During our selection process we interview candidates and Panel Members represent us on those panels.
Panel Members review applications, interview you at a selection day, and provide an assessment of candidates that helps Commissioners decide who to recommend for judicial appointment. All selection panels contain a judicial member, and at least one lay panel member.
Panels assess all the evidence of a candidate’s merits against a competency framework (or Skills and Abilities criteria) for the post. Although our Commissioners make the final decision about who to recommend for appointment, they rely heavily on the panel assessments in making that decision. Panel members therefore have a key role in ensuring that we conduct our business efficiently, fairly and with a focus on its statutory duty to select on merit.
Panel member diversity
JAC panel members perform a critical role in the recruitment of judicial members, so it is essential that they are representative of the wider society. The JAC is committed to the recruitment, retention and ongoing support of diverse panel members of all backgrounds, in line with the UK working- age population. This is to ensure diversity is at the forefront of selection panel member composition, both for lay panel members and judicial members.
Panel member recruitment
We regularly seek new panel members to support our current cadre. If you are interested in becoming a panel member, or require further information, please contact Ian Thomson at Ian.Thomson@judicialappointments.gov.uk
The panel member experience
All in the same boat
“In my 7 years as a panel chair I’ve found that it doesn’t matter who is sitting on the candidate’s side of the table, how senior, how experienced, or clever they are, they are nervous and find the interview process difficult. Everyone does. However, those who have prepared clearly find it easier.
“Candidates who haven’t understood the process and didn’t do any preparation really struggle. I’m sure they have loads of good examples they just don’t have them at their fingertips because they haven’t done the work in advance of interview. But I do think that the message is finally getting through that you need to do a good self-assessment, give good examples and prepare for the interview process.”
Natural behaviours to the fore
“I think the role play is a very powerful recruitment tool because it puts the candidate into a very realistic situation. With good actors, candidates get caught up in the situation and it ceases to be a role play and becomes a court room so they begin to act like a judge or tribunal member. I believe that as people become caught up, their natural behaviours come out. That is what we want to see. It’s quite enlightening what we find out. Natural behaviours almost inevitably come to the fore.
“The actors are not in any way involved in decision making but they do take it their role very seriously. They are very professional. Sometimes they have to improvise, if the candidate goes off-piste then they help to get the role play back on track so we cover what we need to.”
A professional panel
“As chair the majority of my panel members are like-minded which makes it easy. But sometimes you do get a member who strongly disagrees. I like to have these discussions because sometimes you can miss something. This is why having a panel is so important. There is often a very detailed discussion especially when one of the candidates is borderline. It can be difficult but everyone is professional and we use the evidence. It’s not personal it’s a business decision and as chair you have the casting vote.
“For every selection exercise we talk about unconscious bias. We are constantly checking ourselves and each other. We must ensure we don’t judge anyone on their background or diversity. It’s a discipline. It’s crucially important to candidates that we use only the evidence put before us.
“What reassures me is that everybody: the JAC staff, the front of house team, the panel – everybody takes the process very seriously. No candidates can say they’ve had an unfair deal. They have been given a good opportunity to tell us why they are suitable and have been considered honestly and fully.
“No recruitment system is perfect but having been involved in a number of them I believe this is a robust, detailed, professional system.”
“Since March 2020, panels have been carrying out remote assessments and these are likely to continue in some form for the foreseeable future. Situational questions and competency-based interviews are no less effective than the live, face-to-face situation and the JAC Selection teams and technical staff have worked very effectively to ensure that the experience runs smoothly for both candidates and panel members. The evidence obtained still allows panels to make appropriate decisions.”
Paula McDonald CBE joined as a JAC panel member after retiring from a career in public service, most recently as a Senior Civil Servant in the Cabinet Office.
“In the Cabinet Office, I had led on workforce, lead and leadership and public body reform policy. I could see that my background in workforce and leadership development would be transferrable to the Panel Member role. I was also familiar with the development of law and regulation through experience of parliamentary bill making.
What I most enjoy most about the role
“I learn something new from every exercise. I meet and work alongside some amazing people – the judges who are experts in their field, my fellow panel colleagues who are from all walks of life and the JAC selection team. Most importantly, I enjoy meeting the judicial candidates – it is a privilege to hear their personal journeys and their achievements.
“I enjoy being entrusted with the importance of what we do as panel members. Our recommendations to the JAC Commissioners of who should hold judicial office will impact not only the future career of candidates but the members of the public who rely on, and put their faith in, the judicial system to make legally sound, impartial and fair judgments. The decisions the judges make are often life changing – so what we do as panellists really matters.
“Our assessments of the best candidates for judicial office have to fair, impartial and evidence based and stand up to scrutiny. I enjoy being tested to meet the high standards set through the rigour and thoroughness of our decision making.
“Over the years I have seen an increasing focus on improving the diversity in the judiciary. We have been successful in recruiting more women judges but still have work to do to increase racial diversity and greater representation of people with disabilities. We are making progress, but are not complacent and know we have more work to do in creating a more diverse judiciary. As Panellists we challenge ourselves and each other on any unconscious bias we may hold. Sometimes someone will hear or assess something differently. Through respectful but honest discussion we draw on the different perspectives of the panel to come to a fair consensus.
“We are trying to improve the diversity of Panel Members too. I have been pleased to support the JAC in helping to recruiting new Panellists who are women and or from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and have been a buddy and mentor to new Panellists to support them in getting the best start.
“Like everyone else, we have changed how we work in response the Covid pandemic. This has offered benefits and challenges in equal measure. We have reduced travel through remote and online assessments and had to learn some different virtual selection exercises.
“One of our challenges is get the right balance between inviting candidates to give their evidence against the competencies and then probing appropriately for more evidence where it is unclear. The best candidates offer clear and compelling examples to demonstrate their skills and competency, avoid rambling or being too general in their answers. They also are well prepared, having read the comprehensive guidance notes, researched the JAC website and other legal references.”
Maureen Nicholas has been a panel member since 2018. She has over 21 years’ experience as a HR professional, across a range of sectors – Criminal Justice, Local and Central Government, Higher Education and Social Housing.
“I have been lucky enough to interview and assess individuals at different points in their career – from front line staff, such as Caretakers, to Graduate Trainees, Chief Executives and Board Members. This has enabled me to have a clear understanding about what makes a candidate, regardless of their background, and the level of role they are applying for, someone who can confidently navigate the recruitment process. In a nutshell, it is how well they have thought themselves into the role they are applying for.
“Since being a JAC panel member, I would say this is true for the candidates who have done well across all elements of the recruitment process. It is clear to me and my colleagues, that these individuals, have taken the time to research the role they have applied for, through engaging with their network, observing someone undertaking the role, alongside fully utilising the resources available from the JAC.
“But they do not stop there – what is also evident, is how they have critically evaluated the information they have researched, to tailor their examples and to address any gaps in their knowledge. Such candidates really think about the reason they have applied to become a member of the judiciary, and very importantly, how they will add value, in their own unique and authentic way.
“For me, this is what differentiates candidates, and is also the reason, I enjoy playing my small role in supporting the JAC, to select candidates based on merit, with the aim of increasing diversity within the judiciary.”
“When this role came up I had just taken voluntary redundancy as Head of Recruitment for Amex UK to get a better balance of work and family. It has been ideal, I’m using my recruitment skills at a senior level while developing expertise in a completely new area.
“I have an extensive background in recruitment and retention. During my time at Amex we were able to ‘tap in’ to some innovative recruitment approaches and were one of the first companies to fully embrace competency based interviewing. I also helped develop the in-house recruitment training for managers.
“For the JAC I have undertaken both panel chair and panel member roles and both are enjoyable. The chair role obviously has more responsibility and can be time consuming. The role of panel member suits me best as I have caring responsibilities.
“The JAC runs a thorough and fair process that allows all applicants an equal opportunity to demonstrate their suitability for the role.
“The competencies needed are always clearly identified but sometimes a candidate chooses a poor example to demonstrate the competence or ability. If this happens during an interview the panel do their best to elicit as much relevant evidence as time will allow. However if an application form has been poorly completed then the panel can only base their decision on the information on the form.
“I am aware that some candidates, although very experienced in their day job, may not be familiar with the interview process. The JAC provides some very useful training for potential applicants to help with the application and interview, which is well worth pursuing.
“My role is always interesting and varied. The calibre of the candidates we interview is often exceptional and the roles we recruit for are arguably some of the most important jobs in the country.”