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Addressing Selection Criteria

Career Development Unit – September 2005


Introduction
Job applicants often feel overwhelmed when faced with selection criteria. But from an
employer’s point of view, they provide an equitable means to measure each job applicant’s
suitability to perform the duties of an advertised position. As a consequence your ability to
effectively demonstrate your level of competency against each selection criteria is very
important.

The following book was used as a resource in developing this guide:

Villiers, Ann D (2000) How to address selection criteria. 3rd ed. Canberra, dm press.

What are selection criteria?


The selection criteria for a position lists the essential and desirable skills, attributes,
experience and education which an organisation decides is necessary for a position.

Why are selection criteria used?


• Select the most capable, effective, suitable, experienced, qualified person for the
position.
• Allows applicant to demonstrate ways they will be of value to the position and
organisation.
• Standardise the recruitment process – they provide a guide to employers and
recruiters as to essential and desirable requirements to look for in applicants, which
can help reduce personal and social bias in selection decisions and to ensure that
the most suitable candidate is selected.

Steps to addressing selection criteria


This is the most important document in your application. It is used by the selection panel to
decide whether to interview you. Preparation of this section of your application is the most
time consuming. To prepare it well you need to understand the criteria and use specific
techniques to write your statements.

Step 1
Create a new document
Suggested titles:
• Statement Addressing Selection Criteria
• Claims to the Selection Criteria

Step 2
Use each of the selection criteria as headings
Use each of the selection criteria requested as a head. If some criteria are similar, you can
combine them but it is important that you list both headings, for example: Well developed
communication skills, Superior writing skills.

Step 3

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Prove your ability to demonstrate each criterion
When addressing selection criteria it is important to ensure that you:
• Give a brief overview of how your particular work experience and qualification relate to
each criteria
• provide evidence to demonstrate the selection criteria rather than stating that you meet
the criteria
• use your work experience, community work and qualifications to provide evidence
against each criterion
• focus on results achieved.

Demonstrating selection criteria vs stating selection criteria


It is important that we demonstrate the selection criteria. Merely stating the criteria is not
sufficient, for example, I have excellent communication skills. You need to substantiate
and demonstrate your claims, for example, My interpersonal skills are best demonstrated
by ….

Exercise
Does the following example demonstrate or state the selection criterion:

Selection Criterion: Well developed communication skills

Response to selection criterion:


I have developed my communication skills in the various roles I have worked. My current
position involves liaising with a variety of people in a variety of settings. This includes
senior managers, staff at all levels and members of the public both face-to-face and on the
phone.

Demonstrate State

Does the following example demonstrate or state the selection criterion:

Selection Criterion: Well developed communication skills

Response to selection criterion:


I possess well-developed communication skills which I have gained throughout my working
career. In particular, in my role as Administration Officer for XYZ, I liaise on a daily basis
with senior managers, staff at all levels and members of the public. Communication is via
face to face and on the telephone and I am frequently commended for the professional
manner in which I carried out these duties.

For example, one of my key responsibilities was to implement a new policy within my
department. This process required well-developed communication skills to ensure that I
acquired an accurate understanding of the policy and clearly communicated this to the
client. As a result, …..

Demonstrate State

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The first example states rather than demonstrates the selection criteria. The job seeker
does not demonstrate what is involved in the selection criteria, nor what they have
achieved.

The second example clearly demonstrates the criteria by specifically outlining specific
actions and the results of those actions.

Understanding key phrases


It is important to understand what is being asked for in the selection criteria as there are
subtle differences in meaning. For example, the difference between a skill, knowledge or
attitude.

Skill
This refers to your experience or practical application. In your application you need to
demonstrate that you have performed tasks or jobs that require the skill.

Selection criterion: Commitment to manage personal workloads and balance competing


priorities

Addressing the selection criterion


In my current position as Field Officer with the Department of Education I am required to
work on a variety of tasks and projects. I find that self-management and discipline are
critical in grappling with the challenges of large work volumes and strict deadlines. To
confront these challenges I have established prioritisation and follow-up systems to ensure
I achieve required deadlines.

As a result of utilising these skills, I have ……

Knowledge
This refers to familiarity gained from actual experience or from learning. It is often used in
reference to government policy such as Employment, Equity and Diversity or Occupational
Health and Safety.

Selection criterion: Ability to understand Employment Equity and Diversity

Addressing the selection criterion


I am committed to the principles of EED and believe offensive comments or remarks to
others have no place in a professional environment. I would confront those who make
them towards other staff. EED can be defined as providing a “fair go” for everyone, and a
working environment free of harassment and discrimination.

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Attitude
This refers to the suitability for a task, or your way of thinking in relation to a task or role.

Selection Criterion: Demonstrated commitment to quality client service

Addressing the selection criterion:


As a ‘people-person’ I naturally enjoy dealing with people. With good listening and
interpretation skills, I am able to assist people with the highest level of service.
Additionally, by being empathetic and supportive to problems or requests, I am able to
recommend a course of action, or assist in any way I can. Repeat business has been a
result of my commitment to providing quality client service.

Qualifiers
Often for higher level positions additional qualifiers are used such as well-developed,
demonstrated, extensive and high level of. These indicate that criteria must be soundly
supported with concrete examples that show breadth and depth of experience and/or
capability.

Eight techniques to improve how you write selection criteria


1. Avoid unsupported self-aggrandisement
Writing about yourself in glowing terms does not tell the selection panel much. Other than
you think highly of yourself. It is important to provide supporting evidence for each claim.
This means achievements and examples of experience, concrete information that will
convince a selection panel that you do possess the required skill or experience.

2. Watch your verbs


In writing to selection criteria it is your verbs which most clearly indicate how closely you
meet the criteria and which give strength to your claim and application generally.

A key to strengthening a case on each criterion is to use direct, active constructions of


verbs, rather than passive constructions of verbs, and to use verbs which indicate exactly
what your contribution was.

For example:
Passive verbs
I negotiated … I assisted with …
I liaised with… I participated in …
I edited… I contributed to …
I provided advice .. I helped …

Specific verbs for addressing selection criteria


achieved developed invented programmed
administered directed joined promoted
adopted distributed increased quantified
advised doubled initiated ratified
analysed drafted innovated sold
arranged edited invented solved
assessed eliminated joined spoke

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budgeted engaged judged streamlined
collaborated established launched succeeded
completed evaluated liaised suggested
conceived exhibited maintained supervised
conducted expanded managed trained
constructed formulated measured transcribes
contracted generated negotiated translated
controlled headed operated tripled
costed implemented organised uncovered
created improved planned unified
cut increased prepared widened
delivered initiated presented won
designed innovated produced wrote

3. Address all parts of the selection criteria


Many selection criteria are made up of several parts. For example:
• An organised and highly motivated approach to work with the ability to prioritise and
work under pressure.

This criterion requires you to address four distinct elements:


• organised approach
• motivated approach
• ability to prioritise
• ability to work under pressure

Each element must be addressed so that the selection panel can judge you as fully
meeting the criteria. The other advantage of this approach is that where there are many
applicants of comparable standard, an applicant who addresses all the criteria, in full, is
more likely to be shortlisted.

4. Incorporate dot points


Anything that makes reading your application easier and reaching an assessment as to
whether you merit short-listing quicker, will help your cause. Incorporating dot points helps
clarify and makes reading easier. However, it is important to maintain a balance, as dot
points will not necessarily work for all criteria, nor is it appropriate in all cases.

5. Use English well


The written application indicates to the selection panel not only your suitability for the
position but also something of your writing ability. You should ensure that all parts of the
application are written clearly, concisely, are grammatically correct, and that spelling is
accurate.

To help achieve this, it is always useful to ask another person who has a good command
of English to look over your application. Don’t rely on your computer spellchecker as many
mistakes can slip through. This is extremely important as an application with spelling
errors, whether ‘typos’ or genuine mistakes, does not give a good impression, particularly
if writing skills is one of the selection criteria.

Avoid using technical terms, jargon or phrases that are only used by a handful of people,
as this will frustrate the reader. Also, by writing in more general business terms you create
an impression that you understand more than your particular specialisation. People are

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impressed by applications that express achievements and accountabilities in clear,
concise, unambiguous, direct, active terms.

Also be careful of repetition in terms of examples used, and words to demonstrate your
skills, knowledge and attitudes.

6. Support claims with relevant, concrete examples


Nothing makes an application more difficult to assess than one which rambles around
vague and irrelevant material. Remember, work experience is not the only place to look for
relevant examples, look at your achievements in your education, leisure activities and
community work.

7. Be results-oriented
It is no longer sufficient to demonstrate a variety of experience or that you work long hours
on multiple projects. Future employers want to know what contributions you have made in
your career to the organisations for which you have worked. Increasingly, what matters is
what impact you have, what difference you make, what results you achieve and what
benefits were there. This is particularly so for more senior positions.

When responding to selection criteria ask yourself whether the results achieved are
important and consider how you can quantify your contribution. Ways to quantify your
results include:
• cost reductions
• number of recommendations implemented
• timeframes reduced
• successful negotiations completed
• productivity increases
• processes or procedures simplified
• goals achieved
• improvements made
• critical problems solved.

You may also be able to quantify results as an absence of something, for example,
breakdowns, disputes, stoppages or complaints.

This may be difficult for some criteria. However, you need to think about situations where,
by you being there, by your suggestions, ideas, approach, a better outcome was achieved.
Looking at your goals and achievements from past Performance Planners may provide
you with information you can use.

8. Avoid credibility-reducing words


Credibility in a statement against selection criteria is not built by referring to your
performance in terms that suggest you are perfect, without exception. For example, words
like: all, every, always, never, constantly, continually, totally, fully, completely.

• I always give my customers courteous service.


• I never miss an opportunity to contribute ideas at meetings.

Such writing is a variation of self-aggrandisement and implies that you are perfect and
perform without exception, all of the time. Most people are not perfect all of the time. It is
rare for a person to do a task perfectly 100 percent of the time.

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(Adapted from: Villiers, Ann D (2001) How to address selection criteria. 3rd ed. Australia: DM Press, p. 54-
66)

Structuring your response to selection criteria


A useful method of structuring your response to selection criteria is called the CAR
approach. This stands for
Challenge/context
Action
Result/s
Challenge/Context – the challenge or context of the situation where you demonstrated
the skills, knowledge or attitude.

Action – what you did to solve the problem, lead the group, advance the project.

Result – what was achieved.

Example:

Selection criterion: Strong written skills

Addressing the selection criterion:


During my career I have been required to write a variety of written documents from major
reports to letters, memos and short critiques of various documents. (Challenge/Context)

My approach to these varied tasks is to always consider the nature of the audience that
the document was being prepared for, what was expected in this style of communication,
and what feedback I had received in the past for written tasks. Other areas I consider are
the amount of research required and the time frame. (Action)

Feedback received from colleagues has always been consistently positive and a number
of reports I have written have been forwarded to senior management for approval of the
recommendations I have suggested. I have also been requested to prepare more complex
reports (including statistical analysis) as a result of my well-developed written skills.
(Result)

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Language to describe you
The following are words you may consider to describe your skills, attributes and
achievements.

Words that describe you in a positive way:


• self-disciplined • tactful
• self-reliant • persuasive
• self-confident • considerate
• diplomatic • thrive
• discreet • excel
• conscientious • keen professional
• motivated aptitude

Words that indicate management potential:


• led • coordinated
• administered • ability
• authorised • successful
• supervised • developed
• leader • initiative

Words that indicate competence:


• creative • effective
• strength • capacity
• ability • adept
• thoroughly mastered • aptitude
• proficient • performance oriented
• results oriented • track record
• integrity

Words that reflect intelligence:


• analytical • perceptive
• logical • creative ideas
• lateral thinking

From: The Edge - http://www.uow.edu.au/careers/publications/TheEdge.html pg 19.

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Exercise

Review the following response to a selection criterion:

Selection Criterion
Demonstrated initiative and excellence in customer service

Addressing the selection criterion


My skills in customer service are excellent and I have a very good ability to provide quality
service to customers. As you will see from my curriculum vitae I have worked on the
reception desk in the department’s regional office, answered phone inquiries from a range
of people seeking information and sat in on the customer focus groups which provided
feedback on our service performance.

How you present yourself is important in dealing with a variety of customers, as is being
able to answer inquiries quickly and fully. I have at all times received positive comments
from customers. My skills and understanding of customer service have been expanded
through attending workshops and seminars. I have been able to demonstrate initiative by
applying the ideas I gained from these training sessions.

Consider the following:


Does this response demonstrate concrete examples to support the criterion?
What impression does it provide?
Does the response address all areas of the selection criterion?
Is the response easy to read, why or why not?
Is the response well structured?
Has this response provided any evidence of results achieved?

Comments:

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Possible responses:
• poor structure
• insufficient concrete examples to support criterion demonstrated
• reference to information in CV without drawing out evidence
• descriptive statement of behaviours (stating) rather than evidence that they have
demonstrated these behaviours on the job
• not personalised, that is, refers to “How you present yourself” rather than “How I
present myself”
• ambiguous – “I have at all times received positive comments from customers” - in
relation to what specifically?

Revised example:

Selection criterion: Demonstrated initiative and excellence in customer service.

Addressing the selection criterion:


During the last five years I have held positions with primary responsibilities that demanded
the provision of excellent customer service. Whilst in these positions I demonstrated
excellence in customer service by:
being responsive to customers, providing accurate, timely information in a friendly
manner
remembering the names and personal details of regular customers
keeping staff informed of any particularly difficult situations which needed sensitive
handling
ensuring that records were updated when new information was received
listening carefully to distressed customers and ensuring that they received more than
just ‘the standard answer’.

The quality of my customer service was recognised by the consistent positive feedback
customers provided during quarterly customer focus groups, in supportive correspondence
received and in the tendency for regular customers to seek my assistance when they
called.

From my on-the-job experience and professional development programs I have initiated


improvements in the quality of service provided. Examples of these improvements are:
introduction of a counter numbering system so that inquiries are handled in the correct
order
introduction of a standard format for answering the telephone so that customers know
they have reached the correct location
providing all counter staff with business cards so that customers know who they have
spoken to and could reach them again if necessary.

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Examples of addressing selection criterion

Selection criterion: Demonstrated ability to work well in a team.

Addressing the selection criterion:


During my past two professional positions I worked as a part of close, interdependent,
multi-discipline teams. During this time I developed important skills in teamwork including:
the ability to help the team come to a workable decision and implement strategies
to achieve decisions, demonstrated by my facilitation of a recent research planning
day, resulting in a thorough, innovative team planning report
how to communicate openly and productively, specifically able to communicate
opposing ideas in a respectful and thought-provoking manner
how to leverage diversity and Individual experience to produce creative and
successful outcomes for the group
motivating and supporting other team members, demonstrated recently on a
challenging research case.

Selection criterion: Possession of team leadership skills

Addressing the selection criterion:


I have had extensive experience leading work, quality and cross-functional teams. As a
team leader I have been involved in:
• developing unit plans (in conjunction with the team) which are linked to the
organisation’s plan
• monitoring and reviewing team performance against action plans and making changes
when appropriate
• providing staff with both positive and constructive feedback on their work performance
including helping them identify strengths and development areas
• conducting performance appraisals and identifying learning and development options
• resolving team conflicts
• channelling communication effectively from senior management to the team, from the
team to senior management and between teams
• following through on staff concerns
• motivating team members.

In the Leadership Survey for Service Organisations the following statement was made: X’s
ability to articulate a strategy for the group, utilise data and encourage knowledge sharing
in the organisation is above the benchmark means. This is facilitated by X’s strong
communication skills. These results suggest that not only is she a good leader, team
player and service professional but that clients are benefiting from the hard work X is
devoting to this organisation.

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Selection criterion: Understanding Project Management

Addressing the selection criterion:

I have worked as a Project Officer at the University of Wollongong since 2002, first with
Department XYZ then the Faculty ABC, overseeing a variety of successful web-based and
E-learning projects, delivering these within deadline and on budget.

I have a thorough understanding of the principles of project management gained through


these positions and training with Career Development Unit. These principles are best
summarised as Initiation (Project purpose and key stakeholders), Planning (resources and
time-frame), Implementation (communication, monitoring and reportage), Completion
(public launch or integration with organisational practice), and Evaluation (does the project
achieve its goals).

In managing projects I demonstrate a confident application of the above principles through


clear communication with stakeholders, identification of measurable outcomes,
development of project milestones, assessing and allocating resources, regular and
accurate reportage, applying risk management and quality assurance procedures.

Selection Criterion: Demonstrated Organisational and Time Management skills

Addressing the selection criterion:

As a project officer I have routinely worked on 8-10 projects at a time. These were
regularly delivered on deadline or earlier, save where the timeline was renegotiated by the
Dean or Faculty Manager when the project parameters changed midstream.

To achieve this I:
• make detailed project plans initially to limit surprises.
• set up periodic meetings with all principles.
• identify other areas of University or outside institutions that might be involved and
contact them early.
• use four concurrent methods of monitoring project progress. These are white board for
big picture; GANT chart for milestones; log of all important emails to recall project
details and needs quickly; hardcopy notebook with reminder dates and milestones
keyed out of context with the project.
• factor in extra time to deal with unforeseen emergencies.
• report regularly.

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Exercise

Write a response to one of the following selection criteria:

Self motivated Excellent negotiation skills


Ability to work independently as Keen to work in a company where
well as in a team environment there is continuous learning
Excellent communication & people Multi-talented and able to handle
skills numerous tasks at once
Motivated, enthusiastic team Proven report writing skills
player Superior writing skills
Attention to detail Ability to communicate with
Ability to solve problems and find people at all levels
solutions Ability to operate in a dynamic
Strong time management skills and changing environment
Good organisational skills Ability to think laterally
Demonstrate confidentiality
Ability to meet tight deadlines
Customer service focussed

Remember the CAR approach:


• Challenge/Context
• Action
• Result

Selection criterion: _______________________________________________________

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Addressing the selection criterion:

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________________________________________________________________________

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Cover letters
Always send a cover letter whether you are applying for a job via the post or email. A
cover letter shows good manners and states your intentions for applying for a job and
confirms the job title and reference number.

What does a cover letter do?


A cover letter:
• begins a relationship; a hand-shake leading to a fruitful encounter
• a cover letter reinforces your interest in a particular position and notes the position
reference number so that all information for that job is kept together
• refers to the key elements that the employer is requesting and then aligns that wish
list with a real world set of skills that shows the employer you are the right person
for the job
• summarises a few key points in the resume that reinforces something the reader
may miss when scanning
• asks for a call to action - I want an interview, you can contact me here.
• thanks the recruiters for considering you application.

By neglecting to send a cover letter, you are ignoring a critical aspect of the job hunt. You
are failing to personalise your application; failing to start a relationship with the recruiter or
HR person in charge of the search. You are forwarding an email or clicking on a submit
button and not even acknowledging that a human exists behind it negating their value in
the process.

Useful resources
Villiers, Ann D (2001) How to address selection criteria. 3rd ed. Australia: DM Press
(available from the career Development Unit)

The Edge - http://www.uow.edu.au/careers/publications/TheEdge.html

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