It is increasingly common to see a requirement for selection criteria for public sector applications to take the form of ‘a cover letter of no more than two A4 pages’. Yet the position description document still lists the selection criteria requirement statements in full.
What do you do? Is this a simpler application requirement than ‘full-form’ selection criteria responses so you don’t have to do so much work? Can you just use a normal cover letter?
In short, no.
You have to address selection criteria properly to get the interview
For personal one-to-one help, see our Selection Criteria Service page.
Selection criteria have always been a particularly tough and thorough form of application assessment. I’m sure some of you will have first-hand experience of writing ten page submissions to some applications. Someone at the other end obviously has the job of assessing all those applications and it is the extent of all that assessment work that has driven the move towards a requirement for more succinct responses.
If they set selection criteria, you still have to address them properly to get the interview. That means all of the requirements for a ‘full-form’ response are still there. You just have fewer words to do it in.
That makes the writing harder and the assessment easier, which is exactly what the employing organisation is aiming for. They want to see a succinct, to the point application that shows that you meet their requirements. Without waffle.
Key requirements for selection criteria responses
The key requirements for selection criteria responses must still be followed for this short form approach:
- Your responses must actually address each criterion. (This is where most applications fail.)
- Each response must show evidence that you meet the criterion. If you see words in the criterion like ‘Proven’, ‘Demonstrated’ or ‘Applied’, that is a very clear instruction to show evidence.
- That means examples from your career that you work through to show that you have the experience and skills that they want.
- The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response/Result) method is still the best approach.
- Theoretical or academic-approach responses will not score well.
- Responses without hard evidence will not score well.
- Each criterion will be assessed separately.
In other words, exactly the same requirements as for ‘full-form’ selection criteria responses.
The job gets harder as the word count gets lower, not the other way around.