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Selection criteria statements 101

Erin Delaney

Careers Commentator

Ahhh, selection criteria statements. The bane of any wannabe public servant’s existence!

When it comes to tackling these there are definitely some rules you need to know and follow to get your foot in the door and give yourself a good shot at an interview.

Selection criteria statements are used by all public service and some private and NFP organisations to assess candidates’ suitability for the role on offer.

The criteria are divided between:

  • essential (must have), and
  • desirable (nice to have).

They’re usually based on real-world skills the applicant would need to have on the job.

Applicants are ranked in order of ‘merit’ based on their selection criteria statement responses, and the group of candidates who can satisfactorily address each selection criterion are then invited to progress further along the application process.

How to respond

Always relate your responses as much as possible to real-life work situations, but if you can’t do that try to draw from your own personal life and demonstrate your knowledge and skills that way. The most important thing is to always answer every criterion to the best of your ability, taking care to note the language used and responding in kind.

Most job ads will ask you to write a selection criteria statement that doesn’t exceed a certain length, but if there’s no specification it’s best to try and keep it to 250 words per criterion, in a legible font and type size: Arial or Times New Roman in 11 or 12 pt are safe bets.

How to format your responses

The key is to:

  • provide evidence of how you meet the criteria,
  • provide specific details, and
  • include an indicator of success or a result.

An easy way to do this is to use the STAR method.

  • Situation - provide a brief outline of the situation or setting
  • Task- describe what you did
  • Approach or action - explain how you did it
  • Result - articulate the outcomes.

The secret language of selection criteria

What the criteria says - What it means

  • General knowledge/Awareness of  -  A basic understanding
  • Knowledge of  -  Knowledge gained from experience
  • Sound knowledge of  -  A good working knowledge, limited experience
  • Thorough knowledge of - Robust grasp of information and application
  • Demonstrated ability - Provide specific examples of flexing this skill
  • Ability to rapidly acquire -  Demonstrate you have the capacity to learn

Pay close attention!

While it might be tempting to focus on the beginning of the criterion, make sure to pay attention to the end too — lots of people get tripped up because they respond to one part and not the other.

If a criterion says: “Ability To File, Retrieve, Shelve, And Physically Organise Materials In A High-Volume Environment”, there are six aspects you need to respond to.

  1. Ability.
  2. File,
  3. Retrieve,
  4. Shelve, and
  5. Physically organise materials.
  6. High-volume environment.

Make sure to respond to each part of the criterion and demonstrate your experience.

In this example, you’d need to address your specific examples of experience filing, retrieving, shelving and physically organising materials, and your work inside a high-volume environment. If you miss a part of this question you won’t have satisfactorily answered the question, which means no interview. It’s crucial to address each aspect of the criteria to communicate your experience effectively, and this is where most people trip themselves up.

You got this

If you pay close attention to what the criterion is asking of you, use our selection criteria statement secret language decoder and prove your experience using the STAR method? You’ll be well on your way to getting an interview.