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Mandatory or Discretionary Selection Criteria Requirements

Many position descriptions have mandatory or discretionary selection criteria requirements. Mandatory means “required by law or mandate; compulsory”.

As I discuss early in the ultimate selection criteria blog, roles such as lawyers, nurses, accountants, doctors, engineers require qualifications.

Professional (PO)— these positions have a mandatory requirement for a degree qualification or equivalent. These positions cover practitioners and specialist responsibilities, or a specific profession specialisation like an accountant.


The Reader

Putting yourself in the position of whoever is reading your selection criteria response, if the position has mandatory requirements are you:

  1. Going to read the whole application and resume, then look for the mandatory requirements?
  2. Going to check they meet the mandatory requirements before you read the whole application and resume?

Please pick 2.

When there are mandatory or discretionary selection criteria requirements, there is no point for a panel member in reading a complete selection criteria response and resume then check to see if the writer meets the mandatory requirements.  If you find they don’t you have just wasted a lot of time.

To save wasting time, these are the first thing the reader generally checks.

They are also first because they are yes/no have/have not type responses. They’re quick and easy to read.

If you don’t have the mandatory requirements, you cannot be considered.

Chalk written colourful word essential


How to Address Mandatory Requirements in Your Selection Criteria Response

As they are yes/no have/have not answers, you don’t need to give an extensive selection criteria type response; you can simply say yes I meet x mandatory requirement as I have y qualification.

Why don’t you need to explain? This is because when you can produce the qualification, say a nursing degree, that nursing degree is proof you meet all the requirements of being able to be a nurse. You don’t need to itemise every unit of study you did, which assignment you did well in, what grade you got etc. The degree says someone has assessed you and you can do all the stuff that degree covers.

To make it easy for the reader to decide to continue reading your application, as I say with resumes and keywords, in western cultures we read top left to bottom right. So, make it the first thing, top left.

Mandatory Requirements would be a sensible enough heading. Underneath the heading have a dot point list for each mandatory requirements (I’ll get to desirable requirements later) say how you meet it. Just one sentence is fine.

By way of example, selection criteria examples for nurses mandatory requirements are shown:


Mandatory Requirements Enrolled Nurse

Using enrolled nurse selection criteria examples to show the point, the job description is linked below and two of the mandatory requirements are shown below:

  • Have completed your ‘Diploma in Nursing’ course, within Australia no longer than 18 months period prior to your application.
  • Have completed your Diploma in Nursing within Australia by the time of the EN Grad program commencement date by April 2022.

Enrolled Nurses (Graduate Program) position description


This is a two-part mandatory criterion, and unfortunately a little ambiguous.

  1. Part 1 is that you must have completed the Diploma within the last 18 months. Today is Saturday 8th January 2022 so “completed within” 18 months means after 9th July 2020. I would argue if you completed before 9th July 2020 you would arguably be outside of 18 months completion.
  2. Part 2 as this is a graduate program, is before April 2022. This mean an applicant could be in process of study if they complete before April. I would argue April is 30 days so that could be interpreted as April 30 however the program may commence on 1 April and they would ideally want the Diploma completed before then. This also creates a further ambiguity with part 1, as if the program commences in April 2022, does the completed within 18 months mean at the time of application or as at April 2022? Once again it is not clear.

The reality of education and training is that the fact you get to 18 months and 1 day does not mean you suddenly forget everything you learned so I would assume there will be discretion in there if you meet the criteria for holding a diploma and there are some days on either side.

This is also an instance where you might want to clarify with the position contact which I discuss in good pre interview questions to ask hiring manager and why your next government job application should start with a coffee as well lesson #2 of Completing a Selection Criteria course

Easier still, make sure you are well within the date ranges so there is no ambiguity or discretion needed. That also shows you have planned to be able to meet all the requirements.


I completed my ‘Diploma in Nursing’ HLT54115 at TAFE Brisbane on 8th January 2022, or,

I am studying my ‘Diploma in Nursing’ HLT54115 at TAFE Brisbane and will be completed before the graduate program commences, at this stage I will complete at the start of March 2022.


Mandatory Requirements Registered Nurse

Using examples of key selection criteria responses for nurses as to show the point, the job description is linked below and two of the mandatory requirements are shown below:

  • Appointment to this position requires proof of qualification and/or registration with the appropriate registration authority or association. Certified copies of the required information must be provided to the appropriate supervisor/ manager, prior to the commencement of clinical duties. Current registration or eligibility to register as a nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia / Australian Health Practitioner Registration Authority (AHPRA) is mandatory
  • A minimum of one year of acute nursing experience since graduation is considered essential to the role.

Registered Nurse position description


I completed my Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Tasmania, Hobart Campus at the end of 2018. I am registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia have been employed as a nurse at Royal Hobart Hospital from January 2019 until now (January 2022).

It’s not wordy or detailed; it is simply showing you meet the essential criteria.

As I said earlier, you don’t need to go into full, STAR Method type selection criteria responses for essential criteria.


Don’t Bury The Details

Put these details up front in your application, either the cover letter or before the response to the other selection criteria.

This is shown mocked up below as a cover letter and as a statement before a selection criteria response.  The single aim is to make it super simple to find.  It is then shown in two resumes highlighted in yellow.

Mandatory selection criteria response good example


Mandatory selection criteria response good example


Mandatory selection criteria response poor example

or worse in a heavily graphic resume…

Mandatory selection criteria response poor example


Desirable/Discretionary Selection Criteria Requirements

To finish this blog I’ll touch on why a position might have mandatory or discretionary selection criteria.

Desirable or discretionary selection criteria are, as the name suggests, only desirable to have. What does that mean in terms of the selection criteria recruitment process? If you do not have them you can still be considered for the position.

If the employer can find someone with those skills however, they will be a stronger applicant.

Is this unfair to you? No because they are skills if an employer can find someone already has, they are better able to ‘hit the ground running’ in the role, require less training and bring more to the position.

Still apply and make your case even if you don’t have the desirable requirements. Selection criteria responses are assessed for mandatory requirements first, candidates assessed, then desirable requirements considered in judging who are the strongest applicants.

This is all covered in depth in the Completing A Selection Criteria course as shown.

Criterial Course Completing Selection Criteria Understanding Position Descriptions

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