All eligible Māori and Pacific job candidates are being automatically fast-tracked to the interview stage for openings at Auckland DHB.
The change has been made to try increase workforce diversity, and has already resulted in more Māori and Pacific candidates being interviewed and hired.
If job-seekers aren't hired, managers must give specific feedback to HR, so the unsuccessful candidate can be coached to improve their chances in future interviews.
A new assessment tool prompts interviewers to think about "reflecting our communities and prioritised health outcomes", along with traditional skills and experience.
The policy began at the end of June and builds on a similar approach already in place to recruit graduate nurses.
Fiona Michel, chief HR officer at Auckland DHB, said more Māori and Pacific candidates were being interviewed and hired.
"No one is employed just because of their cultural background. Candidates need to meet the core criteria for the role to progress to interview stage.
"We are always looking to recruit the best person overall for the job, which involves a number of considerations including skills, experience, capability, as well as cultural knowledge and understanding."
The population Auckland DHB serves is more than 10 per cent Māori and about 14 per cent Pacific. Its workforce is 4 per cent Māori and 7 per cent Pacific.
The change has similarities to the NFL's "Rooney Rule", which since 2003 has required teams in the US competition to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching openings.
It's been mirrored in the US private sector including by online retail giant Amazon, despite derision as ineffective box-ticking by some.
Jo Baxter, Associate Dean (Māori) at University of Otago, said hiring strategies made sense, given other DHBs were eyeing the same limited pool of candidates.
"It may not be an affirmative action thing. This may actually be, 'Can we get in early and get these ones before someone else snaffles them?'"
Baxter, director of a unit aiming to grow the number of Māori health science graduates, said not having Māori and others "in the room" during decision-making hurt those groups.
For example, aged care services can ignore the fact Māori die much younger, meaning the needy miss out despite being near the end of life.
The change comes as an official health committee calls for compulsory cultural competency training for everyone working in maternity and neonatal care.
The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee made the recommendation in the same report that outlined how very premature babies were less likely to receive a resuscitation attempt if Māori, Pacific or Indian.
The committee reasoned "institutional bias or implicit biases are likely to play at least some part".
Extremely premature Māori and Pacific babies are also less likely to survive their first four weeks, even after accounting for factors like mother's age, weight, smoking and socioeconomic status.