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How to Approach Writing Selection Criteria

Do you remember writing essays in high school? Writing selection criteria is a lot like writing an essay. You will be presenting a hypothesis (e.g. “I have strong communication skills) and including an introduction, body and conclusion.

The general requirements of an essay writing are the same for selection criteria writing. You need to be informed about your topic, make a point, defend your point and keep the reader in mind at all times.

Here is how these principles apply directly to selection criteria writing.

Be informed

About the job.
About the requirements of the job.
About the job industry.
About the government department.
About recent news, trends or recent announcements in the industry or occupational area. (Give egs of where they can find this information – government websites, industry associations, industry magazines, annual reports, text books).

This means knowing what you are talking about. Advanced selection criteria writers don’t just talk about themselves, they also talk about the job that they are applying for (and thereby creating common ground with the reader.

The only way to know about the job is the have a conversation with the contact officer, and if you are allowed to, visit the work area. Most of you reading this will probably nod your head a little, yes, good point, but I want to get on with writing my criteria. I don’t have the time (or will) to find let alone look through a government department’s annual report. However, keep in mind that the person who ends up getting the interview probably will.

Make a point

In your statements you will eventually have to get to a point. You are going to have to present and develop an argument.
The hypothesis is this:

“You have strongly developed communication skills."
Or, “you are able to consistently achieve results."
Or “you are a strategic thinker."

Do you remember hypotheses from school? The dictionary defines a hypothesis as “A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” And this is exactly what a selection criteria question is! It is a statement, that you have to prove!

Defend what you say

“That which is true is that which can be demonstrated to be true by experience or experiment.” Robert O’Shea.

This is where you back up your points with hard evidence, usually in the form of examples, facts and proof.

Panels do not have time to plough through lengthy documents, or spend time searching for important and relevant information. Your statements need to be brief and effective, while addressing all elements of the criterion with enough information to substantiate your claims.

It is not sufficient to state you meet a selection criterion without supporting evidence detailing how. Your goal is to demonstrate your capabilities against the selection criteria by providing evidence. This evidence will need to include specifics that can be confirmed by referees if necessary. Avoid at all cost unsupported statements.

We usually measure ourselves against what we think we can do, for example, after reading a job ad or job description we will think, “yes, I could do that!” However, selection panels will be measuring you by what you have done, not what you are capable of doing. Powerful statements against selection criteria therefore take simple outlines of what you have done and make them strong sales documents that make the selection panel think “this is the person for us!”

They key to writing successful statements against selection criteria then, is evidence. Claims should be direct, and not include sweeping statements, without corroboration. One of the most important things to remember is detailing delivery versus activity. Anyone can create a list of duties they perform, but the superior applicants will focus on how they have delivered outcomes to their organisation.

One of the most important things to remember when addressing criteria
is to focus on delivery versus activity.

For example, in my day to day work I am responsible for replying to emails. This is the activity. The delivery of this activity ensures that my customers are provided with superior customer service and their queries are responded to in a timely, professional and efficient manner.

In addition, presenting beliefs, philosophy or theoretical knowledge is not evidence of your abilities. If a criterion is asking for good communication skills, writing a thesis on communication skills is not going to satisfy the requirements of the criterion.

Telling the reader what you know about communicating, or even that you have five years experience in a role that requires these skills is also not enough and doesn’t prove that you’re any good at communicating.

I was once told that an experienced mechanic does not make a good mechanic, they may just have had a lot of practice making mistakes. The same goes for all other skills, including communication skills.

Experience does not prove that you can do something well. Instead, use examples of your experience and achievements as a good communicator. See the example of a response to a communication criterion later in the guide.

Remember, merit requires a competitive selection process (see merit in the Introduction section). It means that applicants will be competing against each other to demonstrate that they have superior work-related qualities, and a higher capacity to achieve outcomes related to the duties. Your task then is not to just prove that you meet a criterion, but to demonstrate that you are superior to all other applicants.

Assume that all applicants are well qualified for the job and make your application the marketing document that describes:

why your skills are the most relevant;
why your experience is the most beneficial;
why your understanding is the most developed; and
why you have the best personal qualities for the position.

The goal of your application is to sell, sell sell!

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