Tackling selection criteria – 5 steps to a winning response

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Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elesy
Team GradAustralia
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Selection criteria are the personal quali­ties, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications needed to perform the duties for a role.  Employers use them to identify the most suitable person for the role by helping differ­entiate candidates and create a detailed picture of each individual’s abilities in relation to the position.

Selection criteria might appear under a separate heading in the selection documents or may be im­plied in more general statements, such as ‘What we look for’. Either way, you need to show that you are the best candidate for the job, based on your experience and behaviour.

Employers expect you to provide evidence to support your claims. To respond successfully, you need to present examples from your past experi­ence to demonstrate how you have developed and applied these skills.

5 steps to a winning response

  1. Gather information – Gather and read all the information you have about the job and the employer, including the advertisement, the job description and a list of all the duties.
  2. Match the criteria to your skills - Read each criterion carefully and highlight or underline the skills it is asking for – there may be more than one and you will need to respond to each component.
  3. Brainstorm – Think about specific examples from your life or work experience that shows how you meet the criteria. Example: ‘provide an example of using initiative’. Your response could refer to when you worked as a barista in a popular café and suggested an online ordering app and special pick-up for frequent customers, allowing them to order from their desks. This helped shorten the lengthy queues at peak hours and provided customer recognition. Don’t forget the results. “the idea was implemented by my manager and resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in wait time for our customers.”
  4. Write – Using a range of relevant and specific examples, explain how your study, work and other activities have given you the knowledge, skills and experience that meet the criteria. Highlight the link between what you have done and how it relates to the role.  Use active rather than passive language (and avoid wordy and passive phrasing such as “I was required to”). Don’t just present a list of what you have done; explain how you did it.
  5. Review and submit - Let your work sit, and then come back to it with a fresh eye. Have you provided the information that shows you are the best candidate for the job? Have you covered all the points? Finally, proofread and have someone else read it and give you feedback

Using the STAR approach

One approach you may wish to use to structure your responses, and ensure you are providing enough evidence, is to use the STAR method.

The STAR method:

  • Situation - Describe the situation that required you to use the skills and behaviours the selection criterion is asking about
  • Task - Within that situation, what were your responsibili­ties?
  • Action - Outline the skills you used (or developed) to carry out the task
  • Result - What were the outcomes of your actions? How do you know they were successful?

Top Tips for Success

  • Selection criteria should be address in a separate document, unless otherwise noted
  • Use each criteria as a heading
  • Use the most recent examples when you can
  • If you have a particularly strong example to use, use it early; there is no guarantee that the employer will read all your criteria
  • Use ‘I’ not ‘we’, particularly in teamwork examples. Talk about your specific contribution
  • Use members to quantify your responses and your outcomes where possible – How much? How many?
  • Highlight results whenever possible.