Public servants have urged changes to recruitment at their workplaces, calling for an end to time-wasting hiring rounds for roles already filled by capable staff standing in for several years.
The federal bureaucracy's hiring methods are "drawn-out" and favour people who perform well in interviews, but are wrong for the job, bureaucrats have told a major review led by businessman David Thodey.
In responses to a March interim report from the independent review of the public service, staff also lamented the vast differences in pay across agencies for people at the same level of seniority.
Among the most "liked" comments in the review's Facebook-style feedback web page, public servants writing anonymously said agencies shouldn't advertise positions filled for years by acting staff who had performed well.
Some of the most endorsed submissions called for the public service to save money and time by considering staff acting in the roles, and appointing them permanently.
"This is a better alternative than time and resources invested into long drawn out recruitment processes where the substantive candidate can demonstrate a higher level of knowledge and capability to perform the role than any other internal/external candidate," one comment said.
Other submissions said the Australian Public Service's use of interviews and "selection criteria" statements, which often require applicants to explain at length their suitability for the job, were not filling agency roles with the right people.
"It favours personalities who can 'dazzle' or charm at interview, or write robotic answers to selection criteria that tick all the right boxes, at the expense of others who don't necessarily perform or conform but may be equally or more suitable for the position," one comment said.
"More emphasis should be placed on proven work ability by people who demonstrate day-in, day-out that they are trustworthy and are performing at the relevant level."
Another submission said "ridiculously strict" rules for interviews and selection criteria led to poor experiences for candidates and stopped recruiting panels getting to know them.
It described public service job interviews as "intimidating", "boring" and allowing "no room for interesting and informative interviews where a candidate can really sell who they are".
The bureaucracy's senior executive service, or SES, drew criticism from public servants calling for agencies to select leaders with better people skills.
Applicants unsuited to leadership were getting the most senior roles because they knew the right buzz words and could answer behavioural questions, one submission said.
"Some people can talk the talk in an interview, but can not walk the walk. The process is flawed," it said.
The third-most "liked" comment also called for better training for public servants at the APS 6 level, just below the executive level in seniority.
"How about spending money and time in developing those who have had 20 years experience in the APS and are constantly overlooked? Make the system fair," it said.
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SES staff needed more management training, comments said. Many public servants appointed to SES and executive level jobs had reached those roles for their technical expertise rather than leadership skills.
"Our current SES hold the levers already to solve most if not all the issues identified by this review, and yet they have either lacked the will or capability to pull those levers to make improvements," one submission said.
Bureaucrats also urged the Thodey review, which suggested a move towards common APS pay in its interim report, to respond to disparities across the bureaucracy in salaries for staff doing the same level of work.
"It is soul destroying to see someone at the same level earning $15,000 a year more because they are in a 'central agency," one submission said.
"I work just as hard with as much professionalism as anyone else at my level. Given the pay differences, this does not contribute to workforce mobility and definitely affects the composition of the APS workforce."
One comment called for a return to centralised pay and conditions instead of the separate enterprise agreements unleashed through changes made by the Keating and Howard governments.
"Individual agency bargaining has been a ridiculous waste of time and resources. While the lawyers and HR firms will lament the loss of their snout in the trough, their contribution to agreement making has been symbolic at best."
Pay gaps between agencies stretch to tens of thousands of dollars for APS staff at the same level.
The independent panel is finishing the review and will hand its final report to Prime Minister Scott Morrison through Prime Minister's Department secretary, Martin Parkinson.