period of experience that is necessary.
17. Shortlisting criteria reflect the experience, ability, technical knowledge, skills and behaviours which have been agreed as being desirable for the successful applicant to possess. If the selection panel uses the shortlisting criteria, it will be applied in the order shown in the Job Specification.
18. Essential and shortlisting criteria must be justifiable, taking account of the duties and responsibilities of the role.
19. Recruitment is a business critical task and staff sitting on selection panels must ensure that they have time to prepare for and participate in a recruitment competition and their line manager must support them in doing so.
20. Selection panels will be provided with appropriate training and support.
21. Following approval from SMG to advertise a vacancy, the Human Resources Office will liaise with the Chairperson of the selection panel to discuss the following information:
22. On occasions, for example when recruiting for a specialist role, it may be necessary to include a selection panel member from outside the Assembly Secretariat to enhance the selection panel’s expertise. In this situation, the selection panel member will receive recruitment and selection training.
23. The selection panel will plan the competition and agree the documentation during this stage. This will include holding a Planning Meeting. A representative from the Human Resources Office will also attend the meeting and will provide advice to the selection panel as required.
24. The selection panel will discuss and agree the Job Specification and Information for Applicants booklet before the competition is advertised. When recruiting for generic roles, the Job Specification and assessment methods to be used in the recruitment competition will be agreed by SMG and provided to the selection panel before the competition is advertised.
25. The sift indicators, minimum standard (i.e. minimum score) for the shortlisting criteria, the interview questions including strength based questions, scoring scale and indicators will normally be agreed during the planning stage. If it is not possible, they must be agreed before the selection panel has sight of the applications.
26. The sift indicators will be used to determine if the evidence provided in the application form meets the essential criteria and the extent to which the shortlisting criteria have been met.
27. The selection panel will discuss the appropriate selection methods, using the Recruitment and Selection Framework. If the selection panel considers that, in addition to the application form and interview, other assessment methods, should be undertaken, it must agree the type of assessment which should be undertaken and at what point in the process the assessment should take place.
28. The interview questions will include a lead question which will be asked of all applicants and supplementary questions, which may be asked if necessary to obtain further detail on responses. All lead and supplementary questions must be objective and relevant to the requirements of the role.
29. If the selection panel considers that certain criterion are more important than others to the role, they may apply a weighting mechanism to interview questions.
30. The selection panel will decide the importance of each criterion and rank them accordingly. In the event of a tied score at interview, the selection panel will use these ranking to differentiate between applicants who achieve the same overall score.
31. The selection panel will also agree the timetable for the competition and discuss and agree how any requests for alternative interview dates will be dealt with. If the selection panel does not adhere to the agreed timetable, the competition may not be able to proceed and SMG will be asked to reprioritise the Recruitment Schedule.
32. The Human Resources Office will advise the selection panel that if a member of the selection panel has a close personal relationship with a potential applicant then they will need to consider if they can fulfil their role in an objective and impartial way and advice must be sought from the Human Resources Office. The Human Resources Office will then decide on the appropriate course of action.
33. External recruitment competitions will be advertised through a range of media including for example, the Assembly’s website, newspapers, recruitment websites and social media.
34. All external recruitment competitions will be advertised in the English language. In addition, the title of the role and the sentence advising applicants on how to access more information on the role will also appear in the Irish language. All other documentation regarding the competition will be in the English language.
35. The ‘Information for Applicants’ will provide additional information including the selection process e.g. sift, testing if applicable and interview.
36. The Human Resources Office will review the draft recruitment documents to ensure that the essential/short- listing criteria do not discriminate against any applicant with a protected characteristic and provide advice to the selection panel if required.
37. Once the selection panel has approved the Job Specification, the Human Resources Office will consult with Trade Union Side (TUS) on its content before the competition is launched.
38. External recruitment competitions will be advertised on the Assembly website as well as the media outlets as agreed by the selection panel. An email will also be issued to those working within the Assembly Secretariat.
39. Internal recruitment competitions will be advertised on the Assembly Commission’s intranet and an email will be issued to advise staff members of the competition.
40. An existing staff member must seek the approval of their Head of Business if they wish to apply for an internal competition for a role at their substantive grade and will be required to confirm their Head of Business’ approval on their application form.
41. Competitions will normally be open for a two week period.
42. It is the line manager’s responsibility to issue internal recruitment competition notices to any of their staff member(s) who are on annual leave, short term sickness absence (i.e. less than 20 working days) or with no access to an Assembly email account.
43. The Human Resources Office will be responsible for issuing internal recruitment competition notices to all staff members on outward secondment, career break, maternity leave and long term sickness absence (i.e. more than 20 working days).
44. Application forms submitted after the closing date and time specified on the advertisement will not be accepted under any circumstances. The onus for ensuring that the application form is received on time rests with the applicant.
45. Applications can only be accepted on the agreed application form – CVs will not be accepted.
46. Along with the application form, applicants for external recruitment competitions will be asked to complete an Equal Opportunities Monitoring form. The Assembly Commission is committed to promoting equality of opportunity in employment. The information provided will help us to measure the effectiveness of our policies and help us develop new policies if appropriate. All information contained in the monitoring form will be treated in confidence and will not be provided to the selection panel.
47. In the event that more than one application form is received from an applicant, only the latest application received will be accepted.
48. Further information on completing application forms is available in the Guidance on Recruitment and Selection for Applicants.
49. Following the closing date for applications, the Human Resources Office will collate and anonymise the applications. Only the information provided by applicants in response to the essential and shortlisting criteria along with the Employment History will be provided to the selection panel in advance of the sift meeting.
50. In preparation for the sift meeting, the selection panel members must individually consider each application against each essential and shortlisting criteria before attending the meeting. If it is apparent that this preparation has not taken place, Human Resources Office has the authority to defer the sift meeting.
51. At the sift meeting, the selection panel must first consider the applications against all of the essential criteria and only applicants who demonstrate that they meet all of the essential criteria will proceed to the next stage of the selection process.
52. A representative from the Human Resources Office will attend the sift meeting to record all decisions. The Human Resources Office will seek clarification from the appropriate authority where there are queries over the equivalences of academic or other qualifications.
53. Shortlisting may be used by the selection panel to reduce the field of applicants who will be invited to the next stage of the selection process by selecting applicants who best meet the shortlisting criteria. It may not always be necessary to use all of the shortlisting criteria but where it is, they will be applied in the order listed in the Job Specification.
54. If shortlisting is not necessary, all applicants who have demonstrated the essential criteria will proceed to the next stage of the selection process.
55. To ensure that the decision reached by a selection panel to reject any applicant is appropriate, it is recommended that, before the conclusion of the sift meeting, panel members validate any information provided as evidence in the essential or shortlisting criteria with that provided in the applicant’s employment history.
56. If the selection panel decides that an applicant has not demonstrated a criterion to the required standard, the reason for this will be recorded and communicated to the applicant. The responsibility for all decisions reached at the sift meeting rests with the selection panel.
57. All members of the selection panel must attend the sift meeting and sign the sift grid to confirm their decisions.
58. Following sift (and application of shortlisting criteria if necessary), each applicant will be contacted in writing by the Human Resources Office to inform them of the selection panel decision regarding their application.
59. The Guaranteed Interview Scheme (GIS) has been developed for applicants with disabilities or those with a long-term impairment or health condition, that is expected to last for at least 12 months and which means that they cannot meet all of the shortlisting criteria. In these instances, provided that they have demonstrated in their application form that they meet the essential criteria for the role, the applicant will be invited to interview.
60. An applicant does not have to have a registered disability to apply under the GIS.
61. If an assessment or test is used as a shortlisting tool then applicants applying under GIS will not be required to complete the assessment or test and will be offered a guaranteed interview, provided that they demonstrate in their application form that they meet the essential criteria for the role.
62. In instances where an assessment or test forms part of the selection process and is not a shortlisting tool, then all applicants must meet the minimum standard required including those applying under GIS.
63. The application form will include a section on disability, and an applicant can indicate whether they wish to apply under the GIS for that particular role and the basis on which they qualify for the GIS.
64. When considering applications made under GIS, the Human Resources Office reserves the right to request medical information from the applicant’s general practitioner (through the applicant and with their consent). Applicants with a disability should also indicate on the application form if they feel they require any reasonable adjustments, and if so, what those adjustments are, to enable them to participate in the selection process. A representative from the Human Resources Office will contact the applicant to discuss their requirements.
65. The Human Resources Office will monitor all applications made under the GIS.
66. An applicant may request a review of the decision of the selection panel regarding the fact that they did not progress to the next stage of the selection process, i.e. on the grounds that they did not meet the essential criteria or score highly enough in shortlisting criteria. To do so, they must write or e-mail the Human Resources Office within three working days of the notification of the sift result. The request must include the reasons that they feel necessitate a review.
67. The Human Resources Office will convene a meeting of the selection panel to consider the review. All documentation (i.e. the original application form and the letter/e-mail requesting the review) will be anonymised. Only information contained in the original application form will be considered by the selection panel. No additional information will be considered.
68. Following the review by the selection panel, the Human Resources Office will notify the applicant of the outcome within three working days of the decision. If the review is successful, the applicant will move to the next stage of the selection process. The decision of the selection panel is final and there is no further right to request a review.
69. The selection panel will agree the methods of assessment using the Recruitment and Selection Framework at the planning stage and information will be contained in the ‘Information for Applicants’. Applicants will also be advised of the nature of the assessment in their invite letter.
70. If a test, presentation or assessment centre style of exercise is part of the assessment for the role, it may be conducted prior to or on the same day as the interview. Applicants will be notified of the date, time, location and length of the assessment normally ten working days before the date of the assessment but there may be occasions when this is reduced to five days.
71. If an applicant is unable to attend the assessment and would like an alternative date / time, they must notify the Human Resources Office within three working days of the date of their invite with the reason they are unable to attend. Depending on the nature of the assessment, it may be possible to offer an alternative date. The decision of the Human Resources Office is final and will be communicated to the applicant.
72. If a separate assessment exercise is not part of the selection process, the next stage in the selection will be an interview which may involve other assessment methods e.g. presentation, in-tray exercise etc. Applicants will be notified of the date, time, length of the interview, location and the names of the selection panel members normally ten working days before the date of the interview but there may be occasions when this is reduced to five days. Applicants will also be advised of any documentation they are required to bring to the interview; for example, proof of identity, original qualifications, etc. Further information on preparing for interviews is available in the Guidance on Recruitment and Selection for Applicants.
73. If an applicant is unable to attend the notified interview and requests an alternative date / time, they must notify the Human Resources Office within 3 working days of the date of their invite with the reason they are unable to attend. The Human Resources Office will attempt to accommodate any requests within the interview timetable and if this is not possible, will contact the selection panel to ask if they are able to reconvene to interview on an alternative date. The selection panel should accommodate the request where possible. If the selection panel considers that it is not appropriate to offer an alternative date, it must provide the reasons for its decision in writing to the Human Resources Office. The decision of the selection panel is final and will be communicated to the applicant.
74. The Human Resources Office will arrange a pre-interview meeting for the selection panel. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure all selection panel members are aware of their responsibilities and the arrangement for the interview process. Further information is available in the Guidance on Recruitment and Selection for Selection Panel Members.
75. Every effort will be made to ensure that applicants are seen within 15 minutes of the time stated on their invite to interview letter. Should an applicant arrive late for their interview the selection panel may decide:
76. Applicants will be required to demonstrate their suitability for the role in the interview. Interview questions are based on the information contained in the Job Specification and may assess different elements of the Recruitment and Selection Framework – Experience, Technical, Assembly Skills and Behaviours and Strengths. The interview will be a blended interview which is a flexible style of interviewing which uses a combination of distinctive interview question types. These are as follows:
77. The questions will be designed to test the applicant’s suitability for the role. Strength-based questions will not be listed on the Job Specification but will be linked to the requirements of the role.
78. The same lead questions will be asked of all applicants and the Chairperson will ensure that approximately the same time is allocated to each applicant. Further information on preparing for interview is included in the Guidance on Recruitment and Selection for Applicants.
79. Applicants will not be permitted to use any notes that they have prepared when responding to questions during the interview.
80. Failure to obtain the minimum standard set by the selection panel in any criterion will result in the applicant being unsuccessful in the selection process.
81. Once the interviews have been completed, the selection panel will agree and sign a merit list based on the overall score of each applicant interviewed. Each applicant will have a unique score.
82. The merit list will normally remain ’live’ for 18 months from the date it is signed.
83. If it was agreed to carry out a single recruitment exercise to create a merit list for both permanent and temporary roles, all successful candidates (internal and external) will be placed on the merit list to fill permanent vacancies, and a separate merit list (comprised from the main merit list) of successful internal candidates, which will be used to fill temporary vacancies only.
84. There may be occasions when a number of selection panels will be required to manage a large number of interviews. All selection panel members involved in interviewing for the same competition will be briefed by the Human Resources Office in the management of the interviews. The selection panels will all use the same lead questions and score applicants using the same performance indicators. The responsibility for compiling any overall merit list will rest with the Human Resources Office.
85. All applicants who have been interviewed will be notified in writing by the Human Resources Office of the result of their interview within five working days of the merit list being signed.
86. If an Assembly Commission staff member is successful in their application and has obtained a promotion as a result of an internal or external recruitment competition, line management will be required to facilitate the staff member’s release within a reasonable timescale, not normally exceeding four weeks.
87. In the event that the staff member who is successful in an internal competition is already at the same grade as the role they applied for, the applicant will already have sought approval from their Head of Business. The Human Resources Office will therefore advise the Head of Business of their success and agree a release date for the individual. Where circumstances have changed within the business area and the initial approval can no longer be sustained for specific business reasons, the Head of Business must explain these reasons to the staff member. In these circumstances, the staff member will retain their position on the merit list and, subject to confirmation from the Head of Business that they may now be released, will be approached by the Human Resources Office for further temporary opportunities that arise during the live period of the merit list.
88. If a qualification is deemed essential for a role and the successful applicant is an external applicant who does not achieve it within a specified time period as indicated on the ‘Information for Applicants’, it is likely to impact on their continued employment. The Head of Human Resources will consider the circumstances and determine the appropriate way forward. In the event that employment is terminated, there will be a right of appeal to the Clerk/Chief Executive whose decision on the matter will be final.
89. If a qualification is deemed essential for a role and the successful applicant is an existing staff member who does not achieve it within a reasonable time period as indicated on the Information for Applicants, then the Head of Human Resources may decide that the individual return to their previous grade. There will be a right of appeal to the Clerk/Chief Executive whose decision on the matter will be final.
90. Pre-employment checks are an integral part of the recruitment and selection process. Pre-appointment checks will be undertaken for the successful applicant(s) based on the merit list and number of vacancies. No offers of appointment will be made until the pre-appointment checks are found to be satisfactory.
91. The Human Resources Office will carry out a final check to ensure all identification documents have been received and all essential qualifications have been validated.
92. An Access NI basic check will be carried out prior to an applicant being made a final offer of employment. For some roles, a higher level of vetting may be required and applicants will be advised of this in the Information for Applicants booklet.
93. Access NI is unable to obtain overseas criminal records or other relevant information as part of the Disclosure service. Many countries, including most EU countries, allow their citizens to obtain certificates of good conduct or extracts from their criminal records. The Human Resources Office will consider whether it is appropriate to request this from an applicant who has recently moved to the UK.
94. Confirmation of information provided by applicants is required to cover a minimum of the last three years of an applicant’s employment / education / non employment. If a post requires experience of more than 3 years, the period covered by the reference must reflect the length of experience required. A reference from an applicant’s current employer (or previous, if not currently employed) must be sought as part of the pre-appointment checks. Confirmation of employment dates will be sought from previous employers if current employment has lasted less than the experience required for the role. Where there has been no employment history, a personal reference from someone (not a family member) who has known the applicant for the last 3 years will be sought.
95. References will be sought before an offer of appointment can be made.
96. Applicants who have indicated on their application form that they have a disability and may require reasonable adjustments when taking up role will be contacted by the Human Resources Office to discuss any requirements for adjustments. Letters accompanying an offer of appointment will remind applicants that they must advise the Human Resources Office of any reasonable adjustments they consider necessary to take up the appointment.
97. The Human Resources Office will obtain the necessary documentation from the applicant to ensure the applicant has the right to work in the UK.
98. Once the pre-appointment checks are completed, an offer of appointment letter will be issued to the successful applicant(s).
99. The offer letter will include the terms and conditions of the appointment including the probationary period.
100. Applicants should be asked to complete and return their acceptance slip within 10 working days of the date of the offer letter.
101. Successful applicants will only receive one offer of appointment from a competition merit list for a permanent role which, if not accepted, will result in the applicant being removed from the merit list except in exceptional circumstances.
102. Where a temporary role becomes available, the Human Resources Office will offer the role to the highest applicant from the temporary promotion merit list.
103. Where more than one temporary role is available, the Human Resources Office will allocate the highest applicant (who will be an existing staff member) on the temporary promotion merit list to the role which (based on information available at that time) is anticipated to last longest, and so on. However, it should be noted that the duration of temporary roles may change.
104. At the conclusion of their period of temporary promotion to the specified role, the staff member will return to their substantive grade and their name will move to the bottom of the merit list. A further period of temporary promotion from that merit list will only be offered if their name is reached for a second time. This approach will ensure that more applicants who have been deemed suitable for appointment at interview will have an opportunity to avail of a temporary promotion, therefore supporting staff development across the Assembly Secretariat.
105. If an applicant refuses an offer of employment for a temporary role, their name will move to the bottom of the merit list.
106. There may be occasions when an applicant has successfully applied for multiple temporary and/or permanent roles and their name will be on two or more merit lists at the same time.
107. If an applicant has accepted an offer of a position (permanent or temporary) from one merit list and their name is subsequently reached on the other merit list, an offer (temporary or permanent) will be issued to them in line with normal procedure. The impact of this decision will be managed as follows:
108. All requests for feedback should be made in writing and will be managed by the Human Resources Office.
109. Applicants who request feedback will be given a copy of their interview answer booklet and their scores. Selection panel members must not provide informal feedback and applicants should not approach selection panel members for feedback.
110. Any requests for information will be considered by the Human Resources Office in light of Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation.
111. The Human Resources Office will monitor equality information for all applicants at each stage of the process.
112. The document is effective from 11 November 2020.