FAQs about answering selection criteria ... and simple answers

What are Selection Criteria (SC)?
Selection Criteria are the standards by which your application will be measured to assess your suitability for the job. It is extremely important to respond carefully to selection criteria so that the selection panel has a complete picture of your knowledge, skills, abilities and qualifications.

Why do we have Selection Criteria for positions in the Public Service?    
The Public Service Act of 1996 contains Directives covering employment in the public service (local, state and federal government departments and agencies) to ensure selection processes are based solely on merit and that that all applicants have equal opportunity for employment. Selection Criteria allow the panel to determine what capabilities, skills and knowledge are required to perform the role.

Do I need to complete Selection Criteria for non-government jobs?
I?m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes you will need to complete Selection Criteria for non-government positions. Many private sector organisations, such as private hospitals, employment agencies, universities and schools now use Selection Criteria as their principal selection tool for appointment or promotion of staff. However, for most private sector applications, you will need only a Résumé and Letter of Application.

Are there different  sorts of Selection Criteria?
Government departments and organisations formulate their own Selection Criteria or they can use generic criteria. Selection Criteria may be listed as:

  • Mandatory or Essential Criteria
    These terms are used in relation to qualifications (certificates, licences, etc.) that are necessary to perform the job. For example, current registration with the Board of Teacher Registration is a mandatory criterion for teaching positions in schools.
  • Key Selection Criteria (KSC) or Selection Criteria (SC)
    These relate to the purpose, duties and responsibilities of the job.
  • Desirable Criteria (DC)
    These may have less weighting than KSC, but are still very important

Is a ?Statement against the Selection Criteria? the same as ?Responses to Selection Criteria? or ?Summary of Responses to Selection Criteria??
YES! This is a document in which you respond to Selection Criteria using concrete examples to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and abilities.
What?s a Selection Criterion?
?Criterion? is the singular form of the word, ?criteria?.

What are ?Key Words? and what do they mean? 

?Demonstrated? or ?proven ability? means that you must have successfully performed the duty or used the skill in the past. In other words, you need to have actual experience rather than just the potential to perform the duty.

?An ability to rapidly acquire? means that if you do not already have the skills, knowledge and abilities, you may demonstrate your potential to acquire these based on your proven ability to acquire similar skills through previous positions or training.

?Thorough?, ?sound? or ?a high level? indicates the level of advanced skill, knowledge or ability that is required.

How much do I need to write for each Selection Criterion?
This varies depending on the level of the job, your background and the number of criteria listed. You need to write enough information to convince the selection panel that you have the knowledge, skills and ability to perform the job. Quality is more important than quantity. A rule of thumb is to write between half a page and one page in length for each criterion. In some cases, you are advised regarding word length.

How long does it take to answer Selection Criteria?
This varies depending on your background experience, your writing skills and your proficiency in compiling applications. It will take many hours - even days - to write a selection criteria statement that really ?sells? your skills. People who say: ?I?ll just throw together an application and see how I go? rarely succeed. Think of this task as an investment in your future. Let?s say this position pays $50,000 per year and you intend to remain in the job at least five years. You have to ask yourself ?Is it worth spending ten hours of my time now to earn $250,000 in the next five years??

How do I answer when there are double or triple barrel questions?
Each selection criterion may have several elements (eg oral and written communication skills and negotiation skills). Each section of the selection criterion must be addressed:
Oral communication skills +  Written communication skills + Negotiation skills.

If I can?t answer a criterion, what should I do?
Remember when you skipped a question on your exam paper at school and you scored zero points? Similarly, an unanswered criterion is worth nothing. If you don?t have exactly what the criterion requires, refer to previous skills or knowledge that you have in a comparable area.

How many applications are usually received for each position?
It varies widely, but for positions such as an Information Officer, you may be competing with hundreds of other applicants for two or three available positions.

What?s in an Information Pack
Application Form or Cover Sheet (sometimes)    
Position Description (also called a Job Description)
Selection Criteria (part of Position Description)
Additional information about the organisation (sometimes)

How do I apply for an Information Pack? 
This is mentioned at the bottom of every advertisement. It may also be referred to as an Information Kit, Job Description or Selection Criteria. Simply call the phone number listed (or download information from the internet) to obtain a Job Description and Selection Criteria.

What are Position (Job) Descriptions?
Each position in the public sector has a position description that describes the duties and requirements of the position and outlines the criteria used to assess the relative merits of applicants for the job. They contain some or all of the following information: 
 the purpose, major duties and responsibilities of the position
 the organisational environment, including reporting responsibilities
 special information about the job such as travel requirements
 the period of employment for contract or temporary positions
 the closing date for applications (usually 5pm EST on a nominated date)
 Selection Criteria (usually between 5 and 7 criteria)
 the name and telephone number of the contact person who can provide
    further information about the position (your new best friend).

What is a Selection Panel, Selection Committee or Appointment Committee?
A Selection Panel, usually consisting of three people, is formed to evaluate all applications received, short-list applicants, conduct interviews and make recommendations. The Chair (or Supervisor) of the panel is usually a panel member and provides post-selection feedback to applicants on request.

What is short-listing?
Short-listing means developing a short list of applicants to be interviewed, based on how well their written applications meet the Selection Criteria or on how well they have performed in other selection tasks such as telephone interviews.  Written applications are read by panel members and given a rating against the Selection Criteria as well as an overall rated score. From this, a short-list of applicants is compiled. If you are on this list, it means that you scored highly enough to be interviewed.

What is ?weighting? of criteria?
The selection panel nominates the rating of each criterion according to the requirements for performing the job. Sometimes the weighting is stated in the Job Description. If it isn?t, assume the criteria are equally important. There?s no such thing as an unimportant criterion.  Even one weighted at 10% deserves 100% effort and may be the difference between being selected for the position and being the ?runner-up?.

What are usual selection methods?
Selection is usually based on the assessment of at least two techniques -  for example, written applications and structured interviews. Following is a list of other selection techniques that may be used:

 Written applications                        
 Structured Interviews                                           
 Group Interviews   
 Role Plays
 Telephone Interviews   
 Online Interviews
 Aptitude/Practical Task Testing
 Presentations/Case studies
 Psychological Profiling 
 Assessment Centre Testing

Do I need to include a cover letter?
As a rule of thumb, if you are provided with an Application Form, there is no need to provide a covering letter as well. It is entirely your choice. If you do choose to provide a letter, include a brief outline of why you consider yourself to be a suitable applicant for the position and express your interest in attending an interview.

Where are jobs advertised?
Each State Government has its own ?Jobs Online? for advertising government positions. For example, in Queensland, it?s (http://www.jobs.qld.gov.au). These websites provide a full list of available public service positions. You can search for specific jobs or browse through a list of available jobs by department or occupation. Many government job vacancies are also advertised in newspapers on Saturdays or in the Government Gazette (a publication produced by the State Government).

For Australian Public Service (APS) positions, go to www.psgazetteonline.gov.au for a full list of APS and non-APS Commonwealth agency positions. This is published on Thursdays.

How long does it take to get a response to my application?
You can expect a response within a few weeks of the closing date, but some positions may take up to twelve weeks. If you haven?t heard anything two weeks after the nominated closing date, phone the contact person to check on the situation.

What is post selection feedback?
If your application is unsuccessful, you can ask for feedback from the selection panel after the successful applicant has been appointed. Feedback is valuable and may provide you with suggestions for improving future applications. Put it down to experience!

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