By Katie Smith
When an employer advertises a job, they usually provide criteria for it. This generally tells you the essential and desirable skills, attributes, knowledge, experience and educational requirements for the role. Often Government and many Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) will require candidates to formally address a list of selection criteria in their application. It’s essential to address the selection criteria to prove you meet the requirement of the job. You may be required to attach a separate document responding to the selection criteria, address the criteria online, and/or provide the relevant information within the cover letter.
This means that applying for a position may require three documents:
- Cover Letter
- Responses to Selection Criteria
Remember to review the instructions on how to apply (provided on the job advertisement) and follow these guidelines:
Check your fit
Selection panels use your response to assess whether you are a good fit for the job. Some criteria will be described as ‘essential’; others may be ‘desirable’. When selection panels review applications they often do so using a holistic approach. When determining whether to apply for positions you can also use a holistic approach.
The job advert may have listed all the ideal qualities, only to select a candidate who has most, but not necessarily all, of them. Some requirements may be easily learnt. You may meet most of the criteria required but not all, so if you demonstrate your passion for the job, the selection panel may take this into consideration. You could demonstrate that you have many skills and that you are willing to learn.
Statement of claim
Start your response with a statement of claim and use variety in how you start your response to each criterion. For example:
- I have well developed [skill, attribute, knowledge or experience]…
- My [skill, attribute, knowledge or experience] are well developed…
- My well-developed [skill, attribute, knowledge or experience] are demonstrated by …
- I have extensive experience in [skill, attribute, knowledge or experience]…
- Examples of my well-developed [skill, attribute, knowledge or experience] are…
Providing concrete examples can substantiate your claims, as you want to avoid statements of belief or claims without evidence. You also want to avoid hypothetical answers. Once you explore your own interests, skills and values you’ll be better able to demonstrate why you are the best person for the position.
You can use examples from various experiences including but not limited to:
- Work or volunteer experience
- Extra-curricular activities
- University experience
An experience more similar to the position can be a better predictor for the selection panel. However, you can also use an example from another context that you consider would transfer to the context of the position. Think about how a given experience might be applicable to another situation and what lessons could be learned from it. It’s your responsibility to provide evidence; you also need to think about your competition and which examples or experiences are going to stand out against those of other applicants.
Things to consider when choosing examples:
- How recent the example was; generally speaking the examples can be within the last 5 years and ideally within the last 3 years
- The relevance of the example; greater similarity between the example and the job vacancy is best
- Length of time spent doing a job, activity or using a skill
- Complexity of the job or activity
- Level of independence/supervision
- Range of people involved
- Size of the budget
- Consequences of success
- Demonstration of your skills
No direct example
If you don’t have an example, you could provide a related example that demonstrates you are a fast learner and you have a willingness to develop further.
Using the STAR Technique
When addressing Selection Criteria, you’re likely to encounter a range of criteria designed to test you on a variety of areas. Selection Criteria’s are designed to produce short stories, discourage hypothetical answers, and avoid leading the applicant. As mentioned, your story is to demonstrate your fit with the job and organisation. You’re the hero of the story, somake yourself stand out. Use an active voice and talk about the role you played. Selection Criteria’s probe your past behaviour and determine whether you meet the pre-selection performance criteria for a particular job.
The recommended framework for answering most questions is to use the STAR technique so that you remember all the important aspects of the example.
S = Situation: Describe briefly when and where the incident occurred and who was involved. You are setting the scene.
T = Task: What were you trying to achieve, what was the problem or issue to be dealt with?
A = Action: What action did you take independently or to assist others to get to a positive outcome?
R = Result: What was the outcome of your actions? State your success and any positive feedback received or what you learned if the outcome was different to what was anticipated. Explain what you would do differently in the future.
Selection Criteria: Demonstrated well-developed written communication skills.
Situation: Role as Research Support Officer at Department of XYZ.
Task: Needed to ensure that managers were kept informed of policies and procedures.
Action: By explaining the rationale of the policy in a calm manner, this made the customer more cooperative and understanding of the process. In turn, she was less aggressive to me and fellow staff and decided not to pursue a customer complaint. In the end, I successfully assisted her with the exchange process which resulted in a happy customer.
Results: Led to improved lines of communication between managers and the Research Support Unit. Feedback was consistently excellent. Received divisional achievement award for newsletter quality.
Putting it all together
I possess strong written communication skills, which I have developed over the course of my career. As a Research Support Officer at the Department of XYZ, I needed to ensure that managers were kept informed of policies and procedures. To do this, I initiated a monthly newsletter, which was emailed to each manager. I took responsibility for writing the main articles in each publication. This involved obtaining ideas and input from other stakeholders to ensure that the articles reflected the needs of managers, both in terms of content and language. I received consistently excellent feedback in relation to this newsletter from these internal clients and my own manager. I received a divisional achievement award for the quality of this newsletter from management. Importantly, this initiative resulted in improved lines of communication between managers and the Research Support Unit. I learnt that effective written communication can improve internal stakeholder relationships.
(Example adapted from Australian Public Service Commission)
This is your opportunity to highlight your skills and show your passion!
Where possible, you can include achievements. Ask yourself the following questions to start thinking about your achievements:
- What did I do that was outside my normal job duties?
- Was I ever recognised by a manager for a task well done? When and why?
- Did I win any employee awards?
- What new processes did I implement to improve things?
- What problems did I solve?
- Did I ever consistently meet or exceed goals, quotas or KPIs?
- Did I save the organisation money? How?
- What made me really great at my job?
- Did I train new staff members?
- Did I attend training that developed my skills? What skills were developed?
- Was I promoted within the organisation?
- Did I work on a project that resulted in an improvement for the company?
- How did I stand out among other employees?
Quantify your achievements if possible. Consider if your achievements led to the following:
- Sales increases
- Staffing numbers reduced
- Revenue increases
- Cost reduction
- Number of recommendation adopted
- Time frames reduced
- Successful negotiations completed
- Productivity increases
- Annual savings
- Processes or procedures simplified
- Goal achieved for the first time
- Improvements made
- Critical problems solved
- Absences of mistakes
Employers often seek candidates who are passionate about lifelong learning. Think of children’s stories - they often have lessons. End your criteria by talking about what you have learned, to have more of an impact.
Consider the following:
- What did you learn?
- What would you do differently in the future?
- How can you apply this experience to the position you are applying for?
Article originally published on LinkedIn.
Featured image courtesy of stocksnap.io