How to address key selection criteria when applying for a job

Australia’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008, before the global economic recession, leading to a very competitive job market. Underemployment remains a very large concern for recent graduates and other individuals looking to start or further their career.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, more than 1 million people in Australia are underemployed. That can mean they either work part-time or hold positions they are overqualified to maintain.

Landing the right job to match your education, skills and experience requires an often rigorous application process. In a lot of cases, there may be multiple screenings and phone interviews before you even meet hiring managers face to face. So how can you increase your chances of moving past those initial screening stages and convince the right people to consider hiring you? It’s all in the key selection criteria.

Employers highly prioritise key selection criteria while vetting candidates, and if you don’t match up with what they’re looking for, your resume will be passed over. Here’s how to address key selection criteria when applying for a job.

Carefully respond to all key selection criteria when applying for a job.Carefully respond to all key selection criteria when applying for a job.

What are key selection criteria and why are they important?

When you come across a job posting on a company’s website, chances are you’ll see a list of key selection criteria required to fill the position. These are the must-have skills, qualifications, experience or education needed to do the job. Hiring managers make them a big priority while vetting candidates, often prizing applicant responses over the content in their resumes. While a resume may contain a lot of information that’s irrelevant to the specific position, selection criteria responses directly show how a candidate’s experience and skill sets would transfer over to that role.

If you don’t address key selection criteria in your application, it’s very unlikely that you’ll move beyond the initial screening processes. Assume that other applicants have similar qualifications listed on their resumes, making it difficult for HR folks to clearly discern what separates the very best candidates from everyone else. It’s easy to simply toss out applications that omit responses altogether.

At the same time, perfunctory answers won’t do your candidacy any favours. You need to provide the most direct, relevant and compelling responses to key selection criteria to impress hiring managers and land an interview.

Review and break down key selection criteria

The first thing to do when presented with key selection criteria is to really break down each item so you fully understand what is being asked. Pay particular attention to the language being used in every selection criterion. Some may be centered around your experience, while others will focus on your skills and abilities. Depending on how the selection criterion is written, an ideal response may tie together multiple skills and capabilities, so you’ll want to be sure you touch on each one.

For instance, you might encounter selection criteria that reads, “Teamwork skills – experience collaborating with diverse teams and business units – able to work with others to tackle problems and provide actionable solutions.” It would be very easy for an applicant to see “teamwork skills” and only respond with that in mind. There are a lot of attributes touched upon here, though: experience working with other departments, verbal communication, collaboration, problem-solving, etc. A good response will address all of those points.

If your response is limited to “I have a long track record of working on projects in a team setting,” you would ignore all the other attributes the selection criterion is asking about.

Be sure to tailor your responses to the position you're applying for.Be sure to tailor your responses to the position you’re applying for.

Frame your response around the position

The whole point of key selection criteria is to see if your experience and skills are a good fit for a particular job. With that in mind, your responses should be tailored to each role you apply for. Items that focus on hard skills – experience with different programming languages, for instance – are relatively easy to connect to a position. Things become more complicated when you’re responding to key selection criteria revolving around soft skills.

Soft skills are applicable to any job or role, so it’s easy to give generic responses that reference your teamwork or communication abilities without really tying them to the day-to-day logistics of a particular position.

When responding to any key selection criteria, consider how your experience or abilities would apply in the specific context of the job in question. Even if your past experience was in a different industry, frame your answer to clearly show how those skills would translate to the position you’re applying for. The more tailored your response is, the easier it is for hiring managers to imagine you in that role.

Provide compelling evidence to support your response

Simply telling potential employers that you have good teamwork skills or that you have experience with cross-departmental collaboration won’t cut it. You have to show them, in detail, how you match up with key selection criteria. That means providing evidence to support every response and claim you make.

There are a few different approaches that HR experts recommend when crafting an evidence-driven response. The most prominent of these is arguably the “STAR” approach.

The STAR approach follows this framework:

  • Situation: Provide the context of your example, including the industry, department and role.
  • Task: Describe the assignment, problem or issue you needed to address.
  • Action: Detail the steps you took to tackle the task at hand.
  • Result: Explain how your actions produced tangible results.

You may also come across the “CAR” model (Context, Action, Result), which is very similar to STAR, although perhaps slightly less detailed.

The important thing to keep in mind is to show hiring managers your accomplishments with persuasive language and evidence. Short statements and responses may not provide all the context needed to fully understand how a particular event unfolded and the role you played in it.

Another good way to provide evidence of your skills, experience and abilities is with professional credentials like those offered by Deakin. All professional credentials are rigorously vetted and authenticated to verify that you have the right soft skills for a particular job.

If you want to show employers that you have the skills and experience they’re looking for, Professional Practice credentials from Deakin can help. Contact Deakin to earn your credentials today.