Competition for jobs – especially in the public service – has become increasingly fierce.

Responding to selection criteria is a necessary evil. Few people enjoy the process, but we can show you how to make it less painful.

Our advice for avoiding some common pitfalls will give your application the best chance of success.

Read the duty statement

Then read it again, carefully. And the job description and any other information provided. Many people go wrong because they don’t pay enough attention to exactly what is required.

Highlight the key requirements, words, and responsibilities. Make sure you understand exactly what the job involves. Identify how it ties in with your skills and experience before you get started.

Plan your response

Before you jump in and start writing, plan out how you will approach each criterion. Your answer to each one should follow a pattern.

  • Introductory statement
  • Example of how you meet the criterion. Use the STAR format or similar, to provide examples. Describe the:

o   situation or environment you were in

o   task or role you had in dealing with the problem or issue

o   approach/action that you took

o   result or outcome

  • Finish every response with a link to at least one of the duties required in the new role

Keep in mind:

  • Select examples that match the level of the position you are applying for
  • Try to align your examples as closely as possible to the duties of the target job

Answer the question

One of the most common mistakes we see is people failing to address the selection criteria. This is no time to talk in generalities. Bring out the concrete evidence of how you have applied the skills required. It is no good simply listing your past positions. You should convince the reader that you can transfer your skills to your new job.

The criterion Has an in-depth knowledge of the role and functions of the agency, isn’t an invitation to repeat everything you’ve found on Google about the organisation. Despite the way it reads, the question is asking how you can show that you’ve applied your knowledge of your employer to the work context. Keep the STAR approach in mind. When did you display your knowledge of the roles and functions of the agency? How did you display it? What was the value you added?

If you’re asked to Identify broader factors, trends and influences that may impact on business objectives, this isn’t an opportunity to list what you think those factors are. Instead, you should give evidence of how you have shown your ability do this.

Choose your words wisely

We see lots of resumes where people don’t sell themselves. It can be difficult to talk ourselves up. Try our tips:

  • Use strong active verbs like I implemented…or I initiated
  • Avoid phrases like I think…, I might… or I tried…
  • Avoid passive phrases like I was required to… or I had to…Swap those for ones like I was responsible for…or A key part of my role was to…
  • Use positive, specific language. Words like I assisted…can be replaced by I produced…or I manage…

Be realistic

While your response is your chance to sell your abilities, it’s important to be realistic. Recruiters will see through claims that you show nothing but total commitment to the role at all times.

Credibility is important, and honesty is essential. But that doesn’t mean you should point out any of your shortcomings. Focus on how you can meet the job requirements, not on aspects of it in which you may need development. If you’re terrible with numbers, concentrate on the fact that you’re a brilliant writer. Going for a government job for the first time but don’t have experience in that setting? Highlight the skills you’ve gained in the private sector. Demonstrate how they are transferable across work contexts.

Tell your story

Your response to the selection criteria should tell your story. Using the same example several times won’t cut it. Each example should build another part of your story.

Each criterion has a particular focus so make sure that you use this opportunity to reflect a breadth of experience.

It’s not just what you know

Generally, the selection panel doesn’t want to hear about what you know. Unless you are asked a specific question about knowledge, avoid making theoretical statements. Backing up each of your claims with evidence is essential.

Parroting the relevant legislation or code of conduct won’t get you hired. Showing how you’ve applied it in the workplace to achieve meaningful outcomes is much more likely to get your application progressed.

Other tips

  • It might be tempting to copy and paste from previous applications. Our suggestion – don’t! You’ve probably stared at that document for so long that you won’t notice that you forgot to change the little things that will make a difference
  • Don’t ever use the phrase as previously mentioned. It looks lazy. Use a different example for each criterion
  • Write clearly and avoid jargon and acronyms that the recruiter is unlikely to be familiar with
  • Have someone proofread your work. Job applications are time-consuming. Don’t waste your effort by having typos or minor errors trip you up

Professional editors and proofreaders can provide useful feedback and advice about improving your responses to selection criteria. Get in touch to find out how to craft a strong response that will get results.