Crafting selection criteria responses can seem daunting, but using the right framework can make all the difference! Here’s part 2 of my guide to take the ‘ugh’ factor out of preparing selection criteria responses and winning your next job.
In part 1 of my Beginner’s Guide to Selection Criteria, we looked at what selection criteria is, why organisations still use it and the latest trends. If you haven’t read my Beginner’s Guide to Selection Criteria, I highly you do it now.
In this post, we’re going to look at how to prepare selection criteria responses and common mistakes to avoid.
This post is about developing selection criteria responses
What is selection criteria?
Let’s start with a short recap on selection criteria.
Key selection criteria details a list of essential and desirable capabilities, traits and qualifications a candidate must possess to successfully perform the duties of a job.
Selection criteria are usually associated with public service jobs in Australia (local, state and federal), however many other organisations include it in their recruitment processes.
Traditionally, candidates were asked to provide a 500-word response to each criterion. Usually there are 6 criteria to address😱
Luckily, many government departments are now modernising their approaching to selection criteria responses by asking candidates to prepare a shorter pitch statement 😌
While preparing selection criteria responses can be super daunting, there are so many benefits to candidate and organisation, which is why it’s still commonly used in recruitment.
Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Selection Criteria for more information.
How to address selection criteria
A mentor of mine once said ‘If you want a $30,000 promotion, you need to put in $30,000 of effort into your job application’. This wholeheartedly applies to addressing selection criteria!
Many people think developing selection criteria responses is tedious, but once you become familiar with the formula, you can easily leverage and refine it for each of your job applications.
There are two methods commonly used to develop selection criteria responses. Let’s explore these in more detail.
STAR method selection criteria examples
The STAR method has long been the ‘gold standard’ approach to addressing selection criteria.
STAR refers to situation, task, action and result. This method forms the framework of your selection criteria responses.
The STAR method is applied to each selection criterion in traditional selection criteria responses.
While there are several ways to apply the STAR method, in my own experience I’ve found using one example per criterion is the most effective approach.
The ‘Situation’ element of the STAR method refers to the context of the work example you are about to explore. This is where you describe an instance where you have demonstrated the very skill referred to in the selection criterion. This should be the opening paragraph only. Think of this as the ‘who’ and ‘where’ portion of your selection criteria responses.
The ‘Task’ element refers to your role in the work example. This is where you describe what you did that demonstrates the very skill referred to in the selection criterion. This should be covered in one short paragraph only. This addresses the ‘what’ and ‘when’ portion of your selection criteria responses.
The ‘Action’ refers to the approach you took to achieve the results in your work example. This is where you describe in detail how you completed the task and why you took the approach you did. This element is where you actively demonstrate your utilisation of the very skill referred to in the selection criterion. This is the most important element of the STAR model and where the bulk of your focus should be. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ portion of your selection criteria responses should be covered here.
The ‘Result’ element refers to your achievement of the work example. This is where you describe the outcome of the actions you took to achieve the result you did. Again, this element is where you actively demonstrate your utilisation of the very skill referred to in the selection criterion. This should be covered in one-two paragraphs at the end of your selection criteria response.
CARL method selection criteria
The CARL method is a great alternative to the STAR method to developing selection criteria responses as it adds another element to your framework.
Like the STAR method, it’s applied to each selection criterion in traditional selection criteria responses, however also provides the opportunity for evaluation.
The ‘Context’ element combines the Situation and Task elements of the STAR method to fully cover the entire context of your work example. In practice, there is no difference to the approach you would take with the STAR method.
The ‘Action’ element is the same as the corresponding Action element of the STAR method to describe the approach you took to achieve the results in your work example.
The ‘Result’ element is the same as the corresponding Result element of the STAR method to describe the outcome of the actions to took to achieve the result you did.
The ‘Learning’ element is unique to the CARL method. It extends the framework to describe what you learned by undertaking the task the way you did and what you could do differently next time to achieve a greater result.
This is a powerful addition to the framework as it demonstrates your commitment to continuous improvement, client service, agility towards tasks and more.
The ‘Learning’ element can be tough to weave into selection criteria responses however. When addressing pitch statements, word limits are restricted, and a well-developed response can take some time to journey through.
Continuously analysing your performance in your selection criteria responses isn’t recommended either.
Use the ‘Learning’ element of the framework sparingly to craft your responses it best practice.
If you’re super attached to the ol’ STAR method and wish to incorporate the ‘Learning’ element of the CARL method, try STARE (E being for Evaluation).
For help developing your selection criteria response, download our FREE selection criteria template!
How to select the right work examples
It’s not enough to choose a work example and follow a framework to produce persuasive and competitive selection criteria responses.
The work examples you give and the capabilities you demonstrate must be in line with the classification of the role you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a Human Resource Director role, demonstrating your ability to manage time by detailing a work example about daily schedule coordination is not going to cut it!
If you’re applying for an Australian Public Service (APS) job, the Integrated Leadership System (ILS) will be your best friend!
The ILS is a type of capability framework which outlines general descriptions of how roles change in response to increasing complexity and the applicable behavioural indicator for each core capability category.
These are often referred to as proficiency descriptions.
Understanding the ILS (or the framework that is applicable to the vacancy you’re applying for) will provide you with a massive advantage. The proficiency descriptions provide you with a guide on the specific components you need to address in your selection criteria responses.
Pitch statements vs traditional selection criteria
Pitch statements are slightly different to selection criteria; the key differences include:
- a shorter word limit for responses
- address either key selection criteria or answer ‘why choose me’ questions.
Pitch statements are essentially a marketing exercise – an extension on the well-known elevator pitch. They provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate what you have to offer a role or organisation, and how can you make a difference.
For more information on pitch statements, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Selection Criteria
Your approach to responding to pitch statements may vary slighting, depending on the question, however you should always aim to demonstrate your skills, knowledge, experience and using work examples. In most circumstances this will mean the STARE or CARL methods for developing a response will still apply!
Common mistakes with selection criteria responses
As someone who has written and read tens of thousands of words of selection criteria responses, I’ve seen every mistake that can be made!
1. Lack of detail (lack of effort)
While I’m the first one to discourage anyone from ‘padding out’ their selection criteria responses, you must meet the word limit, or be extremely close to it.
You can’t adequately demonstrate your skills, knowledge, traits and qualifications in a couple of sentences or paragraphs. The more detail you can give on your achievements, how you achieved them and why you used the approach you did, the more evidence you are providing towards your suitability for the role.
Remember – your selection criteria responses give you a chance to really gain a competitive edge by demonstrating how good of a fit for the role you are. Think of selection criteria as a platform to let your potential employer know why you are the right person for the job. You can bet that other candidates will be😉
There is no room for a half-hearted approach to addressing selection criteria.
2. Not following the STAR or CARL method to formulate selection criteria responses
Okay, this one is super straightforward – always use the STAR, STARE, CARL or similar framework to develop your selection criteria responses!
It’s essential you provide a comprehensive response to selection criteria or a pitch statement demonstrating you have the capabilities, traits and qualifications to successfully perform a role. The best (and only way in my view) to do this is to provide detailed work examples, appropriate to the level of the role.
3. Focusing on the ST and not emphasising the AR
This is the mistake I see the most from applicants, and it’s one I’ve made in the past as well.
Setting the context of your work example (the S and T elements) should only be a short part of your whole selection criteria response. Usually these elements are kept to one short paragraph each, ensuring the bulk of the word count is available for the A and R elements.
The A and R elements should be the focus of your response as this is where you can actively demonstrate your knowledge, experience and skills.
4. Confusion over which work example to write about
One aspect which puts a lot of people off writing selection criteria responses is choosing a work example to write about. Commonly people feel like they need to choose an example of a highly successful project or a complex work task which resulted in an award or significant event.
If you’re applying for entry level positions, this can be really tricky as you might not have been exposed to complex or strategic work before.
Importantly, you don’t need a ‘big’ example. An everyday example will suffice if it’s written well and demonstrates the skills, knowledge or experience requirements you are addressing in the criterion or pitch statement.
5. Not having anyone edit your selection criteria responses
It sounds straightforward enough, however selection criteria responses are still commonly submitting without detailed editing.
Mistakes happen, and when you are reading your response for the millionth time, it’s easy to miss then.
Not only do spelling and grammatical mistakes regularly slip through, I regularly see responses that just aren’t written well.
It’s particularly problematic when you are claiming you have strong written communication skills!
Always get someone to review and edit your selection criteria responses. Choosing who you ask is equally important. Not every public servant can write competitive selection criteria!! Choose a trusted advisor who has recently been successful in a recruitment process (so you know they have experienced at writing a competitive application), a public servant who is regularly involved in recruitment or a career development practitioner.
Using the right framework the right way to develop selection criteria responses is critical for success.
Investing time and effort into a detailed application is the only way to ensure it will be competitive.
Don’t undervalue or underestimate the editing process! Ensure your editor is a trusted advisor with recent experience and knowledge about selection criteria.
This post was about developing selection criteria responses
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