How to respond to selection criteria in a job application
Tried your hand at the Brisbane job market? Chances are, you've had to respond to selection criteria.
Selection criteria are a recruitment tool used in different Australian industries to drill down on an applicant's knowledge and expertise. Your answers should outline the essential skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications required for a role while providing a road map of key requirements for employers to assess your application. It is the first step of communication between you and the employer. In other words, you can’t get an interview if you can't show them what you can bring to the table with precise, confident responses to their questions.
For international students, writing responses to selection criteria can be a daunting experience. Don’t worry, we have some simple steps to help your application shine. Remember - you can only get better by practising. Even if you aren't confident you will get the job, still apply!
Summarise your studies and skills
Recruiters have plenty of applications to look at, so they don't have time to read every word carefully. It is a good practice to summarise your studies and your top skills relevant to the role you're applying for.
Be precise and summarise your recent experience with a few lines – don't start all the way from elementary school.
Copy the selection criteria exactly, then write your answer under each point
Using headings is the most sure-fire way to ensure you are addressing the exact points need to answer the selection criteria. Additionally, due to the high volume of applications, you are making the assessor's job 100% easier as they can jump straight to the relevant sections and find the information they need. That is a big tick for you.
Make sure you write out that exact criterion as they phrased it and ensure your answer reference keywords and terminology used to demonstrate your understanding of the role requirements.
Address each key selection criterion
A common question from international students is "do I have to address every single one of them?" The answer is YES. Leaving some of the criteria without a response is not acceptable. This points at a knowledge gap or inability to perform the tasks required for the role.
For international students, it can be difficult at times, given the lack of local experience. However, a lot of the skills you develop at school can be applied to the workforce. Focus on transferable skills, such as analytical skills, organising skills, time management and problem-solving skills. It is important to give an example of these skills, how you have used them and how it relates to the role you are applying for. A good phrase to keep in mind is statement (why I am good at this), example (how I have used this skill in the past), explain (how I will use this in the role I am applying for).
If you have some work or volunteer experience, try describing your major responsibilities in current or previous employment, and highlight the tasks that are similar in the advertised position. Answer the question clearly in a straightforward manner.
Be confident and avoid passive keywords
You need to show that you are sharp, direct, and actively seeking the job. Plus, you only have a small amount of space to get across your key points, so make every word count. Don't waste that valuable space with phrases like "I think" and "I believe". They weaken the statement that follows. Instead of saying "I think I am a great communicator" just say "I am a great communicator." Before submitting you application, review each paragraph for these passive phrases, and cut them mercilessly.
Aside from your actual professional skills, being confident also shows you are an assertive, reliable person and can be a valuable asset to the team.
Support your case with relevant examples
Being confident is not enough. You need to back up your claims with an example of your skills in action. These skills must be relevant to the selection criteria and used to illustrate your ability.
For each skill mentioned, it is better to come up with a specific situation in your professional or academic life where you used the skill required to problem solve and achieve excellent results. Elaborate on the strategies behind the process and the measures of success (e.g. academic scores going up, quick turn-around times or relevant awards.) Keep your answers brief and stick to keywords.
What if you don’t meet them all?
Yes, your chances are going to be lower if you don't meet all of the criteria, but what if there are not enough applicants, and no one meets all of them?
Your chances will increase if you can address the selection criterion in a way that shows that you will be able to pick up the skills/knowledge/experience you are missing. You can research the necessary training you are willing to take or list the efforts you are making to overcome this knowledge gap. It is better to give an example of how quickly you picked up something new in the past.
Employers often list required skills and desirable skills separately. When there are many strong applicants, the desired skills can tip you over the edge into the favourable pile of applicants. This can set you apart from others as it shows you have more to offer. Even if you don’t think you are a perfect fit for the job and don't meet some of the desired skills on the list, apply anyway. You miss every shot you don’t take.
Make sure your resume or CV and cover letter match your responses
You will almost always need a CV (Curriculum Vitae) and cover letter to go along with the selection criteria document for your application. Double-check if the things you mentioned in your selection criteria responses match the relevant experience in your CV. Ensure both your CV and cover letter both have your name and contact details so if they become separated, they can be matched up easily. Don’t forget to add a little bit about you in the cover letter, someone with personality and passion often makes for an easy hire. Good luck and happy job hunting.