Key selection criteria (or KSC) are an unfortunate but necessary part of a government job application.
In a written job application they are used to shortlist the applicants and choose the tops ones for an interview.
Your statements addressing the selection criteria are typically given more weight than the rest of your application (which will also include a cover letter and resume), so the only way to secure a government interview is to have great ones!
Selection criteria appear again during the government interview process where the interview questions will be based around the criteria.
What Are Selection Criteria?
Selection criteria are a summary of the key skills, abilities, knowledge, experience, qualifications and work related qualities that a position requires. They are closely related to the job description and will reflect the exact requirements that are listed in the job description.
- They generally come in the form of statements, however they can also be just a list of competencies.
- They are found in most government job ads and applicants are asked to write statements addressing them.
- They let each applicant know how they will be assessed.
- They are used to assess written applications and they are also used in government job interviews.
- From an applicant's perspective, they are time consuming and confusing, and addressing them is the most frustrating part of their job application.
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Evidence Based Selection Criteria
You may have heard the term "evidence based criteria" and wonder what it means.
It means that when an interview panel are reviewing your written job application or interview performance, they are looking for evidence that you have met their requirements.
They do not care for how much you know about a topic or how good you say you are, they want evidence that you can substantiate your claims.
It is up to you to provide evidence that you meet the KSC and the best way to do this is to provide lots of examples from your experience and work history.
The key to excellent selection criteria
The key to excellent selection criteria is focussing on hard skills that you can prove. Saying that you can do something is not enough. You need to demonstrate it. And demonstrate it in a way that a panel member (who is reading quickly through 30 other applications) can absorb quickly, take notice of, and remember.
You may notice in a job interview that a lot of the questions will start like:
"Tell me about a time when..." or
"Give me an example of..."
By doing this the interviewer is wanting to know about specific examples of when you have used the skills, experience or knowledge that they are questioning you about.
You can write about the same sort of things in your job application. Write about examples of your skills in action. Tell the panel about specific instances where you have experienced something or grown in your knowledge. This is what the interview panel really want to know about and you can make your statements stand out.
If you do this, you are providing the selection panel with evidence based selection criteria responses.
Different Types of Selection Criteria
Essential or desirable
Often criteria are advertised as either 'essential'
'desirable'. But, from an applicant's perspective, this shouldn't make any difference to
how you address them in your job application. You should address all selection criteria as if
they are essential.
The 5 categories of selection criteria
More important than being essential or desirable is the fact that every selection criteria will fall into one of five categories, and which category they fall into will effect how you should address it. It is really important that you know what kind of criteria you are addressing and what information you should be providing. These categories are:
- Skills and abilities
- Work related qualities
Skills & Abilities
How do the skills that you have, relate to those required in the
What skills do you have that are transferable to the position?
How have you gone about improving your skills in the past?
Have you reached a specific proficiency level?
Provide a few examples of your skills and abilities in action.
Where did you get your knowledge?
How is your understanding relevant to the position?
How would you apply your understanding in the position?
How do you continuously improve and build upon your knowledge?
Where did you gain your experience?
How much experience do you have?
What is the quality of your experience?
How has this experience benefited your current employer?
Provide a few examples of your experience in action.
A paragraph stating your qualification and where and when it was obtained is generally sufficient. If the criterion has not been specific regarding the qualification required e.g. “a qualification in social sciences,” it is best to add an additional paragraph describing how your qualification is relevant to the position, or outline any major areas of study that are beneficial for the position or work area.
Work Related Qualities
Work-related qualities can include things like initiative,
motivation, commitment to a set of workplace values, a code of ethics,
or a code of conduct. Address this criterion as you would the
skills and abilities criterion, and if a criterion asks for your
commitment, provide examples of how you commit to the principle.
As mentioned above, criteria usually come in the form of statements, but they can also be a list of competencies, particularly when a competency framework such as the Australian Public Service (APS) Integrated Leadership System, or a State based framework is used.
A statement may look like this:
“The demonstrated ability to achieve results in a team environment.”
A competency may look like this:
1. Achieve Results
• identifies resources and uses them appropriately
• builds and applies expert knowledge
• responds constructively in an environment subject to change
• takes responsibility for managing workflow, timelines and deliverables in order to achieve results
We receive lots of questions from applicants wanting to know how they should address these competencies. And the answer is very simple. Whether you have to respond to a statement or a competency framework/statement it is important to remember:
- The method for writing your statements is exactly the same;
- The way you will be assessed is exactly the same;
- The only difference is how the statement is worded and how the selection
panel have come up with the KSC / competencies to be
How to Make Your Statements Stand Out
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 facts about what is expected in your selection
- Don't just use the STAR
method (everyone uses the star method and your statements won't stand
- Talk about outcomes you have achieved, not just duties that you perform
- Provide plenty of examples that are relevant to the job
- Don't include general statements without any evidence to back them up
- Use the job description to give you additional information about what the selection panel are looking for
- Use the same language that is used in the advertisement and job description
- Make your job application a marketing document that shows:
* your strong abilities that are better than
* your related working experience that makes you the ideal candidate;
* your well developed understanding that will ensure success in the role;
* and how you have the ideal personal qualities for the job.
Need to Know More?
Our book The Selection Criteria Coach contains over 150 pages of information, tools and templates to make your selection criteria quick and easy to write.
- How long should my statements be?
- How can I write great selection criteria when the application is due tomorrow?
- How can I make my selection criteria examples stand out?
- Can I get someone else to write my criteria for me?
- Should my statements addressing the KSC be a separate document,
my cover letter or resume? (answer coming soon)
- How are KSC assessed? (answer coming soon)
3 Ways We Can Help You Get Started
Download our five free selection criteria examples.
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