How to Write Selection Criteria – Everything you need to know
From formatting, to content, language style and structure– it’s all here.
Brace yourself for a long read.
By Jacquie Liversidge
Selection criteria, or ‘Statement of Claims’, are essential questions contained within the position description that require responses that demonstrate your ability to meet the requirements from your qualifications, skills, personal attributes, training and understanding.
Selection criteria responses are valuable for recruiters because they allow you to detail your potential for the role at length, whilst also acting as a vetting process for weak applications.
There is no clear-cut approach to how selection criteria are graded, and largely, your potential for the role is decided by the interpretation of the personnel responsible for hiring staff.
However, there is a sound approach to the structure and content which will maximise your chances of getting your application to interview stage.
In this article, you’ll find information on:
- Structuring your responses
- How to pick the best stories
- How to plan your responses
- How to develop your content
- Proofing and editing
- Using the right language
- The right length of responses
- How to format the document
- Desirable requirements
- One page pitches, 2 page cover letters and word-limited selection criteria
- Further reading
1. Structuring your responses:
The standard for structuring responses to the selection criteria is STAR: Situation, Task, Approach/Action and Result.
This structure allows you to frame responses which outline the context of the situation, demonstrate the decisions you have made and the result of these decisions in relation to the criteria.
The emphasis of your selection criteria, and the part which will set you apart from other candidates, will be your approach to the challenge.
Was there a particular methodology you adopted for the situation?
Were there challenges you anticipated early and remedied?
What technical skills did you employ, and what personal attributes?
These are things to keep in mind when writing your approach.
2. How to pick the best examples
Think carefully about the example you might like to use to address the question.
If you are going for a management position and responding to a selection criteria asking for conflict resolution, should you talk about the time you resolved a minor customer complaint, or the time you resolved a conflict between two staff?
Definitely the time you resolved conflict between staff– mediation is an important staff management skill.
Once you have decided on a story, plan your response by splitting it in to STAR sections.
Here’s an example of a question and plan:
Question: “Demonstrated customer service focus and verbal communication skills.”
3. Developing the content:
Once you have identified the appropriate story to use to address the selection criteria, the next step is to begin to develop the response.
1. In the first sentence of the paragraph, make sure to include the question
2. Follow this with a short overview of your experience in relation to the question.
3. Use your STAR structured example.
Here’s a break down of a selection criteria example:
Q. “Demonstrated leadership skills together with the ability to work as a member of a team in order to achieve specified goals within a predetermined time frame”
(Topic included in the first sentence) I am confident of my leadership skills and ability to drive goals to completion within set time frames.
(Overview) I value leadership by example, technical competency, decisiveness, communication and strong motivation as excellent traits from leaders, and adopt these in to my approach to leadership. Modelling trust and respect, empowering staff to make good decisions and bringing out the best qualities I find maximises the strengths of staff, contributes to a working environment conducive to high results and professional satisfaction. I take a lateral approach to procurement activities and am adept at identifying future procurement needs to adopt into my approach.
(Situation) Within my position as a Procurement Officer at NSW Institute, I was responsible for working with key personnel from the finance department leading a team which ensured the effectiveness of procurement activities across the board with NSW Institute.
(Task) Immediately, I noticed a consistent lack of communication within the accounts team and a culture of protectiveness over individual functions. It was difficult to delegate work to other members within the team and backlogs were occurring when staff members were absent, and no other member could perform the task.
(Approach) To improve the confidence of the accounting teams and to encourage a more team-oriented and accountable atmosphere, I introduced a structured training program for all staff members which strategically included each staff member training their own team members on their functions. This approach had the effect of each team member enjoying a platform from which to discuss their role, their approach and to take pride in their duties. The training also incorporated a discussion time for team members to discuss how tasks were currently being performed, and encouraged input from team members to improve processes, utilised each other’s strongest skills and opportunities for updated or introduced IT tools to assist the finance department in their objectives. I redesigned the structure of the work day which split duties across the board and allowed team members to consolidate into real practice their recent training. During the process, where resistance was present I asked the team member for their feedback and explained that I felt skills could be better utilised than they were.
(Result) The result of this meant that backlogs were eliminated far quicker as other team members adopted duties, communication with the team members was clearer and more forthcoming and an improved culture of accountability was evident.
Make emphasis of the results—without sound results reinforcing your approach, your approach could be interpreted as meaningless.
4. Proof reading and editing
At this stage, we have a good response which addresses the question and we can now start editing and proofing it for language, grammar and punctuation.
This is also an opportunity for you to make sure that you have referenced any key duties from the position description to further support your candidacy, included the organisational values where possible and checked the Capability Development Framework for your state, or the APS Work Level Standards for your level (government only) to ensure your responses are satisfactory.
5. Using the right language
Within selection criteria responses it is easy to use passive language, rather than active language, which is preferred.
In lay terms, passive language is where you remove yourself of the responsibility, and it is an easy mistake to make.
An example of passive language is:
“I was required to archive files on a monthly basis.”
An example of active language is:
“I archived files on a monthly basis.”
There is a big difference to note here: when you say that something is required of you, you also don’t demonstrate whether you actually performed the task.
Something can be required—you might not have completed it! When you place yourself at the centre of the action, you are confidently able to demonstrate your ability to action the task.
6. When not to use STAR for selection criteria:
The position description will likely not provide you with any information about how you should structure your responses—you will need to demonstrate your sound judgement in finding that out for yourself!
Here is an example of a question that won’t require a STAR response.
Q. “Proficiency in a range of software packages, particularly web development environments.”
This question isn’t for a tale, and providing long responses when they are not necessary will harm your application.
Here, you include the topic in the start of the paragraph and then you provide a short overview or list.
A.I am proficient in a range of software packages and web development environments. These include:
- Audio software
- Ableton Live
- Microsoft Office 365 Suite
7. The right length of responses:
Brevity is particularly valuable in your selection criteria.
As a general rule, try to keep responses under 400 words unless longer responses have been specifically asked for.
Length is not the ultimate measure of selection criteria—but content is. Having an 8 page selection criteria which can be addressed in 4 pages will harm your application.
Providing too much content, or ‘padding’, means that good content can be overlooked.
Use dot points in your final application only where necessary and where listing is required (eg. the programs you can use)—don’t rely heavily on dot points in your final responses.
8. How to format the document:
The formatting will depend on the organisation, and there is generally an accompanying applicant kit or guide which will provide information on this.
In place of a specified guide, explore the website and make sure that you have accessed and incorporated any and all directions the website might outline in regards to how they want you to submit your application.
Generally, the cover letter will be separate from the selection criteria unless otherwise specified.
For the selection criteria document, include a page number on the footer of the page and the position description, as below.
Title the document, and include the position title and job number once on the first page.
You won’t need to provide an introductory statement—just include questions and the responses below them as we have done here:
We prefer to include your name and contact details on all pages in the header.
This gives the appearance of a well thought out and neatly presented document, and won’t penalise your application or add to the word count.
9. Desirable Requirements:
These are questions that give you the opportunity of advantage if you can respond to them.
You won’t be penalised for not including them, but if you are up against candidates who do include them, you may miss out on shortlisting.
Generally speaking, the desirable requirements won’t beg for long responses
10. One page pitches, 2 page cover letters and word-limited selection criteria.
Due to a high volume of applications for advertised positions and overwhelmingly lengthy responses, there has been a shift away from long selection criteria responses and a shift towards shorter applications.
To structure your one-page pitch, 2 page cover letter or other similarly directed applications, you want to include:
An introduction outlining what you are applying for and why you would be a good candidate.
Paragraphs in the body with examples from you work history structured using STAR
A closing statement, or “call to action” in which you thank the reader for taking the time to consider your application, and welcome them to contact you.
This is similar to the structure for a general cover letter.
More information on that is included here.
Other things to note:
Some councils, universities and state services require the file name to include your name, position number and the job title. This is good practice to adopt for all of your applications where there are selection criteria.
Submit in Word (doc, docx) format unless otherwise directed.
Here’s a link to the Australian Public Service Commission’s advice for Addressing the Selection Criteria
Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any other questions… And good luck!