Archived - Executive Appointment Guide for Human Resources Professionals

Effective Date:
December 2005 (amended: July 2009)
Related Documents:

This Guide is provided by the Public Service Commission to help human resources (HR) advisors support deputy heads in developing organizational approaches to EX resourcing.

Table of contents

I. Introduction

This Guide is designed as a reference document to assist organizations in developing their resourcing framework for executive-level (EX) appointments. It is also intended to provide HR professionals with information on the management of EX appointment processes in support of deputy head accountability for the delegation of Executive (EX) appointment authority.

As EX appointment processes have been harmonized with all other appointment processes, this Guide by itself will not provide sufficient information about all the changes created by the current Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Appointment Framework. Therefore, it does not provide an exhaustive summary of the Appointment Framework for all public service positions. Rather, it focuses on the requirements that are specifically relevant to EX-level positions, while highlighting a few additional key requirements. To access the remaining Appointment Policy requirements, you are encouraged to read all of the other relevant guides and tools. Links to these other documents are provided throughout this Guide.

II. Context

The Public Service Employment Act

On December 31, 2005, the PSEA came into force. The preamble of the Act reflects the spirit and intent of the legislation, setting out the Government's goals for the public service. It also reiterates that appointment decisions shall be based on merit and non-partisanship and sets out specific guiding values - fairness, transparency, access and representativeness – and a commitment to linguistic duality and diversity.

A significant change under the PSEA is that, for the first time, the legislation provides a definition of “merit”. Merit has two components:

  1. everyone to be appointed to a position in the public service must meet the essential qualifications for the work to be done; and
  2. in assessing candidates, sub-delegated managers can take into account qualifications that are considered an asset for the work, currently or in the future, as well as any current or future operational requirements and organizational needs. The sub-delegated manager may also consider the current and future needs of the public service, as determined by the Employer. For more information, please refer to the guide on Assessing Merit.

The Public Service Commission Appointment Framework

The PSC's Appointment Framework guides organizations in designing their staffing systems while ensuring respect for legislative requirements and upholding the core and guiding values of the public service.

The PSC Appointment Framework, which has three components (appointment policy, delegation and accountability), applies to appointments made to all groups and levels, including the EX group. Under section 16 of the PSEA, PSC policies are binding and deputy heads exercising delegated PSEA authorities are accountable for meeting the specific requirements of each policy. The Act encourages the delegation of these authorities to deputy heads. In turn, deputy heads are encouraged to sub-delegate, in writing, their appointment and appointment-related responsibilities. Deputy heads are accountable for the exercise of their delegated responsibilities.

The Public Service Employment Act and the employer

Under the PSEA, the employer is responsible for the following areas:

  • defining deployments (paragraph 26(1)(a));
  • defining promotions (paragraph 26(1)(b));
  • determining periods of probation and notice periods (paragraph 26(1)(c));
  • determining rate of pay on appointment (section 60); and
  • establishing qualification standards (subsection 31(1)).

Mobility under the Public Service Employment Act

Staff of separate agencies, as listed in Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act (FAA), have new mobility rights. The mobility provisions permit staff of these organizations to apply for appointment processes that are open to “all employees”. In addition, the PSEA permits inter-group deployments to the core public administration (Schedule I and Schedule IV) from separate agencies, if the PSC has reviewed their staffing system and has approved deployments from that organization to the core public administration.

Deployments to and within the EX group are permitted. For additional information on this issue, please refer to the Regulations which allow for deployment into the EX group and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) Policy and Frequently Asked Questions page on deployments at

The EX group qualification standardapplies to deployment processes both to and within the EX group, at all levels. The applicable Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and OCHRO policies regarding Deployment, salary calculation, Terms and Conditions of Employment and Policy on the Management of Executives must also be respected.

Delegation of executive appointment authority

In the spirit of the preamble of the PSEA, the PSC has maximized the delegation of appointment authority. Deputy heads have the delegated authority to appoint employees to and within the EX group (EX-1 to EX-5).

Once a deputy head decides to sub-delegate their EX appointment authority, consideration needs to be given to the following elements:

  • to whom to sub-delegate (for example, identification by position title, substantive level, or particular individual(s)); and
  • for which EX level(s), EX-level equivalents or types of positions.

Deputy heads may sub-delegate their EX appointment and appointment-related authorities, in writing, to one or more of the following persons:

  • Associate Deputy Ministers (ADM) or other associate deputy head title;
  • Governor in Council (GIC) appointees whose functions fall under the jurisdiction of the deputy head and who have both financial and HR responsibilities;
  • Interchange Canada (IC) participants whose assignments fall under the jurisdiction of the deputy head and who have both financial and HR responsibilities, provided that the IC assignment (including any extensions) is in accordance with the Employer's Policy and Directive on IC; and
  • employees within the deputy head's organization.

Sub-delegation to GIC appointees or IC participants is to be limited to the period of appointment or assignment to the position. Specific arrangements need to be made with the PSC if the deputy head wants to sub-delegate EX-level appointment authority to other individuals. Please refer to the PSC Appointment Framework – Delegation for additional information.

Sub-delegated managers should be fully informed of their appointment authority and responsibilities. They must also have access to necessary training and to an HR specialist whose expertise in appointment processes under the PSEA has been validated by the PSC's Appointment Framework Knowledge Test (AFKT). Their organization's Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument (ADAI) and a clear description of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the appointment and appointment-related authorities being sub-delegated to them must also be provided.

Service providers

While deputy heads are responsible and accountable for ensuring the integrity of appointment decisions within their organizations, they can choose to manage the operational work supporting the EX appointment decision by:

  • handling the EX appointment processes internally;
  • using the services of the National Client Services Directorate of the PSC's Staffing and Assessment Services Branch;
  • obtaining services elsewhere; or
  • using a combination of any of the above providers.

III. EX resourcing strategies and issues

The following factors need to be considered in EX appointment processes.

Human resources planning

To take full advantage of the flexibility inherent in the PSEA, there is a much stronger emphasis on the need to undertake the HR planning that now underpins the appointment process. The new Appointment Framework involves more than just filling a vacant EX position. It also allows positions that have been identified as future vacancies to be filled more quickly than before, while meeting the organization's business needs. For example, one appointment process can be used to fill a number of similar vacancies, in accordance with the business plan of the organization.

Employment equity

The PSEA contains the following provisions that specifically help managers achieve their employment equity (EE) goals:

  • areas of selection can be set up based on membership in an EE designated group; and
  • the use of such areas of selection is no longer tied to an EE program approved by the PSC.

The PSC Policy on Area of Selection requires that the decision to limit the area of selection to one or more designated groups be supported by the organization's EE or HR plan. The Guide to Implementing the Area of Selection Policy offers additional helpful information.

In addition, the new approach to merit allows current and future needs of the organization or of the public service (as identified by the employer) to be considered when making appointments. Consequently, if EE plans identify increased representation as an organizational need, membership in an EE group may be considered when choosing a qualified person for appointment. Please refer to the Guide to Implementing the Policy on Employment Equity in the Appointment Process.

The PSC's EX-1 Visible Minority Fully-Assessed Pool is an excellent source of pre-qualified candidates for EX-1 positions who have self-identified as belonging to a visible minority.

Note: Although the PSC Employment Equity Program for Executives has expired, the PSEA provides authorities for actions such as limiting the area of selection and using EE objectives as a merit criterion.

Official languages

Proficiency in one or both official languages is specifically defined in the PSEA as an essential qualification and cannot be considered an asset qualification. Proficiency in the second official language, other than specialized or expert proficiency in one or both official language(s), is assessed by means of the Second Language Evaluation, or another assessment method approved by the Commission.

The organization must consider its official languages obligations in relation to service to the public, language of work and linguistic capacity. It must be determined if the position is unilingual, either/or, or bilingual. Official languages requirements are determined objectively and reflect obligations with respect to service to the public and language of work.

Positions or functions at the ADM level or equivalent across Canada require a C/B/C linguistic profile.

Bilingual EX positions in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes require a C/B/C profile if they meet one of the following five criteria:

  • Supervision of employees occupying bilingual positions or positions with differing language requirements;
  • Participation as a regular member in the institution's management team;
  • Significant role in exercising the institution's authority to direct, or to provide services to, other federal organizations;
  • Significant functions related to representing the institution to the public or employees of the institution;
  • Significant role in the coordination of programs or activities of employees in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes.

Imperative staffing is required as follows:

  • throughout Canada, for all positions or functions at the ADM levels, and other assistant deputy head titles;
  • in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes, for all other positions or functions at EX-2 to EX-5 levels; and
  • in unilingual regions, for all positions or functions at levels EX-2 to EX-5 that include supervision of employees who are located in a bilingual region and occupy bilingual positions or positions with varying language requirements.

This obligation does not apply to indeterminate positions that are open to the public, nor to positions at the EX-1 level. Such positions may be staffed either imperatively or non-imperatively.

For executive positions, the use of non-imperative staffing must be approved by the deputy head. The conditions for non-imperative appointments are established in the Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order in effect at the time of the appointment. These requirements apply, with the necessary changes, to deployments.

When an executive is appointed or deployed on a non-imperative basis, the language requirements of the position must be met within the prescribed time limit even if, within that period of time, the person is deployed on a non-imperative basis to another bilingual position.

In the case of appointments, the PSC retains the authority to approve the exclusion from meeting official language proficiency requirements on medical grounds. In the case of deployments, the deputy head exercises that authority.

Under the Public Service Official Languages Appointment Regulations, the PSC has delegated to deputy heads the authority to extend the two-year period referred to in an agreement to become bilingual, for one or more additional periods, which may not exceed two years in total. The deputy head may not sub-delegate this authority for positions in the EX group.

The raising of linguistic profiles and the re-identification of unilingual positions to bilingual are administrative measures to be managed by the employer and are not addressed in the Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order. Employees affected by a linguistic profile adjustment or a position re-identification are encouraged to take language training and organizations are strongly encouraged to send these employees on training. Employees who do not meet the new language requirements can remain in their position without having to meet the new language requirements. Organizations must, therefore, put in place administrative measures to ensure the functions can be performed in both official languages in the interim.

Executives are not entitled to receive the bilingualism bonus.

For further information related to official languages, please refer to the Guide to Implementing the Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process, the Directive on Official Languages for People Management and the Bilingualism Bonus Directive.

Qualification standard

The Executive (EX) Group Qualification Standard represents the minimum qualification requirements for staffing an EX position and, therefore, applies to all appointment and deployment processes to and within the EX group, at all levels. The Key Leadership Competencies for the federal public service are comprised of six competencies. They are: Create Vision and Strategy, Mobilize People, Uphold Integrity and Respect, Collaborate with Partners and Stakeholders, promote Innovation and Guide Change and Achieve Results.

Appointment process options

The choice of advertised or non-advertised, and internal or external, appointment processes is to be consistent with the organization's HR plan and the core (merit and non-partisanship) and guiding (fairness, transparency, access and representativeness) values of the PSEA. Although non-advertised appointment processes may be used when appropriate, the choice of a non-advertised process must be based on pre-established appointment criteria set out by the deputy head. In the case of a non-advertised process, a written rationale is required to demonstrate how the process meets the established criteria and the values. This requirement does not apply to acting EX appointments of less than four months, except where the same person is appointed to the same position on an acting basis within 30 calendar days of the end of the previous acting appointment.

Whichever option is chosen, organizations may consider establishing internal mechanisms for a challenge function within their management accountability framework. This function will help ensure that the appointment option selected is supportive of the HR, EE and business plans of the organization, as well as consistent with the policies of the PSC and the organization. Please refer to the Guide to Implementing the Choice of Appointment Process Policy and the Guide to Implementing the Advertising in the Appointment Process Policy.

Priority clearance

Organizations must obtain a priority clearance number before proceeding with an EX appointment process. Any time a person with a priority entitlement is identified, they must be considered in the appointment process. The Guide on Priority Administration provides additional details.

In order to use the Public Service Employment Regulations (PSER) to limit priority referrals to members of designated groups, organizations need to demonstrate that not only is limiting the area of selection consistent with the organization's EE or HR plan, but it is also part of an organizational EE program. PSC approval is not required for an organizational EE program.

Area of selection

PSC policy requires each organization to develop its own area of selection policy to provide reasonable access to internal and external appointments and a reasonable area of recourse for internal non-advertised processes. A national area of selection is required for all advertised external appointment processes. To ensure consistency, the area of selection for internal EX-level appointment processes should be incorporated into the organization's area of selection policy. Please refer to Guide to Implementing the Area of Selection Policy for additional details.


Merit criteria, including the Key Leadership Competencies, need to be clearly defined in advance. A variety of rigorous assessment tools and techniques must be used to measure qualifications for EX positions. All of the assessment information upon which decisions are made should be thoroughly documented. This exercise will provide clear evidence for meritorious hiring decisions.

Assessment processes and methods are to be objective in order to identify persons who meet the position qualifications. They must not create systemic barriers to employment opportunities. The document entitled Testing in the Public Service of Canada presents the standards that govern the use, development and administration of assessment tools that are used for appointment purposes.

All candidates in assessment processes, including those who are members of one of the designated groups under the Employment Equity Act, must be treated fairly. To this end, the Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service, the Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities and the Guidelines for Fair Assessment in a Diverse Workplace: Removing Barriers to Members of Visible Minorities and Aboriginal Peoples are to be respected. Please refer to the Guidance Series on Assessment, Selection and Appointment for further information.

For details on structured interviews and structured reference checks, please refer to the following PSC guides:

These tools may be supplemented with other assessment methods to ensure a comprehensive assessment of the merit criteria. PSC approval is required before using tests of personality, intelligence, aptitude or tests of like nature.

The Personnel Psychology Centre (PPC) Assessment Services Directorate provides a variety of services on a cost recovery basis, including the provision of standardized tests such as SELEX, the development of assessment tools and Executive Counselling Services.

Persons responsible for assessment

Deputy heads are responsible for establishing their own criteria for the selection of assessment board members.

Hiring managers may ask various individuals to assess applicants against the merit criteria. The Assessment Policy defines this group as the “assessment board”. Except for the manager who makes the appointment decision, the role of all assessment board members is an advisory one, ranging from advising on logistics and on which assessment tools and rating schemes should be used, to administering these tools, rating applicants and helping decide which applicants are qualified. As the person responsible for the appointment, the hiring manager decides what level of involvement each assessment board member will have.

Various individuals can contribute to the assessment process due to their specialized knowledge or skills. These individuals can include:

  • executive(s) from outside the hiring department/agency;
  • executive(s) from EE designated groups (even if the candidates being interviewed may not have self-identified as members of EE groups);
  • a mix of male/female representation;
  • job incumbents or experts with an in-depth knowledge of the position requirements;
  • a client, when a position requires a strong client service focus;
  • assessors who have expertise in competency-based assessment and rigourous assessment techniques, such as HR specialists and psychologists;
  • assessors who have received training in objective selection and diversity; and
  • a representative from the functional community (when applicable).

The participation of these groups is reflected in the Assessment Policy under “other parties as necessary for a comprehensive assessment”.

Board members must be able to assess candidates in the candidate's official language of choice. To further contribute to fair and objective assessment, deputy heads must ensure that board members also possess the necessary competencies and knowledge to assess the qualifications for a position. They should also ensure that these individuals are not in a conflict of interest situation as a result of their role as assessors.

The former requirement that a member of the Committee of Senior Officials (COSO) serve as an assessor for EX-5 level positions is no longer in effect. This directive has been removed from the TBS's Policy on the Management of Executives.

Informal Discussion

Informal Discussion applies to all EX internal advertised and non-advertised appointment processes and can occur at any point in the process where a person is eliminated. It provides an opportunity for that person to discuss the decision with the hiring manager as soon as possible after the decision is made. For additional information, please refer to the Guide to Implementing the Informal Discussion Policy and the Guidance Series - Participating in informal discussion


Appointments to an EX position are approved by the deputy head or by a sub-delegated manager. The deputy head retains the overall accountability for all appointments approved within the organization, even if the deputy head sub-delegates their EX appointment authority. Letters of offer are made from within the organization. The PSC's PSC Appointment Policy and Guidance Series on Assessment, Selection and Appointment provide further details.


In all internal advertised and non-advertised EX appointment processes, for staffing on a term or indeterminate basis, persons entitled to notification must be advised in writing of the names of the persons being considered for each appointment. A waiting period of at least five (5) calendar days must be established during which no appointment can be made or proposed. The notification must also communicate the chosen duration of the waiting period.

Thereafter, these same persons must be advised in writing of the names of the persons proposed for appointment or appointed to an EX position. The notification must describe the grounds, methods and time frames for complaints to the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (PSST).

All advertised or non-advertised EX appointment processes to staff on an acting basis of four (4) months duration or longer must inform persons entitled to notification of the proposed or actual acting appointment and describe the grounds, methods and time frames for complaints to the PSST.

In an internal advertised process, everyone who is in the area of selection and who was part of the process must be notified.

In an internal non-advertised process, everyone in the area of selection must be notified. Please refer to Guide to Implementing the Notification Policy and the Guidance Series - Managing the Notification Process for further information.

Oath or solemn affirmation

Section 54 of the PSEA requires persons being appointed from outside that part of the public service over which the PSC has exclusive authority to make appointments to take the oath or solemn affirmation in person on or before the effective date of appointment.

Resourcing files

For PSC audit, investigation and monitoring purposes, and to facilitate Informal Discussion as well as proceedings in complaints to the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (PSST), organizations are responsible for maintaining resourcing files on all EX appointments, including those files managed by a service provider outside the department or agency. Documents on file should fully reflect how the process was managed and the basis on which the appointments were made. EX appointment files need to be accessible for a minimum of five years from the date of the last administrative action or for the duration of an ongoing audit.

It is recommended that files contain information from all stages of the appointment process, from the work description and Statement of Merit Criteria to assessment documentation and evidence that interested parties within the relevant area of selection have been notified of their recourse rights.


Under the PSEA, the PSST is involved in recourse for internal processes. Recourse is available to all persons in EX appointment processes who are in the area of selection.

In an internal advertised EX appointment process, any person who participated in the process and who is in the area of selection can make a complaint to the PSST, whereas, in an internal non-advertised EX appointment process, any person in the area of selection can make a complaint to the PSST.

Grounds for complaint to the PSST are limited to:

  • abuse of authority in setting or applying the merit criteria;
  • abuse of authority in choosing between an advertised and non-advertised internal appointment process; or
  • failure to assess the complainant in the official language of their choice.

Corrective action and revocation

Section 15 of the PSEA specifies that the delegation to a deputy head of the authority to make internal appointments must also include the authority to revoke appointments and to take corrective action. In order to revoke or take corrective action, the deputy head must be satisfied, following an investigation, that an error, omission or improper conduct affected the selection for appointment.

The deputy head may not sub-delegate the authority to revoke. However, the deputy head may sub-delegate the authority to implement the corrective action. The PSC's Policy on Corrective Action and Revocation requires each organization to develop its own policy on corrective action and revocation.

Under sections 68 and 69 of the PSEA, the PSC has the authority to investigate and revoke external appointments, non-delegated internal appointments, appointments involving fraud and appointments affected by political influence. The Guide to Implementing the Corrective Action and Revocation Policy and the Guidance Series – Corrective Action and Revocation offer additional details.

Monitoring, review and reporting

Deputy heads are responsible for establishing monitoring and review mechanisms for acting appointments of more than twelve (12) months, appointments of casual workers to term or indeterminate status through a non-advertised process and appointments to the EX group through non-advertised processes. In addition, deputy heads are to report to the PSC on their management of delegated staffing in accordance with the Staffing Management Accountability Framework. Please refer to the PSC Appointment Policy.

IV. Public Service Employment Regulations

The following regulations apply to EX appointment processes. For further details, please consult Justice Canada's Public Service Employment Regulations website.

Acting appointments

This regulation excludes from merit, notification and recourse all acting appointments, including EX appointments, initially established for less than four (4) months. Once these appointments are extended to four (4) months or longer, they become subject to these requirements. All acting appointments are excluded from the consideration of priorities for the duration of the acting appointment.

Employment equity and priorities

The regulation exempts EE appointments made in accordance with an employment equity program, from consideration of priorities, unless the priority person is a member of the EE group.

Underfill and overfill

The regulation for underfill and overfill situations is unchanged from the previous regulation. An employee whose substantive level is EX-4 or EX-5 may be appointed to a lower-level position, but retain their previous substantive level, provided that the employer has made provision for compensation at the higher level. An employee whose substantive level is EX-4 may be appointed to a position at a higher level and continue to be paid at the previous substantive level. Underfill and overfill situations are limited to employees whose substantive level is EX-4 or EX-5 by employer policy (see section 5.5 of Appendix B – Salary Elements of Executive Compensation of the Directive on Executive Compensation).

When appointing an employee in an underfill situation to the full level of the position, the effective date of the appointment should not be backdated prior to the date when the employee was found qualified by the persons responsible for the assessment.

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