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Selection criteria: How to respond

If you’ve been applying for new positions, chances are you’ve encountered the need to address specific job criteria. These vary from position to position, level to level and sector to sector.

Critical is the need to focus on the skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications being asked for. Next you should tailor your resume, cover letter and other application material to cover them off as best you can.

Tailoring is essential to stand out in today’s crowded employment market. Submitting a generic resume over and over won’t land you a winning position.

But what’s the best way to address position criteria? This expert article helps you hit the target.

Types of criteria

As we’ve said, criteria changes from role to role. Obviously, it will be different for a senior, highly technical role to an entry-level administrative one.

Selection criteria typically covers qualifications, technical skills, soft skills, experience and personal attributes.

In tailoring your resume, you’ll want to pinpoint how you meet the criteria.

Hit the nail on the head by applying the STARR approach (situation, task, action, result, reflection). Always back your claims with facts, figures and examples.

In the private sector you typically address criteria in an overview at the start of your resume. In the public sector you may be required to address a set of mandatory selection criteria. We detail how later in this article.


Make sure your resume includes degrees, certifications and/or qualifications you’ve earned at university, at TAFE or in a professional development setting.

Education (university degree, certificates, TAFE coursework)


Master of Business Administration

Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care

Certificate IV Human Resources Management

Training or other professional development activities (workshops, conferences)


Leadership and management online course

JAVA software workshop

Certified Professional Accounting conference

Technical skills

This criteria zeroes in on your technical knowledge and abilities


License for operating heavy machinery

Security clearance at NV1 level

Food Safety Security certificate

Soft skills

These skills  do not focus on hard or technical knowledge. They are just as important but are radically different.


  • leadership
  • team management
  • communications
  • problem-solving
  • interpersonal skills
  • time management capabilities
  • organisational abilities
  • stakeholder management


This is your opportunity to include experience that is directly related to the role and your transferrable skills. If you’ve held a role with the exact same title, include it. If not, list related titles.


Assistant Director Finance

Freedom of Information Officer

Executive Assistant

Power B1 Developer

Personal skills

Personal skills are less tangible than hard skills. They are still important, however, especially in today’s work world where employers often look for personality traits that suit their culture. These employers know it’s easier to train on processes, procedures and hard knowledge, than it is on your fundamental personality.

Personal skills, in other words, relate to the way you approach work, how you think about work, and your overall sense of values and ethics.


  • flexibility
  • adaptability
  • willingness to embrace change
  • resilience
  • strong work ethic
  • modern outlook
  • empathetic nature

Identifying desired criteria in a job advertisement

Sometimes job ads don’t refer specifically to ‘selection criteria’ or ‘key criteria’ so look for words or phrases like:

  • mandatory skills
  • required skills
  • proficiency in
  • demonstrated strengths
  • ability to
  • competency in.

This will help you zero in on what the employer is looking for. Highlight or list these words and systematically work through them to ensure you’ve addressed as many as possible in your application material.

Private sector criteria

If you’re applying for a private sector role, we recommend you highlight how you meet the criteria in a succinct summary at the beginning of your resume.

Tips for doing so:

  • Use bullet points so reviewers can quickly scan your best attributes.
  • Keep each point to about 1.5 lines.
  • Bold keywords to shine the spotlight on your core capabilities and strengths.
  • Use short words, not long words.
  • Apply other plain English principles so reviewers can scan quickly and understand quickly.
  • Use a concrete example or 2, providing specific results or accomplishments.

Public sector criteria

The public sector asks applicants to address what is called ‘selection criteria’. It’s critical you do so,  or your application will be deemed non-compliant, and you won’t be considered for the next stage.

Some applicants pay a professional selection criteria writer to handle this, given its ultimate importance. If you do so, however, make sure you read the responses carefully, approve what has been written and understand what’s written. This is because you’ll be asked about these selection criteria in interview, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself by not being able to confidently speak to them.

Tips for addressing public sector selection criteria:

  • Apply the STARR method, which covers situation (S), task (T), action (A), result (R) and reflection (R) to demonstrate examples of what you have done and how well you did it. Read more about STARR.
  • Apply plain English principles so your application is quick and easy to read. This means applying techniques like short words, short sentences, active words and avoiding jargon (read more on how to write a winning resume).

Read more about dream jobs in the Australian Public Service.

Important tips

When addressing criteria of any kind in your application material, follow these tips:

  • respond to ALL criteria
  • be clear and to the point (lengthy responses won’t be read)
  • be honest and factual
  • use relevant examples from your work, study or community roles
  • make sure you provide all the information requested.
  • demonstrate your capacity, with evidence to back up your claims
  • if there’s a page limit or word count limit, stick to it
  • edit your response for grammar, spelling and punctuation.

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