How To Write Selection Criteria Responses
Author
Keith Mackay
Date
April 25, 2012
“….applications without Selection Criteria Responses will not be considered…”

Selection Criteria are used widely as a key recruitment tool throughout the public sector in Australia and increasingly by larger corporations. Most academic and educational institutions use them too. Where they are used, they are given very high priority in the selection process. There are a number of government and academic web sites that give some guidance on how to write selection criteria responses. There you will find statements such as “…You must address each criterion separately…” and “….applications without Selection Criteria Responses will not be considered…” You can also find percentage weightings given to the various stages of the recruitment process.

Selection Criteria can count for up to 60% of the entire recruitment assessment. More than the interview!

In short, where you encounter Selection Criteria, you cannot afford to take them lightly. They are actually more important than a good resume and cover letter.

What are Selection Criteria?

Set by the HR department in consultation with the organisation/department doing the hiring, they are carefully worded questions seeking to explore your background, knowledge and skills in areas particularly relevant to the position.

You will encounter anything from five to ten specific questions.

They will probably (not always) be split into Essential and Desirable categories, or maybe Important and Less Important. (Essential and Important are oobviously given more weighting in the marking process.)

Questions will be phrased in a particular way. For example “Demonstrated knowledge of…” or “Extensive relevant experience in…”  The words used give a clue as to how to structure your response.

How are Selection Criteria assessed?

Firstly, note that they are each assessed separately.

They are actually ‘marked’. Each criterion will have a number of ‘marks’ or points assigned to it. You ‘score’ the points by demonstrating the skills/experience that they are looking for in that criterion.

Your overall response – covering the seven Selection Criteria, for example – then gets an overall mark.

Those that score well across the board ‘pass’ – get to move on to the next stage of the recruitment process (usually the interview.)

How do you write Selection Criteria responses?

Addressing Selection Criteria well is quite an intense and structured process:

  • Identify and study each criterion very carefully. Note the language used and the very specific areas the question covers. You do not want to go off topic – you will miss the ‘marks’ and not get the interview.
  • For each criterion, delve into your career history (not too far back, preferably) and come up with an example that demonstrates the particular skill/experience that you are being asked for.
  • Try to use examples that are complete and that you actually did. (i.e. Something that went from start to finish with a definable result.)

The government approved Selection Criteria response method is called STAR. Situation, Task, Action, Response/Result. So if you can, work through an example using that method to illustrate your skill/experience in the area being questioned.

How long should my Selection Criteria responses be?

The simple answer is as long as they ask for. Look very closely at the position description, job specification or whatever is supplied and follow that guideline. A ‘number of words’ guide is usually given for each application.

In short:

  • Keep it succinct and brief. More than 3/4 page per criterion is almost certainly too much.
  • Conversely, you have to give enough information to answer the question, so less than 1/3 to 1/2 page is probably too little.
  • Waffle does not cut it. The questions are very specific and they want very specific answers.

That sounds really difficult!

It is. It is also very hard to get right. Certainly harder than writing a good resume, and that is not easy itself.

Nonetheless, if you want to apply for public or academic sector jobs, you are going to have to address Selection Criteria. If you do not submit a strong Selection Criteria Response, you will not get an interview – it is that simple.

Advanced Selection Criteria Responses.

I will leave you with a thought. If the Selection Criteria have been set to evaluate (in some considerable detail) your fit to the position and you provide excellent responses outlining examples of why you fit the position, what do you think will be discussed at interview?

More information or help

See our Selection Criteria Service page, email us or give us a call on 1300 97 87 66. We will be pleased to answer any queries you may have or to talk through how our services could be of particular help to you.

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