A NSW trade commissioner passed over for the role of the state's London agent-general said he "wasn't shocked" about missing out on the prestigious position, despite emails showing he was the best man for the job.
The long-running parliamentary inquiry into the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro as a senior trade and investment commissioner (STIC) to the Americas has expanded its focus to the circumstances surrounding all the state's lucrative appointments.
The upper house inquiry heard from UK and Europe appointee Paul Webster on Monday.
Before landing his current role, Mr Webster applied for the agent-general to London position, and in January last year was the favoured candidate.
The role ultimately went to Stephen Cartwright, who is also the STIC to Europe and Israel.
Mr Webster was sanguine about the process, saying he never believed he was in the final running for the role.
"These are the decisions of government," he told the inquiry.
The managing partner at external recruitment firm NGS Global, Marianne Broadbent told him he had been an exceptional candidate, but another high-calibre applicant had landed the agent-general role.
"It was a competitive process, but it was far from a complete process in my eyes.
"I certainly wasn't shocked (not to be selected)."
Mr Cartwright's appointment is being scrutinised after it emerged he sought an $800,000 salary - almost double the initial offering - and landed the job despite being ranked lower than other applicants.
Emails show Mr Webster was the final preferred candidate and his reference checks were "outstanding".
The emails, tendered to the inquiry, were sent between the former deputy secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade Jenny West and Dr Broadbent.
Mr Webster never met with former premier Gladys Berejiklian, then treasurer Dominic Perrottet or Mr Barilaro during the recruitment process - all requirements to being appointed.
That's despite an email chain showing public servants working to organise those meetings in January last year, to expedite the delayed hiring process.
During one email, Mr Perrottet's office requested a list of all the candidates interviewed for the job, before agreeing to an online meeting with Mr Webster.
The following month, Mr Barilaro began meetings with Mr Cartwright.
Mr Cartwright, a former Business NSW executive, eventually negotiated a salary package higher than all other NSW trade commissioners.
Mr Barilaro was appointed as STIC to the Americas in June, before resigning less than two weeks later, citing intense media scrutiny, while denying any wrongdoing.
In August he told the inquiry sparked by his appointment, that being put in the $500,000-a-year job had caused significant pain, and in hindsight he regretted applying.
"If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have walked into what was a s**tshow," Mr Barilaro said.
"Because the trauma I have gone through the last six, seven weeks has been significant."
Mr Barilaro was asked to return for a second hearing but withdrew, citing concerns for his mental health.
Committee chair Cate Faehrmann said questions remained over the transparency of the appointment process and the roles of Mr Barilaro and other trade commissioners.
The upper house committee expanded the terms of reference for its inquiry and is now investigating the appointment of all the state's trade commissioners.
The hearings are an opportunity to hear from the commissioners about their appointments and to "clarify any unanswered questions" on the surrounding circumstances, Ms Faehrmann said on Friday.