By Bayside Group

Jul 29, 2020

7 steps to take when responding to key selection criteria

When applying for jobs, you may think that an application simply involves submitting a current resume and cover letter. However, some job applications may require you to perform a third step, responding to key selection criteria.

While key selection criteria are usually associated with government job applications, they are also commonly used by larger organisations. Used in the recruitment process, the key selection criteria help Hiring Managers to make the most accurate match between the requirements of the specific role and the skills of the applicant. Usually, criteria will be presented to job applicants as a list of essential skills, knowledge, experience and/or qualifications that the applicant must fulfil to be eligible for the job.

While it is additional work in the application process, submitting a high-quality response to the selection criteria will play a significant role in positioning you as a qualified candidate.

So, how do you address the selection criteria on a job application? Here are seven simple steps you can take that will help you submit well rounded responses.


Step 1: Don’t ignore them!

It might be an obvious first point, but time and time again our Consultants see many job applicants completely disregard the key selection criteria, instead choosing to submit only their resume and cover letter. Do this and you are less likely to receive an interview - or even get a second glance - from the Hiring Manager.

The key selection criteria have been added to the job application for a reason, so don’t ignore them. You should give them just as much weight as your resume.


Step 2: Take note of specific requirements

Ensure that you submit your key selection criteria in the format being requested by the employer, taking note of specific file type and word counts being asked for. Key selection criteria are usually submitted in a separate Word document, however some companies may specifically require you to submit a PDF, or else format your criteria into a form they have provided. Ensure you read what is specifically required so you tick all their boxes.

The number of individual criterion will vary from business to business and job to job, but there are usually at least four, sometimes up to 12 or 15. The length of your responses also varies, depending on the specific requirements for the position you are applying for. Some employers will specify maximum word counts per response, while others will leave it up to you to decide on the length.

Make sure you take note of any limits, since your application could be rejected based on non-compliance with these specifications. If there are no limits, half to two-thirds of an A4 page is usually more than sufficient, keeping your response relevant, brief and succinct However, if you are applying for a more senior executive role, you may need up to a page to fully incorporate your skills and prior experience.


Step 3: Understand what is being asked

It is important to carefully read through each selection criterion and understand what each one is asking for before jumping straight in. The job description or statement of duties will help you understand what’s required in terms of qualifications, experience and skills, however taking note of how the selection criteria is worded will determine how to respond.

Phrases such as “knowledge of” or “experience using” might be used, and each one of these will need a different approach. For example, “experience using” requires a description of how you’ve used something to achieve a particular outcome or result, whereas “knowledge of” needs evidence of your knowledge about a particular area.


Step 4: The opening statement

For each criterion, clearly state how you fulfil it in one sentence making sure you incorporate key points. Keep it short – you will go into further details and specific examples and relevant experience in the next step.




Step 5: Support your claim with evidence

This is perhaps the most important part of the process and will usually require specific examples to back up your claim. The employer wants to see exactly how you fulfil the criteria. It is important to be as specific as possible. Saying you are a ‘team player’ is not enough, instead show a demonstrated example of how you acted as a team player and what was the direct positive outcome of this.

It can be helpful here to print out your resume and highlight specific elements that align with the criteria, briefly brainstorming some relevant and recent examples that would suit each criterion. Oftentimes it can be useful to use the STAR model to help present your examples in a cohesive manner. Once you have written your opening sentence, explain the “Situation” where the relevant example came from (such as a customer service incident), follow that with the “Task”, which is your role in the example, outline what “Action” you took, and spell out the “Result”.


Step 6: Keep your layout simple

When it comes to the layout, short sentences are best. Sub-headings and bullet points may also be useful to highlight key points, depending on the requirements of the organisation. Most of the time Hiring Managers will receive a large number of applications to go through, so creating a document that flows well and addresses the criteria succinctly is very important. For the same reason, it is also useful to utilise the language from the criteria itself into your own responses, as this links your responses back to the requirements.


Step 7: Check, check and check again

Nothing looks worse than submitting your response to the criteria only to have it riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. It looks unprofessional and an employer will most likely see this as a sign that you are either not that interested in the job, or that you are lazy and lack attention to detail. None of these are ideal.

If necessary, you can even ask someone to proofread the document for you to check for errors before you submit it. Always review the document and use spellcheck before submitting.


If you need assistance applying for jobs, you can access our range of job application tools here, including free resumes and cover letter template.

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