Ministerial appointments to public bodies: training pack for independent panel members

The recruitment process for many ministerial appointees is independently regulated by the Ethical Standards Commissioner, requiring compliance with the Commissioner’s 2022 Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies. This training pack is for independent panel members.

8. Some tips to help get the best outcomes

Check your bias

Our behaviour and our decision making is influenced by our background, personal experiences and cultural context. Unconscious bias refers to the views and beliefs we all hold, that are outside our conscious awareness and control. Our biases are triggered by our brain's ability to make quick judgements. It is important to check biases to be able to mitigate for them in the recruitment process for public appointees. This video explains more about how bias may occur in selection panels: Understanding Unconscious Bias | Royal Society.

Role descriptions

Focus on the functions that the successful appointee will need to do on the board and the qualities needed to contribute to the board as a whole. Consider how words may influence who is likely to apply and tie this in to groups from which applications are particularly sought.


Usingvery detailed and specific criteria, a large number of criteria, and requests for specific qualifications are more likely to narrow the range and number of applicants. Interrogate carefully exactly what is needed for the board and why e.g. is a specific financial qualification actually required or can a criterion about experience of financial governance, perhaps gained in a specific setting, be designed?

Indicators of criteria

It can help applicants and the panel if the person specification also describes what aspects of a criterion the panel are looking for. Indicators are simply "what good looks like" e.g. a description of how the experience might have been gained, or particular types of challenges faced, or how an issue was dealt with. This can also help when the panel assesses applicants. Panels should avoid using the indicators as a checklist whereby applicants must meet every indicator listed.

Assessment methods

The criteria can be tested at different stages of the process and in different ways. An application via a tailored CV might be suitable, for example, where a specific qualification or experience is sought. Applicants are then shortlisted on whether they have that qualification or experience and at the second stage of assessment other criteria can be assessed via, for example, an interview and/or an exercise. Exercises might include consideration of a board paper and a discussion to draw out how the applicant would approach a governance issue.


The Code is not prescriptive about the type of interview panels should use, or even that any interview must be used; therefore, panels should choose the assessment method that is most appropriate to what is being assessed.

Some common techniques for interview questions include:

  • Situation, Task, Action, Result, (Reflection) (STAR(R)) is most used within the public sector and is also commonly known as competency-based assessment. Anecdotally, this can prove to be a barrier to applicants from private sector backgrounds.
  • Started, Contribution, Amount, Result (SCAR) whilst similar to STAR(R), this assesses the extent to which someone has taken ownership of an issue and taken a particular course of action to improve a situation.
  • Performance based interviewing (PBI) commonly known as "the one question" interview, this technique asks candidates questions about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics they have. Consequently, this is less susceptible to rehearsed responses and/or sectoral background bias.
  • Strengths based interviews (SBI) looks at what a candidate enjoys doing and has a natural aptitude for. The approach is predicated on the understanding that people will be more motivated to fulfil roles effectively when the activities that they will be required to perform match those they enjoy doing.

Simulations and practical exercises

Simulations and practical exercises, particularly when used in combination with structured interviews can be very effective means of assessment. These can take the form of:

  • Applicants being asked to make a presentation to the panel on a specific subject.
  • Applicants being asked to speak on a topic to the panel, who may or may not follow this with questions.
  • Applicants being asked to consider a board paper and answer a question/or questions related to the content.
  • Simulating a real-life situation, usually with someone specifically trained to undertake the role required with the panel observing and assessing the applicant's response to the situation presented (e.g. role play of a press interview).



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