Sometimes jobs advertisements, especially in the government sector, require you to address selection criteria in your application. You usually need to supply your response to the criteria in a separate document, referred to as a written statement, that communicates your suitability to the role.
But what exactly are selection criteria, and what’s the best way to structure your response?
Understanding selection criteria
Selection criteria sometimes also referred to as ‘key capabilities’, are the benchmarks that have been identified as indicators of your suitability to the position, and ability to meet the role requirements. They include skills, abilities, qualifications, experience, aptitude and personal qualities.
Sometimes it can look a little complicated on paper, so start by underlining key words. From there, you can break it down into simpler, meaningful components. Take the time to think about what the employer is looking for, and then respond to that.
What is STAR?
The STAR method is one of the most popular ways of addressing selection criteria in a written statement. It’s a way of clearly demonstrating how you meet the selection criteria. Rather than just listing the skills that you have; you have the opportunity to provide examples of situations you’ve been in and the strategies and skillsets you implemented to achieve an outcome. This is what the STAR method does, it allows you to give past examples that back up your capability for the role you’re applying for.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It’s a great way to structure your response and communicate how you meet the selection criteria.
Describe a situation you were faced with.
Choose the most appropriate situation from a current or previous workplace, education or personal experience. If you can, select a scenario that demonstrates the significance of your experience and skill, go for something that is interesting, and if you can, meets more than one of the selection criteria or key capabilities that the role description listed. Be concise in your description, give just enough information to provide context to the Task, Action and Result.
Describe the task that you had to complete
What were your responsibilities and assignments for the situation? Again, be concise, only provide the necessary information to provide the potential employer with context for the Actions that you took.
Describe the actions taken to complete the task.
Here’s where you can start to provide more detailed information. How did you approach the task and what skills where required? This is your chance to demonstrate your skills, experience, logic, reasoning processes and ability to take required action. Make every word count, and don’t be afraid to highlight the way you meet the criteria in detail. Remove the guesswork for the potential employer, because this is the part of the story that they are most interested in.
What was the result of your action?
Almost as important as the action, it tells the employer whether you were able to bring about a positive outcome. Include details on what you accomplished, any benefits that you delivered, what you learnt from the situation and result. Don’t exaggerate, but also don’t be modest. The employer wants to know what you can bring to their company, so let them know what a benefit you will be to the team.
If you can’t think of a situation that addresses the selection criteria that did have a good outcome, then acknowledge where you think you could have done better, or what you learnt from the experience that you could implement next time. Everyone makes mistakes, show the employer that you have learned from them and are in a better position to handle such a situation if faced with it again.
Tips on choosing the best situation for your response
Choosing the best situation for a response to the key selection criteria can be difficult. The best way to approach it is to break down what exactly the criteria is.
- Identify the skills and requirements, and then brainstorm for situations or tasks you’ve completed that match.
- Review your brainstorming and choose the examples that are both a strong match for the criteria and demonstration of your skills.
- If you’re going into a new role or industry and don’t have a matching task, try thinking of situations where the skills and experience you’ve gained would be transferrable to these criteria.
- Choose situations and examples that promote your accomplishments and highlight the level of responsibility that you’ve had.
- Use examples that communicate the nature and extent of your experience
Preparing for an interview using STAR
You’ve sent in an application that stands out and made it to the interview stage. This is the part where most of the nerves start to come out. The written application gives time to deconstruct the criteria, go through your experiences, construct a response and review it, before the prospective employer gets to see it.
An interview puts things on the spot and condenses the process. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared. You might not know the exact questions that you’ll be asked in the interview, but you do have an idea of what they’ll be assessing you on.
Read back through the responsibilities, key capabilities and selection criteria for the role position. (It’s a good idea to save these in a document if you can so that you can still access them after the advertisement has closed). Use the same process you used when breaking down the criteria for your written response, to get an idea of the questions that you may be asked. Think out some examples of how you’ve handled similar situations and the skillsets you have that are valuable to the position.
This process has two positives:
- You’ll be mentally prepared with examples for the types of questions you’re likely to be asked.
- You’ve just reaffirmed to yourself that you are qualified and capable of filling the role, giving you a confidence boost that you’ll carry with you into the interview.