You’ve painstakingly written a generic resume and are shooting it out for multiple jobs, hoping you’ll land a public service position. Is this the best approach? No it isn’t.

As recruiters we continually see jobseekers using generic resumes. Here’s the thing … generic resumes rarely land jobseekers dream positions. It’s essential to tailor your resume to each application, including by addressing selection criteria. You might think this isn’t worth the time but—trust us—it is.

In this article, our expert recruiters explain what selection criteria are, why government relies on them and how to address them in your resume.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) website has great tips for ‘cracking the code’ on selection criteria when applying for government jobs. Be sure to check it out.

What are selection criteria?

Government departments weave selection criteria into job specifications and ads for a reason. They want to focus on job attributes and learn about a candidate’s personal qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications. This enables them to quickly select an ideal candidate.

Government departments ask candidates to address selection criteria by answering set questions or providing an overall response. They often place a word count limit on this. Your response must adhere to the word count and be easy to read, easy to scan and tailored. This is extremely important because departments can shortlist on selection criteria alone. They don’t always read resumes at this stage.

What are some examples of selection criteria?

The APSC website lists these examples of selection criteria:

  • demonstrated capacity to communicate effectively
  • good organisational and administrative skills
  • proven ability to work as part of a team
  • well-developed customer service skills
  • proven ability to manage projects.

How do I address selection criteria?

Address is the key word. Don’t ignore any selection criteria. Tackle each criterion head on. Demonstrate how your skills and experience fit the role.

Many jobseekers find addressing selection criteria challenging. A recommended approach is to use the STAR model to focus on what you have done, rather than what you would do.

The STAR model—situation, task, actions and results—is effective for addressing selection criteria:

Situation—Describe a circumstance where you used your skills or qualities to gain a positive outcome.

Task—What was your role and/or key responsibilities in this situation?

Actions—What specific actions did you perform and how did you achieve results?

Results—What results emerged from your actions? What did you achieve and how does it relate to the job you’re applying for?

Specific information is essential.  General statements aren’t strong enough. They can also  signal that a) you were too lazy to tailor your resume, b) you’re assuming that what you’ve said will be taken as gospel, without facts to back your claims.

Important: Only use one or two strong examples for each criterion. Listing too many is information overload.

An example of how to address selection criteria

The APSC uses this example to illustrate how the STAR method works.

Situation—role as Research Support Officer at XYZ bank.

Task—needed to ensure managers were kept informed of policies and procedures.

Action or approach—initiated monthly newsletter, emailed to each manager. Took responsibility for writing main articles. This involved gathering ideas and input from stakeholders, so articles reflected managers’ needs.

Result—led to improved lines of communication between managers and Research Support Unit. Feedback consistently excellent. Received divisional achievement award for newsletter quality.

Once you’ve got your thinking straight, write  a full paragraph for your resume (you can use bullet points too). For example:

As Research Support Officer at the XYZ Bank, I needed to ensure managers were kept informed of policies and procedures. To do this, I initiated a monthly newsletter, emailed to each manager. I took responsibility for writing the main articles. This involved gathering ideas and input from stakeholders, so articles reflected the needs of managers. I received consistently excellent feedback from internal stakeholders and my manager. I received a divisional achievement award for the quality of the newsletter. Importantly, this initiative improved lines of communication between managers and the Research Support Unit.

Do departments and agencies really pay attention to selection criteria?

They sure do and professional recruiters do too. Indeed, many prospective employers only scan selection criteria so it needs to be powerful.

How can I get help addressing selection criteria?

At face2face we regularly support jobseekers with addressing selection criteria. It’s part of our free service to all jobseekers, at all levels, and in all parts of Australia.

Other tips for writing a fabulous resume

Soft versus hard skills: Care about the difference

Transferable skills: More important than ever

Your resume: Photo or no photo?

Career objective statement? Yes or no?

Words to use and don’t use in your resume