Responding to Selection Criteria

Employers may need someone who has a specific set of skills, experience or abilities to do a job. These are known as selection criteria, key selection criteria or person specifications.

Some common examples include:

  • good communication skills
  • good organisational skills
  • proven ability to work as part of a team
  • good customer service skills
  • ability to follow instructions and show initiative
  • relevant university degree.

Having the selection criteria will help you to find out more about the role and whether it is a good fit for you, and also what to include in your application.

If the selection criteria are not listed in the job advertisement, ask the employer for them by phone or email. You may also be able to download a copy from the organisation's website.

Job requirements can be either 'hard' or 'soft'.

Hard requirements are:

  • qualifications
  • levels of skill in a specific program or system
  • specific aspects of your work background that can be checked
  • instances of experience within a career field.

Soft requirements are personal qualities like being:

  • organised
  • flexible
  • results-oriented
  • a good communicator.

These kinds of skills are known as core skills for work, considered essential for your success at work.

If an advertisement asks for many 'hard' qualifications you don't have, there's no point applying for the position. But in many cases you don't have to meet the job requirements exactly. For example, you may not have experience using certain accounting software, but know a different package well and have a record of picking up new software skills quickly. You might still have a chance of being considered for this job.

Even if you can't show that you have all the required skills, with a carefully worded application you might still get an interview, because you've shown how quickly you learn new things or transfer your skills to new roles.


Focus on keywords

Spend time making a list of examples for keywords from the selection criteria or specifications. Use examples that show how you have applied these criteria to your work or life experiences.

Some key words to consider are:

  • ability – you can do it
  • demonstrate – you can show you can do a task and refer to specific examples
  • initiate – you can start a new task and follow it through
  • teamwork – how well you can work with others.


The STAR model

You can respond to selection criteria or specifications by using a technique referred to as STAR.

STAR stands for:

  • Situation – describe your role and responsibility
  • Task – describe the task, project or outcome you were required to achieve
  • Action – describe what you did and how you did it
  • Result – describe what happened as a result of the action you took, the overall benefit and perhaps what you learnt.

For example, the selection criteria may ask you to demonstrate problem-solving skills.

Your response might be:

In my recent position as Food and Domestic Assistant at Residential Care Centre, l assisted the Domestic Manager to develop a new food plan for the elderly residents. I had noticed that a number of residents were not receiving their preferred meals in the evening because the Domestic Manager was unaware that some residents were vegetarian and others disliked certain food. This meant some residents were not eating their entire evening meal. I suggested a simple tick-the-box plan that I designed. The system was introduced and all residents are now receiving food they like for evening meals. This has reduced dissatisfaction and food waste at the Centre.


Write clearly and correctly

You can use some dot points to make your response easy to read.

Below are eight tips to create a good first impression.

  1. Address all the criteria or job and person specifications.
  2. Use the STAR technique to give clear examples of your work and/or life experience that support your claims.
  3. Focus on outcomes that you have achieved and match these to the selection criteria.
  4. Mention how you would gain a skill or experience if you do not currently have all the skills or experience required.
  5. Use action words (verbs) to describe your experiences.
  6. Check your resume and cover letter for spelling and grammar errors. Don't rely totally on the spell checker on your computer.
  7. Ask someone else to check your application for spelling, punctuation and layout, and to ensure that you have addressed the job and person specifications.
  8. Be ready in your interview to provide more details about your examples as well as have other examples you can talk about.