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Article 1: Merit Based Recruitment

Why appointing the highest performing candidate
is not enough

In June 2021 the Government of Kosovo and British Embassy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for international Implementing Partners to continue supporting, independently monitoring and reporting on senior public appointments in Kosovo. 


The MoU sets out terms for Independent, accountable,  meritocratic and professional recruitment in Kosovo Project which will run until March 2024.


One aim is to make merit-based recruitment practices the norm for senior public appointments. But what does it mean to recruitment based on ‘merit’?


A common misconception is that merit is when a recruitment process appoints the highest performing candidate.  But this is only part of the story!


A process is only merit-based when three interlinked principles are all present:

Principle 1:  Criteria are objective and justifiable requirements for the role.


This means that the criteria used to determine eligibility of candidates, and to measure their performance during the recruitment process are defined as being crucial for the role. These should be the most important criteria that differentiate between those who can do the job at a minimal performance level and those who are capable of doing the job at a superior performance level.  This is important to ensure the differences between candidates is undertaken on a meaningful and justifiable basis.


Principle 2:  The assessment methods and practices provide a sufficient and accurate measure of the criteria.


While having the correct criteria in place is key, a merit-based process needs to be able to accurately measure those criteria.  Without accurate measurement, you will not have a merit-based recruitment process.  These must use assessment methods that are capable of appropriately measuring the criteria in a way that tells you about candidate ability to do the role applied for. 


However, the extent to this assessment is carried out diligently and consistently by the commission will also determine whether the methods and practices give an appropriate measure of the criteria.  For example, a presentation topic needs to be relevant to the challenges faced by the organisation applied for (i.e., is relevant) and is assessed systematically against the criteria (i.e., behavioural competencies) required to perform the role effectively.


Principle 3:  Highest performer is appointed.


Of course, appointing the highest performing candidate is essential to a merit-based recruitment process.  However, the principles are hierarchical; only when the first two principles are in place can the appointment of the highest performing candidate be considered merit-based. 


So what does this mean…


When looking at a candidate appointment, it is most important to ask if they were the highest performing candidate or not.  However, you must then ask whether the process creating the rank order was conducted in a meaningful and accurate way.  Only if the first two principles are scrutinised and met, will confidence in the outcome be realised.

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