Whilst extensive research has been undertaken concerning educational leadership and management, there is a paucity of scholarship regarding the merit-selection of school leaders other than principals. This is especially true of principal-led merit selection panels convened to recruit middle-level school leaders, namely deputy principals, assistant principals and head teachers. Meritocratic discourse holds that merit-based selection should, ostensibly be an objective, fair and equitable process enabling applicants to compete on a level playing field via a comparative assessment of their capabilities, talents and attitudes. This paper explores the extent to which government school principals in the state of New South Wales Australia, consider the school-based merit selection process they lead is objective and bias-free. Hence, the findings reported here reveal that despite the New South Wales Department of Education (NSWDE) promulgating the primacy of merit in its school-based selection paradigm, non-merit variables (factors having little to do with merit) exert considerable influence over the appointment decisions made by NSWDE principals when assembling their respective school leadership teams.