How to write to selection criteria

Selection criteria are statements that describe the qualifications, knowledge, skills, abilities and experience that are required in a job. When asked to respond to selection criteria, you are being asked to describe how you meet the requirements of the job, providing examples.

Types of criteria

The kind of responses you will write for selection criteria will depend on the kind of job you are applying for. Different employers will ask different kinds of questions. Selection criteria are often used in government and university recruitment exercises.

Some employers will focus on your qualifications or your work skills. Others will be based on your experience. You will be asked how you have responded to specific situations. For example, you may be asked if you have attained a specific qualification or if you have a licence for a certain kind of vehicle. You could be asked to explain how you have met deadlines and prioritised tasks. You might be asked how you have dealt with difficult people, or how you have shown leadership.

For example, see the University of Western Australia's guide on 'The written application' in our Related Links.

In many job applications, written selection criteria are broken down into 'essential' and 'desirable' qualities. You must be able to demonstrate the essential qualities that are necesary for the position.  If you can also demonstrate the desirable qualities, this will strengthen your application.

Keep your answers focused and clearly written

Your aim should be to show how your workplace skills and experiences have helped you to successfully handle key situations which you will be likely to face in your job. Using specific examples is a good idea.

Remember that you are highlighting your qualities by relating a purpose-driven story. You need to supply enough detail to be clear. It is essential that you keep focused on answering the specific requests of each criterion. For open-ended criterion, you should aim to write around half a page, or two to three solid paragraphs for each response.

Addressing selection criteria

The Australian Public Service Commission provides the following advice on addressing selection criteria (see our Related Links for their full web page):

The most important aspect of addressing selection criteria is to provide evidence or proof through relevant examples. Support your claims with actual, specific examples of what you have done and how well you did it. One way to do this is to use the STAR model:

  1. Situation—Outline a specific circumstance where you developed the particular experience or used the required skills or qualities. Set the context of the situation.
  2. Task—What was your role? What did you have to do?
  3. Actions—What did you do and how did you do it?
  4. Results—What did you achieve? What were the results of what you did?

Example of addressing selection criteria

Here is an example of using the STAR approach to address selection criteria.

Demonstrated capacity to communicate effectively

My ability to communicate effectively with people was demonstrated in my position as receptionist with the XYZ community organisation. I dealt with members of the general public, officers from the local council, government departments and representatives from private businesses on a daily basis.

I communicated with these people face to face, over the phone and through email. I was the first point of contact for the organisation which meant it was very important that I was professional, courteous and helpful in my interactions. In recognition of my positive interpersonal skills my temporary position was extended for nine months beyond my initial contract.

Proof read your responses

As with any written communication to a potential employer, you should carefully proof read your responses before you send them.  It is useful to ask a friend or your employment service provider to check your responses for spelling errors or typing errors before you send them. 

Sending your responses

Follow the instructions provided in the job advertisement when sending your responses. You might need to ask the employer for more information about how they would like to receive the responses.  Generally, your responses should be prepared on A4 white paper, typed in a plain font and bound with a stapler rather than being presented in plastic sleeves or a folder.

Keep your responses for future reference

Selection criteria can be very similar for many jobs so you can use your responses for one job application as a template for others. You should not simply write the same responses each time. To write effective responses, you should read the selection criteria carefully and tailor your responses to meet the requirements of each position.

Keeping a copy is also a good way for you remember what you have written. This will help if you are selected for an interview and your potential employer asks you to expand on your answers. You will often be asked questions in the interview that related specifically to the selection criteria.

Ask others to help you

It is okay to phone the employer to ask for more information about what they are looking for in the selection criteria, length of response, format and so on. You might also find it useful to speak to other people who have applied for jobs using selection criteria.

Providers of Australian Government Employment Services have experience that can help you prepare selection criteria:

If you are studying, your school or university careers counsellors can also help provide advice and help you prepare responses.

Applying for Australian Government jobs

Some people feel daunted at the thought of applying for jobs in the Australian Public Service. For more information about 'cracking the code', see:

More information?

See our Related Links for websites that can help you write selection criteria or call the JobAccess Advisers on 1800 464 800 for advice on how to get help with selection criteria.

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