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Is selection criteria standing in the way of you and your next dream job? Here’s my guide to take the ‘ugh’ factor out of preparing your response and winning your next job.

selection criteria

After 15 years in the public service in human resources, if there’s one thing I know, it’s selection criteria🤪 I have written and read tens of thousands of words of responses.

Noone likes addressing selection criteria. In fact, it can be a barrier to applications. Many potential applicants simply decide not to apply for a vacancy when a response to selection criteria is required.

In this post, we’re going to review the basics of selection criteria. Understanding the purpose, approach and requirements gives important context so you can plan and write an impressive response!

This post is about the basics of selection criteria

What is selection criteria?

Key selection criteria detail 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.

It’s usually associated with the first steps of a recruitment process. Selection criteria responses (along with resumes) are reviewed by assessors, and candidates are required to meet these requirements before moving to the next stage of the recruitment process (usually an interview).

key selection criteria

Traditional selection criteria response

Traditionally, candidates were asked to provide a 500-word response to each criterion😣 If there are 6 criteria to address, that’s a huge response!

While there are obvious downsides for the candidate, requiring this thorough level of detail does have its benefits.  Managers and assessors can get a fuller picture of the experience and knowledge of the candidate, and their approach to work.

It can also mean only the most motivated of candidates apply for the job, therefore less competition 😉

You might also like: Selection criteria responses – How to write a winning application with 1 simple framework

Pitch statement alternative to selection criteria

Luckily, many government departments are now modernising the requirement to respond to selection criteria by asking candidates to prepare a pitch rather than a traditional response. Yay!

Pitches are similar; the key difference being the response is shorter (around 500 words or less in total). Pitch statements address either key selection criteria or answer ‘why choose me’ questions.

Pitch statements provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate what you have to offer a role or organisation, and how can you make a difference.

Depending on the requirements set out in the candidate kit, pitches often allow a little more flexibility with responses.

Applicants are usually asked to develop a ‘why choose me’ statement, which addresses one or more of the following:

  • Why you are the right person for the job
  • Why you want to work for the agency
  • Why you are interested in the job
  • What you can bring to the role/agency
  • How your skills, knowledge and experience are relevant to the job

This is great news for applicants! By reducing the burden of preparing lengthy responses, it reduces the barriers to applying for jobs.

The APSjobs website has a great beginner’s guide to developing responses to selection criteria called Cracking the Code.

Why is selection criteria still a thing?

While it might seem outdated to many candidates, selection criteria responses are still very helpful during recruitment processes.

Some benefits include:

  • Obtaining more information from a candidate in the initial stages of the recruitment process than a resume can provide.
  • It gives the candidate another platform to add to their claims of suitability for the role.
  • It can assess abilities other than those specifically addressed in the selection criteria response such as written communication skills, storytelling, work approaches, analytical, critical and strategic thinking.
  • Only the most motivated candidates apply.
  • A smaller, yet more engaged, talent pool of candidates.

examples of selection criteria

Benefits to you responding to selection criteria

Okay, hear me out! I know most people (let’s face it, all people) don’t like responding to selection criteria, but there are some big benefits to your time investment.

1. A human reads your job application

At the time of writing, a very large majority of employers who require a response to selection criteria do not use ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) to screen the content. It’s a fairly safe bet that if you’ve taken the time to develop a response to selection criteria, a person is going to read it.

Again, great news for applicants!

ATS can be notoriously hard to navigate. One or two formatting issues with your resume and you can be screened out immediately, before anyone has actually read your application. And it’s likely you’ll never receive a response.

When people read selection criteria, they can get a sense of your capabilities, experience, knowledge, behaviours, approaches to work, traits, communication skills and more! A well-written response will ensure your application is competitive.

2. You can’t fit all your awesomeness into a resume

Resumes have an entirely different purpose to selection criteria. They are short and direct; there is limited real estate.

Responding well to selection criteria is your chance to really gain a competitive edge by demonstrating how good of a fit for the role you are. Having another opportunity to thoroughly detail your work achievements, skills, experience, and qualifications gives an insight into your suitability for a role, possibly better than a resume can.

*Think of selection criteria as a platform to let your potential employer know why you are the right person for the job. 

3. Less competition for the role

The requirement for selection criteria responses does create a barrier for some people to apply for job vacancies.

Many job seekers won’t take the time to apply for a position that requires a lengthy written application process, and some others don’t have the skills required to do so.

As a candidate, this works in your favour. The fewer people applying for a job, the less competition for you😉

4. Prepares you for the interview

Thinking of work examples to include in your selection criteria response is also great brainstorming for your job interview!

If you’re responding to behavioural criteria, there’s a good chance behavioural questions will be asked at the interview too.

While it’s not ideal to repeat the examples you’ve given in your selection criteria responses in your interview, I highly recommend keeping the notes you’ve made during the development of your responses for interview preparation!


Key selection criteria detail a list of essential and desirable capabilities, traits and qualifications a candidate must possess to successfully perform the duties of a job.

It can seem daunting to a job seeker to develop this content, especially at first. Understanding the purpose, approach and requirements means you can plan and write an impressive response 🙂

Check out part 2 of our selection criteria series where we dive deeper into crafting selection criteria responses: Selection criteria responses – How to write a winning application with 1 simple framework


This post was about the basics of selection criteria

Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward

Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward

Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.

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Hi there, I'm Danielle! I've got a combined 15 years of experience in the career development and human resource industries. I'm passionate about helping people live empowered, purposeful and fulfilled lives through engaging in meaningful work. Calibrated Career provides innovative and affordable self-guided career exploration tools and resources to facilitate your career development and empower you to achieve your career goals.

Help others with their career development!