How to use STAR in selection criteria

How to use STAR in selection criteria

7 Steps: How to use STAR correctly to develop selection criteria responses.

Jacquie Liversidge

By Jacquie Liversidge

Included in this article:

  1. What is selection criteria
  2. Fit it to your resume
  3. Things to look for
  4. Planning your responses using STAR
  5. Write
  6. Review, edit, repeat
  7. Formatting
  8. Submit!

What is selection criteria, and how does STAR fit into it?

A selection criteria is a behavioural question requiring a developed response which is essential to your application. 

These can be structured in a number of different ways, however, the STAR approach is considered to be the best way to formulate flowing and comprehensive responses.

Essentially, the recruiter or organisation has outsourced the application to you. You need to write what they need to recruit you.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to nailing selection criteria.

Step 1: Think about your resume

For your selection criteria responses you will need to reference work that is listed within your resume.

If the response references a scenario from a role you haven’t listed, it is not going to make sense to the employer reading it.

Step 2: Read the fine print - things to look for

Your selection criteria may have clear or vague directions on how to respond. Generally, there will be information available on the word limit per response, or the page limit in total. You can find this information by looking thoroughly through the Information Pack or equivalent, or contacting the contact person listed as available for enquiries.

For example, currently for Northern Territory Government Jobs, it is a requirement to submit a One Page Summary encompassing not only the the selection criteria, but also with reference to your skills, attributes, qualifications and what makes you the perfect candidate. In this sense, they ask for a selection criteria that is more like a covering letter, with the responses weaved in.

Things to look for are:

  • Word count
  • Formatting
  • Should documents be in the one file, or separate
  • If the responses will be uploaded online separately

In the absence of clear directions, use STAR responses and use your judgement.

Step 3: Plan your answers using the STAR approach

To give your selection criteria responses good flow, encompass the core of the question and thoroughly answer the question, the universally agreed-upon method of response is STAR:

S- Situation

Explain the situation.

“During my position with X as an Employment Consultant, I was responsible for ensuring mutual obligations were met by job seekers. On one occasion, I had a violent client who was upset that their payments had been cancelled, due to a non-attendance of an appointment”


What was the task.

“Though the client was visibly upset I needed to resolve the situation. As their payments had been stopped, this can have a negative effect on the client’s situation depending on their finances. As I knew the client had been referred to a budgeting service for difficulty with expenditure, I understood that the client may be desperate and swift action was necessary”

A- Approach

What was your personal approach, based on your philosophies, views and training.

“I carefully calmed the client down by asking him to take a seat and to explain his situation. By employing active listening and a client centred approach, I made the client feel that they were listened to and that action would be taken to amend the situation. Based on my training and X’s policies and procedures, I calmly explained the mutual obligations to ensure the customer was fully aware of what he needed to do in order to receive the payment”

R- Response

What was the response by management, clients, overall or other?

“Eventually the client broke down and explained that his situation was dire. As he had a reading disability, he was not able to understand the text message that alerted him to his appointment. I amended his file notes, provided him with regular appointments at the same time each week for the purpose of him being able to interpret when he needed to be in attendance and ensured that his payment would be reinstated. The client was very happy with my response and approach, and due to the regular appointments booked, never missed another appointment.”

Pieced together, this response would be satisfactory.

Step 4: Write

After you have planned your selection criteria and identified good responses to use, it is time to get writing. Unless otherwise specified, responses should be anywhere between 150-300 words long. But it is important to use your judgement here. If you response is detailed, well supported and all information is critically important, it is not going to be penalised for being bigger than 300 words.

Step 5: Edit, review, repeat.

This step is simple. Review what you’ve written. Reading out loud what you have written will help you detect issues.

It’s also always best to get a second set of eyes on your application, so ask someone you know to have a look over it.

Step 6: Formatting

As Word processing software becomes more and more user friendly and flexible with it’s designs, there is little excuse to not have a beautifully presented document. There are a number of templates you can use within Word itself, or you can find inspiration from online.

Step 7: Submit

Carefully follow their directions for submission and recheck all information. Make sure that all names, phone numbers and contact details are correct.

By this point, you should be totally finished with your submission. However, it never hurts to give them a call and ask for more information if you need it. This can be a valuable tool, as the Contact Officer may give you tips and tricks for your submission that get you ahead of the other applicants.

We hope this has given you the boost of confidence you need to get a start on your selection criteria. Have a chat to us for more information!

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