What is ‘Best Practice’ when recruiting and selecting Indigenous candidates?

Posted on 26 Mar

One area of particular interest to us and our clients is in understanding and employing best practice recruitment and selection processes for the diverse Australian workforce, and in particular the Indigenous Australian population.

After working with many organisations who are committed to employing and developing Indigenous employee, one of the key challenges they face is having the knowledge about how to effectively recruit and select Indigenous candidates. Often the same recruitment practices used for non-Indigenous Australians are applied, leading to mixed results in the success of recruiting the ‘right’ candidates. This calls into question the suitability of such practices and their potential discrimination.indigenous recrtuiment

In the first quarter of 2014 People Solutions undertook a research project exploring ‘best practice’ for recruitment and selection of Indigenous candidates.

The research project involved two phases;

First phase

This was a thorough review of the recruitment and selection literature, including both Australian and international academic studies.

Second phase

The second phase included interviews with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from a wide range of industries, government and research/education backgrounds.


It is important to recognise the enormous diversity within the Indigenous Australian population, with many different language groups having different cultural practices and protocols. The findings from our study does not take account the diversity within the Indigenous culture, but does identify some common themes and strategies that can be used. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend identifying specific cultural practices when recruiting candidates from different groups and tailoring your recruitment and selection processes and practices accordingly.

What we can reveal

‘Best practice’ can be achieved through the following overarching points that are key to a culturally appropriate, objective, and fair recruitment and selection process that results in successful decisions.

  1. Ensure a ‘culturally safe environment – Break down barriers of mistrust and anxiety by showing genuine interest in finding out about the Indigenous candidate – who they are and how they can contribute. Strategies to develop a culturally safe environment include developing relationships through open, honest and informal communications, preferably face-to-face. It is also essential to explain the whole recruitment and selection process in the beginning. That is, clarify the What, Why and How.
  2. Ensure all selection methods used have low adverse impact and high predictive validity. This is often difficult to determine but you can consult relevant research and professionals, or do your own adverse impact and validity studies
  3. Ensure the recruitment and selection process is as simple and short as possible.
  4. Use a merit based selection process, but have a flexible and adaptable approach. For example, when there is a gap in a candidate’s resume, explore why rather than make assumptions and ‘screen out’ the applicant. Also, make sure you adapt your language and communication style to suit the candidate.
  5. Have at least one indigenous person as part of the whole recruitment process.
  6. Most importantly, ensure there is a ‘real’ job at the end of the recruitment and selection process.

If you’d like to know more about selecting and recruiting a diverse workforce, contact our experts today.

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