Selection Criteria: The Key To Your Dream Government Job

Posted October 13, 2011, by Sue Stevens

It can be safely said that the key to your dream government job is your selection criteria statement. Selection criteria are central when applying for jobs in the Australian Public Service and state, territory and local governments.

Furthermore, selection criteria are also being widely used by the community sector, professional associations, universities and TAFE, and even by some private sector organisations.

Selection criteria are becoming more and more common and can pose a serious challenge to people who aren’t sure how to answer them correctly.

What exactly are selection criteria?

Selection criteria are the skills, abilities, knowledge, experiences, qualifications and personal qualities that you will need to perform the role you're applying for. They help the employer to find the right person for the position – and your job is to convince them that is you, by addressing each in turn and demonstrating how well you satisfy each requirement.

Selection criteria can range from general (good communication skills) to very specific (advanced level skills in generating reports and spreadsheets). They can also range in importance, from essential ('must have') to less important or 'desirable' ('nice to have'). Candidates need to satisfy all the essential criteria in order to be considered for a job.

Why are selection criteria important?

Many people applying for government jobs for the first time may not be aware of just how important your selection criteria responses are. They are a critical part of applying for most government jobs and essential to creating an outstanding application.

Even if you have a brilliant resume that shows you have excellent skills and qualifications to do the job and you have written an absolutely sensational cover letter, if you don’t address the selection criteria in a separate document that explains how well you fit each requirement, chances are you will be overlooked. Fulfilling the selection criteria to the satisfaction of the selection committee is the only way you can make it across the line to the next stage of the recruitment process – the interview.

The application kit

With government positions and other jobs that require a selection criteria statement you will often be provided with an application kit that will tell you exactly what to submit with your application. This can generally be found on the company’s website or attached to the job advertisement. If it’s not on the website, give the company a call and have it sent out to you.

So what can you expect to find in an application kit? They are generally very comprehensive and give you an overview of the department, an application form, instructions, the selection criteria, duty statement and other information such as OH&S procedures. These application kits are usually very clear and explain exactly what you need to do to apply. Follow these instructions and you should have no problem applying successfully.

If you have any queries, give the HR Department a call to make sure everything is clear. It’s better to ask questions than risk screwing up your application, which could inevitably cost you the job.

Writing your responses

Once you have the information kit and have written a winning cover letter and sensational resume (specifically for this job of course!), you’re ready to get started on your selection criteria statement. This is the most important part of  your application and should always be included as a separate document.

There is no hard and fast rule about how long responses should be. Some agencies and government departments do not want any more than a paragraph per criterion; others do not have a limit. As a guide, keep to about 250 words per criterion (or approximately three paragraphs) and try to be as concise as possible – never more than one A4 page per criterion. You don’t want the assessor to fall asleep before they finish reading your statement!

Top 10 tips for addressing selection criteria

  • Be honest – do not make unsupported claims that you can't substantiate.
  • Read carefully and make sure you understand key phrases such as ‘experience in’ and ‘knowledge of’.
  • Give tangible examples of your claim (think STAR – situation, task, action, result).
  • Make sure the examples are relevant.
  • Use direct, active verbs and address all parts of the selection criteria.
  • Check to find out the maximum length for each response – never more than an A4 page per criterion and usually half a page is plenty.
  • Use bullet (dot) points to show your ability to write concisely and clearly.
  • Use language that is relevant to the position but avoid excessive use of jargon.
  • Proofread your work carefully.
  • Get someone else to proofread your responses.

Still stumped? Have a look at our sample key selection criteria responses to get you started. 

Sue Stevens

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