We are currently moving our web services and information to Canada.ca.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat website will remain available until this move is complete.

How do I prepare for an appointment process?

Public Service staffing has changed in the last few years, but it remains a merit-based process in which qualified candidates are assessed not only on their ability to do the job, but also on how they meet an organization’s current and future operational requirements.

The appointment process is based on standards of fairness, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness to make sure that hiring is done in a cost effective and timely manner, and that the process results in the hiring of the right people.

There are two classes of appointment process


Employees who meet the specific requirements have the opportunity to apply for posted jobs that are open to public servants only (internal appointment processes) or to public servants and the general public (external appointment processes).


A qualified person is appointed to a position without a call for applications. In order to proceed this way, managers must follow the rules prescribed by their organization. Situations that could call for a non-advertised appointment process include appointment to a shortage group or appointment to a position that requires highly specialized skills.

New terms

  • “Appointment process” replaces “competition”
  • “Statement of merit criteria” replaces “statement of qualifications”
  • “Informal discussion” replaces “appeal”

Make a job advertisement work for you

The information on a job advertisement is largely self-explanatory, but there are important parts of it that some applicants tend to gloss over.

The description under Duties on the advertisement can range from the detailed to the general. The less detail, the more difficult it is to determine the exact nature of the job. This is why it is a good idea to contact the person listed under General inquiries if you need more information. This person is often the same one who will receive your application; if so, ask what documents are required.

Pay particular attention to the section Other information (Notes). There are often important reminders about such things as the requirement to demonstrate that you meet the screening criteria, respect of employment equity and diversity provisions, or the need to inform the employer about accommodation (in the case of special needs).

The statement of merit criteria that accompanies the job advertisement is the framework for the appointment process. It goes into some detail about the essential qualifications, the asset qualifications, the official language proficiency level, and conditions of employment. Make sure your application covers the essential job requirements (experience, knowledge, abilities).

Types of appointments

  • Specific: usually one position with specific or unique duties
  • Collective: several positions that are similar in nature or share the same generic work description and statement of merit criteria

The screening process

After an initial screening of applications, an assessment board is set up that usually consists of the hiring manager, one or two other people, and perhaps someone from human resources. If a generic appointment process is run across the sector or branch, managers from several divisions might be involved.

Members of the assessment board review the pre-screened applications to see whether they meet the advertised merit criteria. To make the process equitable, board members do not assume, guess or extrapolate; they only go by what is on your application. If the advertisement requires you to “demonstrate” your ability to meet the criteria of the job, this means providing substantiating information – for instance, evidence of past experience – to prove that you have the qualifications required.

If you are screened in, you will generally have to do an examination or interview, or both.

If you are screened out, you will receive a letter or e-mail that may outline which elements of your application were considered lacking. In the case of an internal appointment process, you can request an informal discussion with the manager about the decision.

Tailor your application

Try this four-step method to help make your application fit the requirements of the job you are seeking.

  1. The CV: briefer is better Prepare a “master” CV that outlines your experience without going into detail about the things you did in previous jobs. You can adapt it according to the requirements of the job you are applying for.
  2. Refresh your covering letter: Prepare a new covering letter for each appointment process. Clearly state which appointment process you are applying for – a point that is often overlooked.
  3. Check against the advertisement: Have a copy of the advertisement in front of you as you prepare your covering letter. Check off each of the points on the advertisement as you demonstrate them in your letter.
  4. Check and double-check: Once you have written your covering letter, make sure the points you mention are also in your CV.

The assessment process

The statement of merit criteria is the keystone of the evaluation process. Assessment boards are required to evaluate candidates on all the elements in the statement. For their part, candidates are expected to be able to show they meet all the requirements of the job outlined in the statement.

In assessing candidates, assessment boards have several tools at their disposal:

  • Written exams are often the first and best means to evaluate a large number of candidates in a short period of time.
  • Interviews often follow written exams, or are used on their own. See our tips on how to feel more at ease in a job interview.
  • Reference checks are often useful for confirming information provided in an interview and for assessing personal suitability. You should prepare a list of the names and recent contact information of at least three references. Although a direct supervisor can make a great reference, don’t overlook regular clients or a co-worker.

An important part of the appointment process is the drafting of questions that the assessment board will ask all candidates. Expected answers are assigned a point value, and the assessment board sets passing marks for each element under knowledge, abilities and personal suitability. Candidates are rated on their ability to provide full, well-organized responses to questions.

Once the assessment board has evaluated all candidates, it establishes a pool of qualified, but unranked, candidates. This pool is available to management as a source of qualified candidates who can be appointed to fill future vacancies.

How did I do?

To ensure transparency, two notifications are issued:

  • The first notification informs the candidates, in writing, of the names of candidates being considered for an appointment, as well as the start and end date of the waiting period that will give unsuccessful candidates time to request an informal discussion.
  • The second notification announces the assessment board’s final decision, and provides the name(s) of the qualified person(s) appointed or proposed for future appointment.

If you are not being considered for an internal appointment, you will be notified (usually by e-mail) and advised of your right to an informal discussion with the manager about the decision.

Is there recourse?

Unsuccessful candidates in an internal advertised appointment process can file a complaint with the Public Service Staffing Tribunal. The Tribunal handles complaints involving:

  • abuse of authority in applying the merit criteria
  • abuse of authority in choosing between an advertised and a non-advertised appointment process
  • omission in assessing the candidate in the official language of his or her choice.

“Abuse of authority” can include bad faith and personal favouritism. The Tribunal now has the authority to interpret and enforce the Canadian Human Rights Act in dealing with the discriminatory aspects of an appointment.

Date modified: