Recruiting to improve diversity on boards

Guidance on how diversity and inclusion must be considered at each stage of a Victorian Government board recruitment and selection process.

1. Planning an inclusive recruitment process

Consultation on diversity is required for all Victorian Government board appointments, excluding:

  • short-term appointments (three months or less)
  • where a specific body has nomination rights
  • nominees or delegates of a Minister or a departmental Secretary
  • ex-officio appointments (i.e. as a requirement of their substantive position).

Use an open and competitive recruitment process

An open and competitive recruitment process means that a vacancy is publicly advertised, and a candidate is selected from a pool of applicants following a competitive selection process, using the assessment criteria for the role. This is essential to give diverse candidates the opportunity to apply for Victorian Government board positions.

It is preferable that processes are open and competitive even when a current member is being considered for reappointment.

Consultation on diversity must be undertaken. This should occur prior to the advertisement of a board position and as early in the recruitment process as possible.

Consultation on diversity is required to satisfy the requirements of the Appointment and Remuneration Guidelines. Early consultation will help to increase applications from disproportionately represented cohorts.

Inclusion and diversity training

Consider providing inclusion and diversity training to staff and panel members involved in board recruitment and appointment. Staff and panel members who are regularly involved in board recruitment and appointment process may benefit from training such as Aboriginal Cultural Awareness and Cultural Safety Training and disability confidence training.

2. Identifying specific requirements of an appointment

Include diversity, and lived experience as appropriate, as components of your board skills matrix when reviewing your existing board composition.

Boards are required to maintain a skills matrix of the board to inform vacancies and assist succession planning, detailing the mix of the personal qualities, character, reputation, specialist or technical expertise and lived experience required to successfully acquit the responsibilities of the board.

Boards should also comprise members from different backgrounds that reflect the community that it serves, and Victoria more broadly. We have a board skills matrix template you can use.

Valuing diversity of perspectives and lived experience can remove barriers to entry onto boards for under-represented cohorts and will ensure the board has a strong composition and supports robust decision making.

Diversity includes, but is not limited to, age, gender (including non-binary), location, Aboriginality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and disability status.

It is important to consider diversity from an intersectional perspective, and recognise that an individual may be part of more than one of the key cohorts listed in this document.

This can provide candidates with more varied lived experiences to inform a board, and can also mean that they face additional and compounding barriers to participation.

3. Consulting on diversity

When planning a recruitment and selection process, it is mandatory to consult the relevant department in relation to each of the following cohorts:

  • Women, cultural and linguistically diverse people, young people, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability:
  • Aboriginal people:
  • People living in rural and regional communities: if your department has a relevant regional group, you are encouraged to consult with them in the first instance. For additional guidance or broader state-wide recruitment campaigns, consult

In your requests to areas of government about specific cohorts, please provide details of the board and position to be advertised and an outline of your recruitment approach. Areas of government will respond within two (2) business days of your request.

You should provide the following information to support consultation:

  • The roles and responsibilities of the entity and the relevant position
  • The people and communities the board serves
  • Where you currently plan to advertise the position
  • The actions you are taking to attract and support diverse members through the recruitment and selection processes
  • Whether the entity’s terms of reference or constituting legislation note requirements for appointees to be nominated from a particular group, organisation or hold the same organisational position as the predecessor.

To support consultation, you are encouraged to also provide information on:

  • the considerations you are giving to promote inclusion and support diverse members of your board
  • the strategies, policies, action plans or activities that are in place to support diverse board members.

4. Developing the position description and recruitment materials

Use plain English and inclusive language, a logical structure and clear headings in the position description and advertisement.

Use the vacancy as an opportunity to review the position description and ensure that all recruitment materials:

  • use clear and plain language, avoiding jargon or acronyms
  • include clear information about remuneration and sitting fees
  • clearly describe tasks that a successful candidate will need to perform, and the likely time commitment involved.

Do not use biased language in your recruitment materials. For example, replace the gendered ‘Chairman’ with ‘Chair’ or ‘Chairperson’. You might also wish to consider the balance of masculine-coded and feminine-coded language in the position description, as women can feel deterred from applying to board roles that are primarily described using words associated with masculine stereotypes (e.g. “determined”, “strong” and “dominant”).

Additional guidance and support for developing inclusive documents:

Frame the position description to reflect the inherent requirements of the role and avoid including ‘nice to haves’ if they are not essential to the performance of the role. ‘Nice to have’ selection criteria that are not essential to the role may prevent people from applying.

Encourage applicants to detail their lived experience, professional experience and other demonstrable skillsets and knowledge in addressing the selection criteria.

Taking this approach can give candidates the opportunity to leverage their complete skillset and experiences in applying for the position. This acknowledges that some people may have suitable skills and/or experience for a position but not have the same level of formal education or professional experience as other candidates, as they may have faced barriers to accessing formal education.

Contact information

Include the name, telephone number and email address of an officer who can answer questions about the role and respond to any requests for reasonable adjustments.

Invite inquiries about the role via the National Relay Service (NRS) for candidates who are hard of hearing or Deaf.

Focus, policies and actions

Highlight the Victorian Government and board’s focus on diversity and inclusion and any existing policies or actions taken by the board to support diversity and inclusion. This type of statement can indicate to people that they are welcome and supported in an organisation.

For example:

The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring that government boards and committees reflect the rich diversity of the Victorian community.

We encourage applications from people of all ages, Aboriginal people, people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, intersex and queer people. We will provide adjustments to the recruitment process upon request.

This is particularly important for cohorts that have previously experienced barriers to inclusion in some environments and is best reinforced with practical actions to demonstrate that a diverse range of people are welcome in an organisation.

For example:

The Victorian Government’s Women on Boards commitment has been in effect since 2015 and is ensuring that all public boards have no less than 50 per cent women. In 2021, 55 per cent of board seats are held by women, compared to 39 per cent six years ago.

The Board is actively strengthening reconciliation and self-determination for Aboriginal people. Our Reconciliation Action Plan is available here: X

For further information on the Board’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, our Diversity and Inclusion Policy is available here: X

Application documents

Use application documents to collect information on diversity to understand how you can support diverse candidates through the process.

Candidates are not required to tell you about their Aboriginality, disability, sexuality, age or any other characteristics unless it is relevant to their ability to complete the inherent requirements of the role.

A person can choose to disclose this information at any point in the recruitment process or following their appointment.

Departments must seek the informed consent of applicants to collect any information related to their racial or ethnic origin, sexuality or criminal record. Departments should also seek the informed consent of applicants to collect other information related to their personal characteristics.

When collecting and using personal information, Departments must always act in accordance with the Victorian Government Privacy Statement, and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) which contains the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs).

Establishing a sense of safety is important to enabling candidates to feel comfortable with disclosure.

For example:

You do not have to disclose any personal information if you do not want to, but it can help us understand how we can support you through the recruitment process and beyond.

We invite you to tell us if you identify as Aboriginal, a person with disability, from a culturally or linguistically diverse background, LGBTIQ+ or a young person, aged 25 years old or less.

If you identify as any of the above, we would welcome the opportunity to contact you and discuss how we can support you through the recruitment process.

Sharing this information will help you access support should you need it and will also help us to better understand the impact of our work.

Highlight available flexible arrangements

Flexible arrangements can remove significant barriers to participation, particularly for people with caring responsibilities (often women), people with disability and people living in regional and rural areas, people from culturally and linguistically diverse background and those on different types of temporary visas including people seeking asylum.

Where possible, boards should provide support for board meetings to occur online, to encourage applications from diverse candidates.

Accessible recruitment materials

Ensure all recruitment materials are available in an accessible Word format and consider providing alternative formats.

Include an ‘accessibility tag’ in all materials advising candidates that information is available in alternative formats upon request. For example:

If you would like help understanding this document or would like to receive it in another format phone XXXX XXXX, using the National Relay Service 133 677 if required, or email X on

Additional guidance on producing accessible documents:

Consider making advertisements available in different languages or formats, including through the use of imagery or captioned video.

5. Advertising the position

Plan your approach

Plan your approach for promoting the role, including advertising through formal channels and informal methods of reaching candidates.

Planning is a critical step in advertising your vacancy to ensure it reaches a broad audience. In addition to traditional advertising methods, informal methods are a valuable way to reach diverse candidates.

This includes:

  • seeking recommendations from experienced directors on board-ready candidates or conducting roadshows to promote large-scale recruitment opportunities
  • network referrals, such as promoting your position through departmental networks, including Aboriginal, pride, women, youth, disability and people of colour networks
  • more specialised recruitment using a non-executive search firm to support efforts to reach more diverse candidates.

Areas that manage consultation for diverse cohorts can review and provide advice on your advertising plan through the consultation.

All Victorian Government board appointments must be advertised via Join a Public Board. ‘Join a Public Board’ is the Victorian Government’s central advertising platform for Victorian public sector board opportunities. The website allows candidates to create a personalised profile that will match candidates to available board positions. It is administered by the Victorian Public Sector Commission.

Advertise the position widely and through diverse channels, including internet recruitment sites, social media and newspapers or notices targeting diverse communities (refer to Key Considerations for Cohorts).

Additional channels to reach more diverse candidates could include:

  • regional newspapers
  • local community newspapers or newsletters (including a translation of the advertisement where possible)
  • community groups and organisations
  • Aboriginal controlled community organisations and Traditional Owner Corporations
  • multicultural organisations
  • funded organisations
  • culturally and/or linguistically diverse media
  • Seniors Online and seniors e-newsletters
  • carer organisations and peak bodies
  • LGBTIQ+ media
  • youth organisations and media
  • departmental websites
  • radio.

Recommended advertising channels to reach diverse candidates is provided in Key Considerations for Cohorts. The diversity consultation contacts listed in this publication can provide further advice through consultation on appropriate engagement and advertising approaches to reach candidates with your skills and experience requirements.

Victorian Government talent pools

You can identify available candidates directly through ‘Join a Public Board’. Many departments and agencies also maintain their own talent pools of board-ready candidates with relevant experience to their sectors.

6. Shortlisting the candidates

Consider the ratio of diverse applicants when reviewing the selected shortlist of candidates.

If the board is of an entity or related to an issue of state-wide impact, review the number of candidates who live in regional Victoria and whether this is disproportionately weighted towards metropolitan Melbourne or geographically concentrated among specific parts of Melbourne.

It can be useful to categorise applications based on your skills matrix, including for diversity of perspectives, as a technique to review the ratio of applicants.

In the case of a lack of diverse candidates, review your recruitment process to identify any areas for improvement and consider returning to the market to seek additional applications.

Be mindful of bias and the barriers it creates to equal opportunity and participation. Biases are pre-conceived ideas about people that can influence our decisions in recruitment processes.

This means we may make assumptions about another person’s skills or abilities, or their suitability for a job, based on unrelated attributes, such as their age, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. These biases can present as discrimination, including racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism and sexism, and create further barriers to equal opportunity and participation for people from diverse backgrounds.

For example, research shows that applicants with perceived non-Anglo names can be disadvantaged in the application process. De-identifying CVs can help to overcome bias against culturally and linguistically diverse people.

If a candidate from a diverse background has applied for the role and has comparable skillsets to other candidates being interviewed, do not let their background influence the panel’s decision.

Additional guidance on understanding bias in recruitment can be found on the Recruit Smarter website.

7. Conducting the interviews

Use a balanced selection panel

Assemble a balanced selection panel. In doing so, have regard to the diversity of gender, ethnicity and other characteristics.

It is preferable to include an independent person on the panel who has no bias in the recruitment process and will not directly benefit from the appointment. Ideally, this would be a person from another sector or portfolio who has no existing relationship with the board. Where this is not practical, the fundamental objective is to avoid any tangible bias or perception of bias.

If it is not possible to have a diverse selection panel, consider inviting a third-party observer.

An observer that is recognised as being able to represent the interests of diverse communities can provide advice and guidance to the interview panel to achieve an equitable selection outcome.

Consider alternative interview formats

Formal interview approaches may limit the ability of some candidates to fully participate. Consider including a 1:1 discussion or a combination of less structured discussions and interviews. Also consider providing interview questions prior to the interview so candidates have the opportunity to present their best case.

Ask about access requirements and support

Ask candidates about their access requirements and support needed to ensure they have a fair and equitable opportunity to participate in the interview process. Proactively ask if applicants require reasonable adjustments, including accessibility requirements, and, if appropriate, whether they need support for childcare arrangements or they would like to have a support person present. Also ask if they have any questions before the interview.

To promote accessibility for applicants who may not be familiar with formal interview processes or accessibility adjustments they can request, it is helpful to provide examples of common accessibility adjustments. These could include providing interview questions in advance or amending the format or location of the interview to suit the person’s needs.

If interviews are being conducted in person, ensure the interview venue is accessible. Access considerations include step-free entrances, accessible toilets on the same level as the interview room, and lift access. Provide clear direction to candidates on the meeting location, parking and transport options, ramps and accessible bathrooms as well other supports including prayer rooms or quiet spaces, where necessary.

If a candidate has notified you that they have interpreting needs, confirm which language they prefer to communicate in. Victorian Government departments and agencies have procurement arrangements and protocols in place for interpreting services. It is the responsibility of the host department, agency or organisation to coordinate and pay for interpreting services where needed. Similarly, if a candidate has other support worker needs, confirm if they have a preferred service provider or support worker. It is advised to book the required supports as soon as you have been notified.

Brief receptionists and co-interviewers on any specific access requirements if the applicant has confirmed they are happy to share the information.

Refer to your department’s Human Resources area for advice and your department’s reasonable adjustment policy.

Advise applicants of reimbursements

Advise applicants that they are eligible for reimbursements for reasonable expenses to reduce barriers to participation.

In accordance with the Appointment and Remuneration Guidelines, all appointees, whether remunerated or unremunerated, are eligible to be reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses such as travel, accommodation, meals and other incidental expenses associated with attendance at meetings, and overnight absence from home or absence from the normal work location in the course of field duties.

Preferred pronouns

Encourage panel members to introduce themselves using their preferred pronouns.

To promote an LGBTIQ+ inclusive interview environment, panel members should consider introducing themselves using their preferred pronouns (for example she/her, he/him, they/them), and inviting interviewees to do the same if they feel comfortable. This demonstrates that the board acknowledges and respects people from trans and gender diverse communities. It also aims to make LGBTIQ+ interviewees – particularly those who identify as trans and gender diverse – feel comfortable and able to participate safely in the interview.