06 December 2021

Identifying possible candidates

As shown in Figure 2 on the next page, potential candidates can be identified in several ways, including advertising publicly, nominations from interested groups or MPs, seeking suggestions from current chairs and board members, or from community and professional networks. Nominating agencies have direct links to their community and regional networks. To make the most of these networks, ask the nominating agencies to promote vacancies through their communication platforms and through any regional networks they may have in place.

Ministers may want assurance that recommendations for appointment are based on the widest possible canvassing of high-quality candidates. Seeking candidates using as many of the opportunities as possible in Figure 2 will broaden the reach to potential candidates.

Departments that maintain their own database of people who are interested in being appointed to boards need to check regularly that stored information is accurate, current and that those on the database remain interested and available for nomination.

Where nomination of a representative of a particular organisation, community or sector is involved, rather than an application process, officials should obtain the minister's agreement before exploring a candidate's availability. Departments must manage nominees' expectations carefully, to avoid raising expectations that they’ll be appointed or reappointed. Candidates also should be made aware that a range of factors may impact on decision timelines and the outcome.

Channels available to find candidates

Figure 2 shows the channels available to promote and fill vacancies. The four red ringed channels are the standard approach for each appointment search with the other options such as social media, providing opportunities for a broader reach.

Commercial search organisations are optional as there is a cost involved. This approach is mostly used when recruiting a chair or potentially a member for a high-profile board with specialist skills, or in a situation where other searches have not produced suitable candidates.

Responsible ministers are cognisant that appointments to government bodies need to reflect the make-up of Aotearoa New Zealand society and they will generally require the recruitment process to be as inclusive as possible when seeking a new candidate for a board role.

Figure 2: Channels used for filling board vacancies

Figure 2: Channels used for filling board vacancies

Advertising public sector board positions

If the vacancy is advertised, it may include advice that to assist with assessing the suitability of candidates, shortlisted applicants may be subject to background checks. Candidates should be asked to authorise such inquiries. To assist their candidacy, nominees should ensure their CVs are up-to-date and accurate.

Privacy principles are a legal requirement. Advertisements should include or provide a link to your agency’s Privacy Statement. Effective appointment practices will address the privacy considerations detailed in Privacy principles.

Diverse candidates

To find the best candidates and attract diverse applications for public sector board appointments, first consider where to advertise the vacancy to achieve a broad reach. Implementing the Gender Pay Principles and removing gender bias in recruitment processes(PDF, 725 KB) provides advice on developing job descriptions and advertisements that are bias-free, which can usefully inform the consideration of different biases.

Responsible minister and current chair

In the first instance, all board vacancies should be consulted on with the responsible minister and the board chair to agree the skills and competencies required for the role, representation needs, and confirm the recruitment approach before going to market with an advertisement.

Through this consultation, the responsible minister may express their desire to consult with their caucus and coalition colleagues, where relevant. Ministers and chairs will have sector and portfolio knowledge that may lead to suggested candidates. Early consultation with ministerial colleagues is useful for high profile or chair roles.

Board chairs will be able to reflect their knowledge of the workings of the board, and using a skills matrix approach, the technical and personal skills that could best contribute to the board's performance. Where possible, board chairs should be consulted for their perspective on:

  • the functioning and skills of the current board
  • the extent to which diversity of membership needs to be addressed
  • the findings of recent board evaluations
  • any board capability gaps or future needs
  • resulting position descriptions and competencies required.

Job search platforms

When it’s time to seek a candidate, the advertisement and position description should be made available publicly on your agency’s website (if the platform allows for that) and on an independent public job search platform such as Jobs.govt.nz. This will provide a transparent and fair opportunity for potential candidates to apply. The advertisement link can be easily promoted further by using the department’s social media channels and by tapping into the nomination agencies networks through their social media platforms, to reach a wider audience.

A list of government-approved external recruitment services providers is available.

Nomination services

Nominating agencies maintain databases of suitably qualified people from within their specific populations. A list of the nominating services available is provided below. The nominating agencies can assist by reviewing their databases to provide a list of matched potential candidates. It’s important to note that ample time must be allowed for the nominating agencies to search within their databases and networks to provide a considered list of potential candidates. It’s advised to allow approximately two to three weeks for this step.

Nominating agencies can also assist by promoting vacancies across their networks via communication platforms and through their regional offices and networks. Send a copy of the advertisement to the nominating agencies asking them to post on their social media accounts and promote within their regional networks. By reaching out to nominating agencies’ networks in this way, the opportunity will reach a broader audience.

The following nominating agencies can assist with your recruitment and have access to diverse networks across New Zealand.

  • Manatū Wāhine | Ministry for Women: Nomination Service

    The Ministry for Women’s Nominations Service focuses on providing high quality women candidates for public sector board roles.

    The Service:

    • maintains a database of women from different sectors and professions
    • notifies women of suitable vacancies and where to apply for them
    • provides short biographies and contact details of nominees in confidence when required
    • collates a yearly stocktake of gender, Māori and ethnic diversity, and reports on women’s participation on public sector boards and committees
    • provides women candidates with governance advice through online resources, newsletters and governance training.

    Manatū Wāhine | Ministry for Women: Nomination Service

  • Te Puni Kōkiri: Te Pae Ārahi – Nominations Service

    The Service:

    • promotes Māori participation on statutory boards, committees and advisory groups, particularly those playing a role in New Zealand’s social and economic development
    • maintains a database and nominations service
    • aims to develop and maintain relationships with key Māori, community, and industry and sector organisations.

    Te Puni Kōkiri: Te Pae Ārahi – Nominations Service

  • Ministry for Pacific Peoples: Nominations Service

    The Service:

    • promotes Māori participation on statutory boards, committees and advisory groups, particularly those playing a role in New Zealand’s social and economic development
    • maintains a database and nominations service
    • aims to develop and maintain relationships with key Māori, community, and industry and sector organisations.

    Ministry for Pacific Peoples: Nominations Service

  • Ministry for Ethnic Communities: Nominations Service

    The Ministry for Ethnic Communities’ Nominations Service maintains a database of suitably qualified candidates from their mandated ethnic communities who want to be considered for participation in advisory groups and for appointment to public sector boards and committees.

    The Service:

    • maintains extensive links with ethnic communities and their representative organisations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, through their regionally based community engagement teams
    • provides advice to the public sector on engagement with ethnic communities
    • encourages increased civic participation within ethnic communities
    • promotes its nominations service through its communications channels and community engagement events
    • advocates for greater connections between appointing agencies and its service
    • advises potential candidates of vacancies from appointing agencies for self-nomination, or nomination through its service
    • provides short biographies and contact details of nominees in confidence when required
    • provides candidates from its service with governance advice and governance training and networking opportunities where possible.

    Ministry for Ethnic Communities: Nominations Service

  • Office for Disability Issues: Nominations Service

    The Service:

    • has extensive links with disabled people and their representative organisations throughout Aotearoa
    • promotes participation of disabled people on statutory boards, committees, and advisory groups
    • provides a nominations service and manages a database of disabled people and some carers and whānau of disabled people as candidates for nomination to boards, committees, and advisory groups
    • advises potential candidates of vacancies from appointing agencies for self-nomination to positions that interest them and align with skills and experience
    • advocates for participation of disabled people in all aspects of decision making that will impact on them.

    Office for Disability Issues: Nominations Service

Position descriptions and advertisements

Writing position descriptions, board profiles, and advertisements can be used to tailor information and person specifications for each vacancy and reappointment. It’s important to make clear in advertisements for board vacancies that background checks (see Checking background) will be carried out.

To seek skills, knowledge, and experience, such as cultural capability and insight, gender diversity and relationships with under-represented communities, consider reviewing the requirements and criteria in role descriptions to ensure that these attributes are appropriately considered and acknowledged.

Clear position descriptions:

  • give candidates a greater understanding of what’s required before they decide whether to apply for a board appointment
  • provide decision makers with benchmarks against which to measure the attributes of candidates allowing for skills profiling against competencies required
  • help nominating agencies identify candidates with the required relevant skills and experience

reinforce the principle of appointment on merit.

Overseas candidates

Sometimes the expertise needed by a board justifies consideration of overseas-based candidates (see Checking background). Care should be taken to ensure they understand the wider New Zealand cultural landscape within which the board operates, clarify such matters as reimbursement of expenses, the right to work in New Zealand, and find the most cost-effective way of conducting checks and interviews.

Departments and ministers will want to balance the possible criticism of additional costs that could result from an overseas board appointment, against making sure the board has the best possible range of skills to meet its objectives.

Public servants on boards

Suitably qualified and experienced public servants or Crown entity employees may be appointed by ministers to public bodies. The current Cabinet Office circular CO(02) 5 Appointment of Public Servants to Statutory Boards provides for the appointment of public servants to support improved board performance, build capacity especially in respect to increasing diversity, and to capitalise on government experience that a public servant can bring. Public servants can add value to public bodies offering professional or technical skills in addition to their understanding of government.

Like all board appointments, these appointments may raise conflict of interest issues and matters relating to balancing board and substantive public servant workloads, and secondary employment.

Appointing immediately before a general election

Based on an estimate of when a general election will take place (every three years and usually in October), departments should (where possible) avoid proposing appointees whose terms would conclude immediately before or after a general election. It’s been the practice for recent governments to exercise restraint in making significant appointments in the pre-election period – appointments not considered to be significant proceed in the usual way.1

Departments should also consider including information on upcoming appointments in briefing their responsible minister after a general election. Further advice can be sought at the appropriate time from the Cabinet Office.

1The term 'significant' is not defined; it’s a matter of judgement. A case-by-case assessment is required, considering such factors as: the public profile of the entity, whether the entity has a strategic or decision-making role, whether the entity controls significant assets or funds, and whether the entity is an executive agency (as opposed to an advisory or technical body).

Information for candidates

Appointing departments must provide all candidates and nominees with information about the board in which a vacancy has arisen. This checklist can help you think about the different kinds of information that should be provided.

Person specific information

General information

- Role definition.

- Accountabilities.

- Key internal and external relationships.

- Required skills, for example:

- organisational leadership

- understanding of effective governance

- understanding of effective strategy.

- Essential or desirable qualifications (academic, professional, etc).

- Prior experience to be demonstrated.

- Minimum meeting attendance required, including preparation for meetings

- Involvement outside of formal meetings.

- Personal integrity (e.g. avoidance or management of conflicts of interest).

- Approach needed to contribute effectively to the entity’s performance.

- Likely level of fees.

Note: A board chair specification would have a separate and more comprehensive description, to reflect the nature of the position.

- General and specific legislative frameworks under which the board operates. Role and functions of the board.

- Operating and sector context.

- Key external relationships (e.g. minister, monitoring department, representative bodies, board chief executive and other staff).

- Unique nature of being part of the Public Service; the obligations and responsibilities it entails.

- Information on the board, including any sub- committee structures.

This information is important for candidates to make an informed judgement about the skills and commitment required of an effective board member, as well as of the potential areas of concern such as possible conflict of interest. For a successful candidate, this initial contact will act as the start of their induction programme. Its quality and style will set the tone for the ongoing relationship.