FC 92/10

Finance Committee

Ninety-second Session

Rome, 3 - 7 May 1999

Improvements in the FAO Recruitment Process

Table of Contents

I. Purpose

1. This paper has been prepared to provide information to the Finance Committee on measures taken by FAO to reduce the time taken to recruit for professional posts. This is in response to concerns expressed by the Finance Committee about delays in the recruitment process.

II. Background on Professional Recruitment in FAO

Level of Recruitment Activity

2. During the years 1996, 1997 and 1998, FAO issued 186, 144 and 190 Vacancy Announcements respectively. This yielded a large volume of applications: 9,500 in 1996; 8,500 in 1997 and 10,000 in 1998. Against these vacancies, the number of external appointments was 58, in 1996, 68 in 1997 and 102 in 1998. In addition FAO recruited 49 professionals on short-term contracts in 1996, 25 in 1997 and 30 in 1998. This level of recruitment activity is among the highest in the UN.

Previous Time taken to Fill Professional Posts

3. Prior to the recently introduced measures, the average time taken to recruit for professional vacancies, from the time of advertisement to the commencement on duty of the staff member, was 58 weeks. As reported by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, the time taken for similar activities in the United Nations Secretariat was 66 weeks in 1998. However, as it was felt that FAO's time frame should be considerably shortened, in 1998 the Director-General requested that a review of the entire recruitment process be undertaken in order to inter alia identify measures for reducing the time involved in professional recruitment.

III. Measures to Speed Up the Recruitment for Professional Posts

4. A number of the measures introduced by the Director-General in late 1998 are intended to speed up the recruitment process, without compromising the quality of candidates.

Improved forward planning and vacancy management

5. Departments and Offices should ensure more effective planning to enable the timely issuance of vacancy announcements for new posts, as well as the issuance of unidentified vacancy announcements in anticipation of vacancies. In particular:

Streamlining and rationalisation of administrative processes

6. There has been major procedural change in the work processes resulting from the recruitment review. Unnecessary steps have been removed, forms amended and a new automated system installed in Departments to register and track applications and to prepare standard letters of reply to candidates. Departments now have full responsibility for all administrative actions following the issuance of the Vacancy Announcement; they will set up panels to evaluate applications and prepare submissions to the PSSC. Departments will now receive applications directly and also handle the necessary correspondence with applicants.

Improved Management of Time Frames for Recruitment Process

7. A key aspect of the new recruitment measures was to establish the best practices and associated target time frames for each step of the process. In addition, a mechanism was put in place to monitor departmental performance. The following diagram sets out the target time frames.

The Selection Process

8. These times represent a considerable shortening of the process with the entire selection action to be conducted in no more than 24 weeks. The monitoring of the above process will allow FAO to identify where improvements in performance are required and also provide the opportunity to identify further steps that may be necessary to speed up the recruitment process. It should be noted however that the Organization has little control over the period between the selection of an external candidate and the effective date of the recruitment which depends mainly on the availability of the candidate.

Briefing and Training of Departmental Staff on Good recruitment Practice

9. The Division of Personnel has briefed all Directors concerning the new measures and the Recruitment Unit has delivered a Training Workshop on Recruitment practice for managers and staff. By the end of May 1999, 100 staff and managers will have been trained.

Improving the Qualitative Aspects of the Recruitment Process

10. While the principal focus of the changes has been on speeding up the recruitment process, emphasis has also been placed on ensuring that FAO maintains the highest quality standards in attracting candidates. One aspect of this has been to ensure that FAO receives the widest possible range of applicants and is responsive to Member Nations concerns that the 8 week advertising period was too short. External Vacancy Announcements are now advertised for 12 weeks. The essential qualifications in the Vacancy Announcement will be less prescriptive and will be accompanied by selection criteria which will be more dynamic in reflecting the current requirements of positions. Furthermore, both the qualifications and the criteria are now attached to the Vacancy Announcement; this measure will also enhance the transparency of the selection process.

11. The Director-General's measures also continue to emphasise the importance of improving the gender balance among the Organization's Professional Staff and of recruiting on as wide a geographical basis as is possible. In both areas, FAO has continued to make significant progress. The number of professional women in FAO has increased from 19% in 1994 to 22% in 1999. The number of countries non-represented among the staff assigned on posts subject to geographical distribution has decreased from 53 in January 1996 to 29 in January 1999. Nationals from an additional 6 non-represented countries are currently under recruitment.

IV. Results of the new Measures

12. Since the implementation of the new measures, a number of units have been successful in completing the assessment and selection of candidates in less than 20 weeks. Before these measures were introduced, the average time taken by all Divisions to carry out assessment and selection was 31 weeks. Performance in this area will continue to be monitored and provide the basis for ongoing reporting on progress in this area.

V. Conclusion

13. The new measures improve the efficiency of the recruitment operation to enable FAO to handle the growing number of vacancies. In addition these measures promote due diligence, transparency and sound recruitment practices, thereby contributing in securing the highest standards of competence.