How to Write Selection Criteria
The ultimate guide to writing selection criteria responses.
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 those in charge of hiring because they allow you to detail your potential for the role via a specific framework of responses.
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.
Structuring your responses
The standard for structuring responses to the selection criteria is STAR: Situation, Task, Approach/Action and Result.
This framework enables you to structure logically coherent responses that are action-oriented and demonstrate your ability to fulfil the expectations of the role via your proven ability of being able to do so in the past.
It is fundamentally, at its most basic, the way that humans organically structure a story they are telling from the past.
The emphasis of your selection criteria responses, and the part which will set you apart from other candidates, will be your actions or approach.
It is these qualities which ultimately demonstrate your ability to perform at-level to the selection criteria question in hand.
Picking good examples
We know by this early part of this piece, that:
- Selection criteria is story-telling
- We structure using STAR
- We’re telling stories about our actions to demonstrate our capability
The below example is a selection criteria response diced into its sections.
As a whole paragraph, this example looks like:
“I have demonstrated my ability to apply contemporary project management strategies to effectively deliver key outcomes on time and within budget (restate the criteria). (situation). In this role, I managed the rollout of a new client management system (task). To manage the implementation, I first developed a sound procurement plan. This included broad consultation with a range of key internal stakeholders, including sales, marketing, and finance teams. This allowed me to establish minimum capabilities required for the new system. I then approached the market and assessed seven responses against the established system requirements. This allowed me to identify one provider who represented the best value for money. I developed a business case based on this, and the senior executive team approved engaging my recommended provider. I then developed a detail project plan, establishing milestones, key deliverables, transition activities, user acceptance testing, and training programs. I developed this in consultation with the chosen providers as well as the business units to ensure continuity of service. In managing the roll out, I applied contemporary project management principles, rallying the wide range of stakeholders towards critical deadlines through ongoing communication and consultation, while also applying my technical IT capability to resolve issues as they arose. This also allowed me to identify several improvements to sales and marketing workflows (actions). As a result, the project was delivered on time and to budget. The improvements I implemented also created significant efficiencies, automating lead and post-service follow ups, which has led directly to increased sales and improvements in user ratings across our website and social media accounts (result).“
Weighting and length
You can see from the table above and the response that the weighting is heavy on the actions.
The weighting should be approximately:
- Situation: 5-10%
- Task: 10%
- Approach/Actions: 70%
- Results: 10-20%
The length of a good selection criteria response that can effectively demonstrate is about 180 – 300 words. Any longer is too long and can be edited down, and any too short won’t demonstrate.
Finding the hidden selection criteria questions
It has become more and more unclear where the selection criteria to respond to actually is.
They can take the form of Statement of claims, selection criteria, Essential Requirements, Key Success Criteria, Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, etc.
If the role you are applying to does not say what the criteria is clearly, but asks you as an applicant to:
- submit a two-page statement outlining your suitability for the role;
- submit your pitch highlighting your ability to perform the duties of the role;
- submit a cover letter referencing the required skills, etc.
… then you still need to write selection criteria responses.
You still need to write these selection criteria, STAR responses, because it’s the only way you can demonstrate your ability to perform at-level. There is no other structure (CAR, SOAR, etc. are all the same thing) that enables humans to convey to other humans what they can do, in the absence of physically going through a trial period in that role to show.
How to respond to short pitches
The new trend of pitches, short-form applications, two-page and one-page applications, and so on, leaves it up to you structure these responses.
That’s really hard if you’re not a writer. If you’ve got 6 selection criteria questions, and 600 words for a pitch, should you:
- Write 100 per 6 questions? or
- Use 2-3 longer examples?
You’d be right if you said 2-3 longer examples.
Remember: the point is to demonstrate. In 100 words you might get across 2-3 “I” statements which detail what you did in something. That is not enough.
If you’re in a project management role, and the role asks candidates to write a 600 word pitch for the role, I would structure this to be either:
- Introduction, 10%
- Example 1, 200-300 words
- Example 2, 200-300 words
- Closing statement 5% (cut this if you need to in favour of actions)
- Introduction, 10%
- Example 1, 150-200 words
- Example 2, 150-200 words
- Example 3, 150-200 words
- Closing statement 5% (cut this if you need to in favour of actions)
Navigating government short form statements
- Introduction 10-20%
- Example 1 20-30%
- Example 2 20-30%
- Example 3 20-30%
- Example 4 20-30%
- Example 5 20-30%
- Example 6 20-30%
- Closing statement/call to action
For reference, the call to action is the statement to the effect of, “Please contact me on the details contained herein for an interview.”
For Queensland Government, South Australia Government, and the Tasmanian Government, the traditional selection criteria responses have been replaced with two-page statements.
For these state governments, there is usually 6-7 selection criteria questions.
Note that one page contains roughly 750 words.
The structure therefore would be:
The Northern Territory Government and most Commonwealth government positions adopt a one-page response. This is where you want to demonstrate as much as you can, in as fewer words as possible by focusing on the actions of examples, and telling good, detailed stories at the right level.
The Victorian Public Service and Western Australia Government adopt 2-4 page statements against lengthy criteria. The selection criteria is usually easy to find, and you can offer lengthy 300 word statements against each criteria. If you are a teacher in either state, extremely different selection criteria is involved for either.
The New South Wales Government vary between 2 x 300-word target questions and a 1-2 page cover letter.
Other things to include
The introduction or closing statement 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 for government roles, checked the Capability Development Framework for your state, or the APS Work Level Standards for your level (federal government only) to ensure your responses are satisfactory.
Things that trip people up are
The application directions:
Watch what the application actually says. You could effectively write that whole pitch brilliantly, and have not answered half the actual question if you misread or misinterpret the direction.
Formatting and font:
The use of tables are fine, narrow margins can be good, unless the applicant kit says not to do those things. Read the applicant kit, look at the websites How to Apply section and make sure that you comply with any font and formatting requirements.
When not to use STAR
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
- A header with your contact details, like below
- No smaller than 10.5 font
- No cursive fonts– stick to Serifs
Title the document, and include the position title and job number once on the first page.
Add a page number on the footer with your name or the application restated; anything you can do make the work easier of your audience is well regarded.
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.
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.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any other questions.