What are selection criteria?
Selection criteria (sometimes called key selection criteria) are the favoured job application and selection tool for government jobs. This blog will discuss the content of courses for learning to write your own responses; rather than using Selection Criteria Examples obtained from the internet.
Good selection criteria responses are key to getting an interview; they are the primary interview selection tool, not your resume.
Lets begin by looking at your selection criteria response. Selection criteria responses need to be structured to:
- Make it easy for you to showcase your work examples, and,
- For the reader to understand what you’re saying.
You do this using the STAR method.
The STAR method refers to Situation Task Action Result model of presenting your answer. There would be a million articles written on the STAR method and how to use it.
My advice – it is simply a layout.
Don’t overthink it and try to think it is like a potion or spell that you need to mix ingredients in precise measure, or it won’t work. In the examples further on in the blog there are two of the three examples where you can see the STAR method in use. You won’t see the headings of the individual sections, but, when you read them, they will make logical sense. You’ll know where the person was working, and in what role. You also get a sense of what they were dealing with, and the details of how they dealt with a situation or completed a task. You then read the outcome and it connects to the rest of the paragraph.
That’s all the STAR method is! Literally.
For me, I would advise to join Situation and Task because they’re often hard to separate, and, to address an example simply with:
- Situation & Task
- Where were you working
- What role were you in
- What were you dealing with
- Breaking your example down into the level of detail someone can feel as if they were observing you work.
- Simply what was the outcome of what you did.
SAO instead of STAR
Joining them will make no difference to your response. Indeed, Situation Action Outcome (SAO) is a similar model which gives you identical formatting to a response as using the STAR method.
For all the thousands of articles on the STAR method what they don’t deal with is your example. Even good selection criteria responses examples you can buy off the internet won’t help you because your examples are unique to you. All the ones you buy off the internet will give you is an in depth on the STAR method, not how to explain what you have done. They can’t. They weren’t there to know what you did. That’s how Criterial is different, we teach you how to get your skills into a selection criteria response that is easy to read because it’s based on the STAR method.
I’ll briefly touch on the difference between a resume and a selection criteria, for those with private enterprise backgrounds, and then go into some examples. If you want to just skip ahead go to the Selection Criteria Examples heading further down.
Selection Criteria versus Resume
I’ll look at your resume first because people are most familiar. Your resume is your career in a few pages. It’s the jobs you’ve had, the qualities you possess, and, the education and training you’ve done. Within the listing of jobs will be your achievements and the responsibilities you had in the role. Your resume usually contains your referee and contact details too.
It is not a document where you go into to much detail of anything in terms of what you did, how, when, why, with what skills etc. If your career was a book, your resume is the dust jacket. It’s the synopsis of the whole story in the book.
Selection Criteria Response
Selection criteria are statements of competencies, or in other words, things you need to be able to do. Ability to work in a pressure environment is a competency/skill some people have, and some people don’t have. In addressing selection criteria for government jobs, you need to give examples of things you have done to demonstrate you have that competency. It’s like giving a detailed case study of one event or thing you have done in your career that shows you possess those skills.
Using the Ability to work in a pressure environment example, you may have been a nurse working at St Vincent’s Hospital ER on a full moon Halloween night and triaged thousands of patients some of whom were critical. The STAR method will explain what the situation was, and, what skills you used to handle that situation. These would include:
- Application of medical knowledge in making assessments of patients in triage,
- Organising patients to be moved into ward beds or discharged to free up space for emergencies – communicating with other team members and wards,
Selection Criteria versus Resume
You would tell the story as if it were a chapter of the book and someone could read it and feel like there were there watching you.
That is the essential difference between a resume and a response to selection criteria; the depth of detail you go into in describing something. Still not making sense? The picture below shows it visually:
Your resume is your career in brief detail. Your selection criteria responses are in depth case studies or stories in specific detail from single events in that career. The selection panel read the and use those details to compare your skills to the other applications to find the best, most competent person for the job, by comparing the strengths of the examples. If your example of working in a pressure environment is the St Vincent’s ER, and, another applicant is in a coffee shop with the line out the door; the panel get a sense of who has the better skills in handling pressure. In this case life and death, versus, a customer waiting for their latte.
Your criteria responses give you the opportunity to give selection criteria response examples describing the work you have done.
Selection criteria examples
Examples don’t need to be ‘occupation’ specific
You can use any example to address any criterion because they are generally competency based. What are competencies? Quite simply “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently”.
A selection criterion about working in pressure situations could apply to many jobs; it can also be answered by experience in many jobs. To say it another way with an example, a nursing role will almost certainly include the need to work in pressure situations. Nurses however are not the only people who work in pressure situations. Other professional experience could address the criterion.
The examples I give shortly will show how experience from any job can speak to competencies.
Selection criteria examples government
Applying for federal government jobs is something that you possibly want to do if you’re reading this blog; either that or apply for a state government job. I’m going to discuss and give examples of some broad classifications of government roles using the administration stream and a basic communication selection criterion. I’ll show the STAR method as well and show how most of your response needs to come from your experience, not from a template you buy from the Internet.
Selection criteria examples administration
Administration roles are an incredibly broad class of both federal public service jobs as well as state government jobs. They are one of four streams that cover:
- Administrative (AO)— usually undertake department or agency administration, human resource management staff, finance officers, customer service roles, policy advisor, information, and advisory services.
- 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.
- Technical (TO)— these positions require a diploma, advanced diploma or certificate level competency. Duties include some practitioner and/or specialist responsibilities, usually in support of people in the PO or sometime AO stream.
- Operational (OO)—People in these positions work in various functional areas, with a range of specialist skills.
The most common types of competencies you will have in administration roles will be:
- Customer focus
- Computer literacy
- Software (I will address Microsoft Office separately below)
- Time and priority management.
- Managing own work and/or leading management of a teams work.
When applying for administration or professional stream roles, the criteria you need to respond to will usually be more or less the same. The biggest difference is professional roles will have a mandatory criterion for possessing a degree. Legal roles (lawyer, prosecutor) will mandate possession of a law degree. Social workers in hospitals would need psychology or social work qualifications as well as admission to the relevant professional association. For accountants it would be degree qualification and perhaps membership or admission as a CPA.
STAR Method selection criteria examples administration role
To provide STAR Method selection criteria examples administration roles, is quite difficult as, stated earlier, your experience is unique. As an example of how one might read, this is a basic written and verbal communication skills selection criteria example :
Communication skills, oral and written
I have demonstrated my well-developed written and verbal communication skills while working as Executive Assistant at ABC Association. In the role I was responsible for communication with over 26 000 members from different industries via telephone and in person. A good example of my communication skills can be seen when a member had telephoned the office with a specific workplace problem. I documented the issue over the telephone by asking the member relevant questions, listening and making clear notes.
If I needed to clarify details, I asked specific follow up questions until I was satisfied I had the details I needed. I told the person very clearly what action I would take and when so that they knew their problem was being addressed, and, communicated the issue by email to the relevant manager to follow up and respond to the customer. To do this I structured the email clearly using an upfront synopsis and headings in the body of the email to clearly identify issues. The outcome of this was the manager was able to resolve the customers issue on first contact because it was so clearly captured; the manager thanked me for taking the little bit of extra time to be so clear in what I communicated
Your Unique Content
You will see from this is the bulk of the selection criteria example is describing what the person did. There is nothing in most of that content you can copy/paste off the internet because it is unique to the person. It is also what panels need to read about because they need to see your skills and capabilities. If you have viewed my free course Three simple actions for easily improving your selection criteria responses you will know I say tip number three for improving your selection criteria responses is to not copy/paste – this example shows why.
For me as a government recruiter of more than 20 years’ experience I will say very clearly – this is what I need to read and why I have compiled the courses I did – so you can learn to write that yourself. Learn quickly, easily and once so you can do it every time you need.
Addressing selection criteria examples
Another common selection criterion you will have in an administration role will revolve around software and computer skills. Once again, the experience individuals will have in working with databases and software will be infinite and you should always write your response using the STAR Method using your own examples.
One recurring and almost guaranteed criterion will be for Microsoft Office so I will address that now to give you some specific advice.
Microsoft Office/Suite experience
Microsoft Office is some of the most ubiquitous software in the world now…but…long gone are the days that Microsoft Office is Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
The basic parts of office are:
- Skype for Business
And once you extend to Office365 the additional apps and services are:
- To Do
- Power Apps
- Power Automate
- Viva (unveiled literally the day I was writing this blog – Viva is an Employee Experience Platform)
- Workplace Analytics
If you were unaware there are so many, then read on closely.
Addressing Microsoft Office/Suite experience
What you will often need to be is respond to a criterion that asks for well-developed skills with Microsoft Office. Arguably the question is so broad it is pointless to ask, however if the question is there you need to respond. So the best thing you can do to respond is to benchmark/describe your skills. Don’t just say you have excellent skills in Excel. Excel is a complex mathematical program at its heart and new versions do a lot of database type functions as well as interact seamlessly with Cloud analytic databases.
There are very few people who truly have excellent skills with Excel. If you’re applying for an entry level administration role you might get away with it, if you’re applying for a data analyst role you won’t. Say you have a good or comprehensive range of skills with Excel and then say the most complex of what you can do, and naturally give examples.
By saying good or comprehensive range you are moving away from a judgement of good, bad or otherwise, and by describing what you can do the reader can get a sense of your skills. If the most complex thing you can do is a pivot table, you have pretty average skills in the normal office, and you have almost no skill if you’re a data analyst. He’s an example:
Microsoft Office/Suite example
Proven skills using Microsoft Excel in an office environment.
I have demonstrated my range of experience using Microsoft Excel in the two most recent office administration roles listed in my resume. An example where I proved my ability to support office functions was when I was working at ABC Pty Ltd as the office manager. The company finance system was not user friendly for managers to see dashboard information for their teams. I extracted data from the finance system in csv format and using Excel I imported the information into one main worksheet. I then used pivot tables and charts to represent that information graphically on a worksheet for each manager.
Based on feedback I adapted some of the specific worksheets to include a forecasting function using formulas to allow managers to increase or decrease revenue and/or expenses to see changes in reporting and bottom lines. Feedback from the managers was that this spreadsheet was significantly easier to use and helped them save thousands of dollars in expenses by better managing cash flow and job allocations.
You can see the description of the Excel skills without saying they were excellent or poor, and you can also see the link between Excel and outcomes in the office.
If you have more advanced skills and want to incorporate more of the Microsoft platform in your answers, you could talk about hosting that spreadsheet on OneDrive or SharePoint and connecting it to a Power App you developed to allow managers to input data from their mobile devices.
Once again, you will see from this is the bulk of the selection criteria example is describing what the person did.
Microsoft Office/Suite example – STAR analysis
Touching briefly on the STAR Method again you can see in that response the STAR method is evident, and as a result when you read it, it is easy to understand what the person was doing – it’s almost as if you were there.
Situation and Task
…when I was working at ABC Pty Ltd as the office manager. The company finance system was not user friendly for managers to see dashboard information for their teams
…I extracted data from the finance system in csv format and using Excel I imported the information into one main worksheet. …<text truncated>… to allow managers to increase or decrease revenue and/or expenses to see changes in reporting and bottom lines.
…Feedback from the managers was that this spreadsheet was significantly easier to use and helped them save thousands of dollars in expenses by better managing cash flow and job allocations.
A Word on Microsoft Teams
Have you heard Microsoft Teams is taking over everything? Not quite, but if you don’t like Teams you better get used to it. Soon.
If you haven’t noticed, Teams has app connectors for the other Office365 Apps. The storage for Teams can be in SharePoint or OneDrive. Teams is replacing Skype for Business and if your organisation has Yammer, you’ll have probably thought the chat features in Teams feel very Yammer like. Planner recently got integrated into Teams as “Tasks By Planner”. Long story short, Teams is becoming a very focussed collaboration point for users and Microsoft apps. If you want a Microsoft app to become familiar with, make it Teams as it will serve you well into the future.
My courses give good selection criteria responses examples as part of your learning. What distinguishes a poor from a good from a strong response? At the highest level:
- A poor response fails to give an example of how you have displayed the competency required,
- A good response gives an example of how you meet the competency required, and,
- A strong response gives an example of how you have exceeded the competency required, and if you want to make it even better, explains how your example aligns with the organisation’s values and/or mission.
Writing a selection criteria response to achieve the highest standard is explained in depth in the course. After all there is no point in just learning how to do a good response, if others are writing better ones!
Once the course has explained how to write an outstanding response based on the STAR method, they give examples and explain why they are either poor or good. Using the criterion “Demonstrated highly developed communication skills (verbal and written)” and an example.
I believe that good communication skills are important in dealing with difficult people. At all times in the workplace I use these skills, and have done this across a range of roles and organisations. As a club secretary I write emails to other people and clubs and also was involved in developing our companies corporate intranet where I developed all the content for my team. I use the phone to communicate with people wherever possible and confirm conversation by way of email if needed to ensure understanding. I will bring all of these skills with me to this role and believe I will be able to do the job.
Can you pick why that is a poor response?
Look at the standard in the criterion ‘Demonstrated highly developed’ and look at the response ‘I believe that good communication skills’ so the response is not at the level it needs to be. The skills described are sending email and making phone calls which also do not meet the ‘highly developed’ standard. The ‘developing content’ may be an example of a highly developed written skill, but, the answer does not give enough level of detail. Referring to the explanation of resumes and selection criteria at the start; the detail given might be okay in a resume but not in a selection criteria response. The response itself is wordy and not brilliantly written – the frequent use of ‘and’ makes the sentences long. Remember, how you write your selection criteria response is evidence of your written skills!
I have good communication skills and have experienced dealing with difficult people as a sales representative in a large department store; when customers attempt to return goods without receipts which we cannot do by policy, so they can become irate. I can handle these situations and treat people fairly and with respect. An example of when I handled an irate customer was in the post Christmas sales recently. The customer became enraged and began raising their voice. I asked them to lower their tone, or alternately, move to an area away from other customers. Fairly but firmly I explained the policy and the options they had. I caught the attention of a nearby manager to reiterate the policy. As a result the customer settled down and decided on pursuing one of the options they had been given.
Can you pick why that is an okay response?
The example cites dealing with ‘difficult people’ and in a retail context. It gives the situation and actions taken, as well as the result so the STAR method is evident. It is formatted well, easily read and the communication skills are valid. What the example lacks in strength is due to the complexity described. It is one customer interaction where one policy is applied to one situation. When it is compared to other applications to find the best, most competent person for the job – the strength may be found wanting.
I have outstanding communication skills which I have displayed in dealing with situations involving complex highly emotive issues as a mediator in the Disputes Court. In many matters there are complex issues of law, relationships, financial stress, emotional difficulty and at times mental health. A recent example was a Court ordered mediation which I conducted for a long running matter as a last resort before a trial. I first ensured all parties had written advice as to the process and how it would occur on the day. I clarified with everyone that they understood the process and were clear on when it was occurring.
In the mediation I used my active listening skills to ensure parties were heard and clarify any misunderstandings. I ensured all parties had equal time to give their views and kept the session focussed. I applied policy and law fairly but firmly; to try to negotiate agreed outcomes between parties. This not only achieves agreement between parties but also achieves Court strategic outcomes by minimising rework as there is higher chance of agreements being complied with. The result of the mediation was that the parties agreed, which I then documented on the day. The parties thanked me for my skill and patience in resolving the dispute that, to date, they and other mediators had not been able to.
Can you pick why that is a strong response?
The level the skills are described at is outstanding, which exceeds the standard required. In addition, the example given shows skills at the level. There is no point saying you have outstanding skills and not backing that claim up. The point of difference to the previous example is clearly the complexity. It draws on law, relationships, financial stress, emotional difficulty and mental health. The STAR method is evident and as a result it flows easily. The response connects the skills and the situation to the strategic outcomes “This not only achieves agreement between parties but also achieves Court strategic outcomes by minimising rework as there is higher chance of agreements being complied with” which shows the reader this is a person who understands not just what they do, but, also how it contributes to their team and their organisation.
If you can give five key selection criteria examples like that in your next job application, you’ll be getting an interview for sure.
Why You Should Write your Criteria Responses Yourself, not use Selection Criteria Examples
In my first blog I addressed how to write a selection criteria. A strategy some people use to write a response to a selection criteria response is a sample they can follow; like Selection Criteria Examples or templates. That’s a little like paint by numbers. You can fill in the boxes for that selection criteria example, but can’t apply it to a different job context. That’s like trying to take a paint by numbers flower and make it a beach scene. You don’t know how to get the numbers on the page in the first place. You will need a lot of templates to address all the possible criteria you’ll want to address – especially when you consider the examples presented above the content of which are almost completely specific to the individual and what they did.
With paint by numbers there is also no understanding on the part of the person why they are putting blue where it has the number 3 and yellow where it has 4; other than the fact “it works”.
With the scene set (pardon the painting pun) lets look at how Selection Criteria Examples and templates are very limited when writing a good criteria response.
Reason #1 – Paint By Numbers
You buy a set of Selection Criteria Examples, but, they have limited re-use. If you buy an administration selection criteria example, how are you going to apply that to a project officer role? How do you apply an IT selection criteria example to a customer service role?
Once again it’s paint by numbers; as long as you have a blue colour to put in the shape with the 3 in it, you’re okay. What happens when you have no blue, or, one of the shapes doesn’t have a number? Do you go back to the manufacturer and say your paint by numbers if faulty?
Templates have very limited application in much in life. If you were going into business, I could give you a profit and loss template but unless you understand:
- Cost of goods sold
- Gross profit
- Expenses, and,
- Net profit
What can you do with the spreadsheet? Assuming you put the numbers in the right places, you’re still not going to understand it.
Reason #2 – Changing Frameworks Making Selection Criteria Examples Redundant
Government frameworks are practically endless, and they change all the time; these were discussed in depth in a recent blog. Queensland alone has had the following frameworks in recent years:
- 2009 – Capability and leadership framework (153 pages)
- 2015 – Workforce capability success profiles (9 pages)
- 2021 – Leadership competencies for Queensland (16 pages)
Roughly on average that’s a new framework for grading public service jobs every five years. If you think a framework goes from 153 to 9 and then to 16 pages and your templates still fit – I have to tell you in the immortal words of The Castle “Tell him he’s dreaming”.
What will stay current over all those changes are your skills when you learn to read, understand and respond to criteria. All of them. Not just specific Selection Criteria Examples.
The skills I learned as a young public servant in the late 1990’s still apply today, and, with repeated use are very quick and easy to use.
Ask yourself how different a selection criteria example is to copy/paste off the internet? The reader will never spot it surely?
Reason #3 – Plagiarism
Plagiarism is surprisingly easy to spot in a job application, or a school assignment or a university paper. There’s a few kinds that really jump out.
- Same content as someone else has used,
- Content that is obviously written by different people, and,
- The subset of that which is a selection criteria and resume that are obviously written by different people.
Detecting plagiarism is easily done with various tools, and, it is easy to see in the writing styles of different authors. I’m not aware are being used in government job application screening. That’s not a green light to plagiarise. Tools are easily replicated by basic internet searches using some pretty simple Boolean techniques.
Consider this, if I as a reader I think you have plagiarised it is going to take me a few extra seconds to open a browser and do some searches. If I find you have plagiarised your application your credibility is pretty much done. That’s a high stakes affair as a job applicant. Assuming you want the job and you’ve taken the time to apply for, why risk your credibility? Do you think misrepresenting yourself or lying, are qualities I want in a person I employ? If I start to see you as someone willing to lie or misrepresent yourself to get a job, ? If you answered yes, please phone a friend and guess again!!
Reason #4 – It’s Easy to DIY
Learning to respond to a selection criteria can be learned in an hour or two. Seriously. It can. I have taught hundreds of people how to do it. You can learn a reusable skill to address any selection criteria for any job for:
- The same money you’ll pay for a pack of single use templates, and/or,
- The same time you’ll spend reading through those templates like a 1970’s clerk looking for one.
It’s an absolutely learnable skill, just no one has bothered to teach it so easily, before now.
Don’t Spend Your Money on Buying Selection Criteria Examples
Purchasing Selection Criteria Examples or templates are a high cost way of applying for jobs. They have limited reuse over time as frameworks change, and, limited application for roles other than they’re specifically for. They’re going to be hit and miss to use because you don’t understand why you’re putting in the words you are, and, how do you know you’ve selected the right template? Without the basic skills of understanding what you’re doing and why, you’re feeling your way in the dark.
For the same cost that you could purchase some Selection Criteria Examples, you can very easily learn the skills yourself. Learning the skills is a one off cost you’ll get value from for life, and, you’ll be able to apply the skills to any role you apply for.
My working life went from social welfare officer, to police officer, to intelligence analyst, to IT account manager, to IT system manager and now a manager of a big data/Cloud analytics team. There are no Selection Criteria Examples that allow you to make that transition; that is having the skills to read a job description and apply your relevant skills to the application.
That is exactly what I set out to teach in Criterial’s online courses.