Key selection criteria…sigh…how do I respond?

Job seekers, I know you understand when I say applying for a job can be time consuming. Generally though once you have a generic application letter and resume completed, the process speeds up. It’s just a matter of applying a few minor tweaks here and there and hitting the send button. But in that moment, when you realise that you also have to submit a response to the Key Selection Criteria, your heart sinks (sad and crying emoji). I’m here to help ease your pain…

For many of us providing a response to a job’s key selection criteria can be quite time consuming. And it takes time because we really don’t know how to articulate a response. Despite our ability to effortlessly speak to an audience of fifty, some of us struggle to articulate our talents on paper. So what to do? Forget the position and find another that demands less of an effort in replying? Hardly an advantageous reaction. No. One simply needs to apply a little time and thought. And belief (smiling emoji).

To begin, have the position description at hand. You will want to create a new document and transfer the selection criteria across, keeping it exactly as it appears within the PD. While some questions may appear to ask for a similar response, do not be tempted to combine the criteria. Keep it all as it appears in the PD. And yes, I do agree that some key selection criteria can be poorly worded, but again, do not alter what the employer has provided. Note too that criteria may be sectioned out under the headings of ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’. You must respond to both, however if you cannot demonstrate that you have the necessary skills, abilities, experience or qualifications, particularly for the ‘essential’ criteria, you may need to reassess if you are able to meet the demands of the role.

In formulating a response, keep in mind that this is not an opportunity to write a novel, rather the time poor recruiter will scan your responses for key words. Remember that PD that you have at your side? Now is the time to peruse the document for key words or phrases such as the ability to meet competing deadlines, demonstrated experience in negotiation, and ability to motivate and lead a team. Where able, it would be wise to mirror these key words in your key selection criteria responses. This is particularly important if a program and not a person is perusing your application. You can also incorporate these key words into your resume. So regarding your response, be brief and factual and try to refrain from exceeding more than half a page. If it helps, and believe me it will, use bullet points or short sentences to map out your reply.

The content of your response should succinctly outline that you not only possess the required competencies, but that you can demonstrate the application of your capabilities and actual outcomes. Some common selection criteria includes:

  • Demonstrated capacity to communicate effectively
  • Good organisational and administrative skills
  • Proven ability to work as part of a team
  • High level competency in the use of Microsoft Office and Outlook
  • Demonstrated problem solving skills

While these are fairly generic examples, selection criteria can be quite complex so you need to ensure that you have responded to all elements of that being asked. Here is an example of a response to a commonly seen key criteria.

High-level time management and organisational skills.

The majority of the time many of the tasks I complete have incredibly short and demanding deadlines. As I maintain a very calm and organised approach to my work, I am able to rationally prioritise my tasks to ensure they are completed as required and to a very high standard. I manage multiple tasks in this manner (up to 20 at a time) often working with co-workers and/or other businesses to ensure all requirements are met. As such I have very honed skills in the planning, preparation and execution of activities through to completion. For example….

From a recruiter’s perspective, this response says a lot about the interpersonal qualities and work ethic of the applicant. They cleverly told a story about their skills that gave great insight into a number of desirable employee characteristics. If you lack direct experience, look to your work in a related field, study and/or community interest.

Studying the position description will allow you to recognise the elements of the role that the employer values. And if you’re successful in gaining an interview, the extra time you have taken to research and understand the position will place you in good stead in the meeting. Also be aware that the key selection criteria will play a very important role in gaining that interview. More so than your resume or letter of application. Employers use key criteria to compare applicants equally. So the more relevant your responses to the criteria are, the greater your chance of landing a job interview.

Traditionally asking applicants to supply a response to a specific set of key questions is an employer’s way of identifying the most accurate match between the requirements of the job and the skills of the applicant. Generally the most successful responses use strong, positive language, address the criteria in full while remaining succinct, and provide real life examples of personal successes in the working environment. If you have the track record, you already have your answers to the questions. All you need to do is tell the story.

Good luck!

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SJ Personnel offer recruitment and HR services to businesses and candidates throughout Geelong, Surf Coast, The Bellarine and western Victoria region

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