Public appointment application process
Public appointments are made on merit following a fair, open and transparent selection process. Most appointment competitions will have an candidate information pack you can download.
Candidate information pack
Public appointment competitions will usually have an information pack that you can download or ask for in hard copy. The pack will give you information on the post, including:
- what to expect when you apply
- details of the appointment
- the skills and experience needed
- amount of time needed for the post
- pay or any expenses you may be entitled to
- given the COVID-19 situation, details on specific adaptions to carry out the public appointments competition may be included
The information pack will also include the application form you need to fill in. Application forms are used to make sure all applications are looked at on a ‘like for like’ basis.
Filling in the application form
The application form will ask you to give personal information about yourself and to describe how you meet the skills and experience (commonly called ‘selection criteria’) needed for appointment.
The following headings cover some standard sections that you are likely to be asked to fill in.
This will include your name and contact details.
Skills and experience
You will be asked for evidence to show you have the skills and experience needed for the post. You may also be asked to detail any other commitments you have including other public appointments that you hold.
Conflicts of interests
You will be asked to declare any interests that, if appointed, might be seen to prevent you being independent in the post. This could include financial interests or personal links to other organisations.
If you declare a potential conflict of interest it will not stop you going forward to interview. It will, however, allow the interview panel to explore with you how best to address and manage any issues should you be successful.
Equal Opportunities monitoring form
Statistical data is collected on:
- community background
- marital status
- sexual orientation
This is used for statistical purposes only and analysed independently by staff in the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in the strictest confidence. This information will not be used in any way that could identify you individually without your consent.
You will be asked to sign a declaration confirming that the information on the form is full and accurate to the best of your knowledge. You will also be asked to agree to details of your appointment being made public in a press release should you be successful.
Making the most of the space you have
Many people are not used to writing about themselves or describing what they have achieved. Think carefully about your knowledge, skills and experience and make sure you take full advantage of the space available.
Remember to follow any instructions carefully and keep in mind the following:
- read the information pack carefully, paying particular attention to the selection criteria, before filling in the form
- check if there is a word limit for the application form as any extra words may be discounted
- give at least one example for each of the criteria
- make sure you answer all of the selection criteria, you can use the same example (if it is relevant) for two or more criteria
- answer all of the selection criteria that apply to you using actual examples that show how you meet the criteria, describe what you personally did and the impact it had - think in terms of results and achievements
- avoid personal opinions or saying how you would do something
- examples can be drawn from any aspect of your experience be it education, work, leisure, community or voluntary activity
- do not assume that the panel has any previous knowledge
- use simple and easy to understand language, avoid jargon
- make sure your finished application form is legible and keep a copy for yourself
You can find more useful information on application forms at the following link:
What is expected of a public appointee
The qualities expected of a public appointee are covered by seven principles. These principles can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page at the following link:
What happens next
When your application form is returned it will be assessed by a selection panel.
The panel will look to see if you have shown the skills and experience needed for the post.
If you have not met the selection criteria then your application will go no further. If you do meet the selection criteria you will be invited to an interview.
Where there are too many people for interview it may be necessary to create a shortlist of people who will go forward to interview. If a shortlist is needed it will be created by enhancing the essential criteria or assessing any shortlisting criteria that apply.
Preparing for the interview
Interviews play an important part in the public appointments process. Criteria- based interviewing, sometimes called ‘competency based interviewing’ is the most common type of public appointment interview.
The application form you filled in gave you an opportunity to offer examples relevant to the specific selection criteria for the post. In the criteria-based interview you will be tested against those specific selection criteria.
You will need to give examples that show how you have managed a certain situation in the past. You will need to say what you did, how you did it and what the result was. These examples give the interview panel with information and evidence about you and your skills and experience that will help them make a decision on how suitable you are for the appointment.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the interview. It is a crucial part of the appointments process and thorough preparation is essential.
You can prepare for the interview by:
- reading and thoroughly understanding the selection criteria
- reminding yourself of the examples you used in your application form and being prepared to expand on these at the interview
- practice how you might relate your experiences to the interview panel emphasising your own role and contribution
During the interview
An interview panel will usually have three members, with at least one of the panel being an Independent Assessor. The best way to convince them that you could carry out the role well is to offer examples of things you have done in the past.
You should remember the following:
- listen carefully to the questions
- you can ask the panel to repeat a question or if you don’t understand a question you can ask them to explain further
- use the language of the selection criteria
- take your time, don’t rush through your answers
- give good clear examples that show how your experience applies to the question
- focus on what you did, always say ‘I’ not ‘we’
- don’t sell yourself short, be positive and show enthusiasm
If you have declared a potential conflict of interest the interview panel will explore this with you to make sure it won’t stop you from taking the appointment. They will also make sure that you understand the seven principles of public life. At the end of the interview you may be asked if you have any questions or want to say anything else.
Find out more about the seven principles at the following link:
After the interview
The panel will discuss your responses to the interview questions, including the comments and scores they have each awarded you during the interview.
After all the interviews are finished the panel will draw up a list of people who are suitable for appointment. This is based on a transparent scoring system, which must be supported by written comments based on your interview answers.
The recommendations the panel makes will help the Minister make their final decision on who should be appointed. The successful candidate or candidates (if there is more than one appointment) will be asked to declare if they have undertaken any political activity and will receive a letter of appointment.
Depending on the public body you are applying to, you may need to give an Access NI Disclosure Certificate.
If you are not recommended for appointment you will be told as soon as possible. You may wish to contact the department and ask for feedback on your interview.
You may be able to claim back some of your travelling expenses.
If you are appointed
If you have been successful and confirm that you are taking the post, the department must announce your appointment. This is usually done by issuing a press release.
The press release will usually include information on you, the length of your appointment and whether it is paid or unpaid, details of any other public appointments you hold and any political activity you have declared.
Regulating the public appointments process
The Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland regulates Ministerial appointments to most public bodies. They publish a Code of Practice which gives departments guidance on the process to be followed when making public appointments.
You can find more information at the following link: