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How to Nail Your Selection Criteria Responses
So, you want to apply for a position that’s asking you to address Selection Criteria. What next? More often than not, government positions will require you to address Selection Criteria. The number of individual criterion will vary from department to department and job to job, but there are usually at least four, sometimes up to 15 or 20. The length of your responses also varies, depending on the specific requirements for the position you are applying for. Some roles specify maximum word counts (usually per response), others specify total page limits for the entire response, while some leave it open. Make sure you take note of any limits, since your application could be rejected based on non-compliance with these specifications. If there are no limits, half to 2/3 A4 page is usually ideal. Although, more senior executive roles may need up to a page.
Here are four simple steps for answering Selection Criteria:
Step 1 – Understand what’s being requested
Read through the Selection Criteria in detail and understand what each one is asking for. The Job / Role Description or Statement of Duties will help you understand what’s required in terms of qualifications, experience and skills and this should help you shape your responses to the Selection Criteria. Take particular note of how the Selection Criteria are worded – you might need to have ‘well developed skills’ or ‘demonstrated capacity’, or ‘experience using’, or ‘knowledge of’ – you need to differentiate these requirements and understand that they all require a different approach. ‘Experience using’ requires a description of how you’ve used something to achieve a particular outcome or result, whereas ‘knowledge of’ needs a demonstration of your knowledge about a particular area.
Step 2 – State your claim
You will generally be required to respond in writing separately to each criterion using an example (or two) to demonstrate how you can claim you have the skill, knowledge or experience. The best way to do this is by providing relevant examples from past roles or study – but first up, you need to state clearly and concisely that you can meet the criterion and give a brief reason why you believe that. For example, “I have proven written and verbal communication skills, further developed in my current role over the past five years, where I have communicated in writing, face to face and over the telephone with a broad range of stakeholders including clients, the general public and senior executives.”
Step 3 – Support your claim
This is the most important part of the process and will usually require specific examples to back up your claim. We recommend using the STAR model to help present your examples in a solid cohesive manner. See my previous article Standing Out With the STAR Model for more detail on what STAR stands for and how to best write examples using this approach. Briefly, you should brainstorm for examples – remembering the specific language used in the Selection Criteria to pick the best ones. Ideally, examples should be recent and relevant. Think of as many as you can, before using STAR to flesh them out and provide the detail. Many clients I talk to can’t initially think of any relevant examples, however once we start talking about projects they’ve worked on or regular tasks/responsibilities, the examples flow. Think creatively, and talk to colleagues or supervisors if you can to generate ideas about what you might be able to use. Don’t forget to summarise and state the benefit/outcome/result of your approach. Provide a brief (one – two sentence) summary on how you feel you will contribute in the area.
Step 4 – Be critical when checking your work
Read over your work and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Be hard on yourself and determine if you’ve used the best possible examples to demonstrate your ability to meet the Selection Criteria. Go back and re-read the wording of each one and make sure you’ve addressed everything it’s asking for. Make sure your responses are accurate and honest – don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your role. Make sure you used positive language; and the examples are clear with no ambiguity regarding your role. If you ‘assisted’ or were ‘involved’ in something, it may be better to think of an example where you can actually say “I did this”. Try to use examples where you can say “I” and talk in the first person. That way there is no uncertainty from the reader that it was you implementing the project, carrying out the work, achieving the goals, or receiving the praise.
Most importantly – give yourself time. This process can be lengthy and you will achieve the best result by thinking through your experience, achievements and successes in order to present the best possible examples. Try not to leave it until the last minute and you will be more likely to succeed.
If you would like assistance from a professional resume writer to prepare Selection Criteria responses that help you get shortlisted, see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria writing services.