Answers to Your Common Questions on Government Selection Criteria


What are Selection Criteria? 


Simply put, selection criteria summarise your personal attributes, skills, knowledge, and qualifications to perform a specific job effectively.

Applicants for roles in the Australian Public Sector (APS) are short-listed for an interview based on their ability to persuade the selection panel that they possess the capabilities required to carry out the position.

When applying for an APS job, the initial stage of the process is to lodge an application that responded to the specific selection criteria given in the job advertisement.  


What is the difference between ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ Selection Criteria?


Certain advertised roles in the APS split the selection criteria into ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable.’

To be seriously considered for a role, you must meet all the ‘Essential’ criteria. It is not required for you to have the qualifications, skills, and knowledge enumerated in ‘Desirable’ criteria.

However, you have greater chances of being short-listed if you meet all the selection criteria, as you may be in competition against many applicants.  


How long should the selection criteria be?


If a word limit is not specified, you can get in touch with the person listed on the application pack for advice.

As a general rule, you can use 3/4 of a page per selection criteria, or in between 250 and 350 words. However, this rule depends on the criterion you’re answering and the role at hand.

For example, for selection criteria asking you to just describe your qualifications, you simply need to mention what the qualification is, when and where you completed it, and also the results you achieved for relevant subjects, especially if these are impressive.

This usually won’t exceed 100 words. If the capabilities you are asked to demonstrate is complex and you are required to provide specific examples, then you should spend more space outlining it.  


How many examples should I provide per criterion?


The STAR Method (stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result) has always been the most common approach of structuring statements against selection criteria. Other similar methods include PAR (Problem, Action, Result), CAR (Challenge, Action, Result), and SAO (Situation, Action, Outcome).

While this method may have worked over a decade ago, it is no longer the case. This method is too restrictive because applicants who use this approach only outline one specific example where they have applied the selection criteria in their employment.

Doing something well once doesn’t mean that you are consistently good at it.

That said, the selection panel is eager to know that you have consistently applied knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Although using STAR is a great way to get started, you should refine your statements to include:

  • A brief detail of the exact role relevant to the criterion
  • A brief explanation of how your role relates to the criterion
  • Specific examples (at least two) that relate to the criterion (This is where you can now apply the STAR approach)
  • Acknowledgement of the importance of the role
  • Efforts to continuously improve your skills (including how you keep up to date or training that you attend)
  • Contributions and long-term results (not just results from one specific instance)

The selection panel doesn’t want to know a single situation and result that you have in your daily work. They want to know why you are the best person for the role.

As such, try to reconsider your approach in writing your statements addressing the selection criteria by expanding the STAR method and incorporating other crucial elements.  


What are some of the things to avoid?


  1. Making vague statements about your skills and capabilities. Instead, give concrete examples (up to two) when you have used those skills and abilities in your work.
  2. Writing in the present tense. ‘Work in progress’ is not yet concluded so your skills have not been demonstrated. Instead, write in the past tense and be consistent in this. Tell something that you did in your job, and not what you do. Avoid using ‘I would.’ Instead, say ‘I did.’
  3. Using the same example twice
  4. Choosing credibility-reducing words and phrases (example: ‘some,’ ‘a little,’ ‘somewhat.’)
  5. Applying the passive voice, where you are not the ‘doer’ but are only being acted upon by someone or something unnamed. Example of a passive voice is ‘The document received excellent feedback from stakeholders.’ Instead, say ‘I received consistently excellent feedback from stakeholders due to the quality of the document I produced.’


What to expect once I send my Selection Criteria?

Remember that public sector interviews are usually slower since all panel members often need to decide and prepare a report.

So prepare to wait a lot longer than in the private sector).  


Selection Criteria Writing Services

If you decide to write your selection criteria yourself, you might want to ask another person to read it through. Make sure that they have a lot of patience and a meticulous eye for detail.

Alternatively, you can get it done professionally. If your writing skills let you down, a professional can help make understanding you easy.

A professional is also skilled at fleshing out your unique differentiation and will tell you about where you sit in the market as compared to other applicants.  


If you still have concerns about crafting a winning selection criteria, have it written by an expert in Government Selection Criteria writing.

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