Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 20 – Answering selection criteria

There is a lot of information packed into this edition, so grab a notebook and pen or a high lighter and enjoy.  If you are not actively looking for work at the moment, you might like to pop across to the web site and download an application package so that you can work through the process. After all you may need to know how to address selection criteria sometime in the future.

As always, copies of the book “The First 4 Minutes: Understanding the Selection and Interview Process” is available.  If you would like more information, please go to the “Other Page” on our web site for details.

We hope you enjoy reading.  Have a great week.

In this Issue we will be looking at:
• Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow;
• First things first;
• Essential and Desirable;
• Answering the Questions
• Layout;
• Format;
• Common Mistakes;
• A Thought to Ponder.

Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow
I would like to start this month’s issue with something a little different.  It is an article written by Jim Rohn, which I thought I would share with you. 

Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow
by Jim Rohn

The problem with waiting until tomorrow is that when it finally arrives, it is called today. Today is yesterday’s tomorrow. The question is what did we do with its opportunity? All too often we will waste tomorrow as we wasted yesterday, and as we are wasting today. All that could have been accomplished can easily elude us, despite our intentions, until we inevitably discover that the things that might have been have slipped from our embrace a single, unused day at a time.

Each of us must pause frequently to remind ourselves that the clock is ticking. The same clock that began to tick from the moment we drew our first breath will also someday cease.

Time is the great equalizer of all mankind. It has taken away the best and the worst of us without regard for either. Time offers opportunity but demands a sense of urgency.

When the game of life is finally over, there is no second chance to correct our errors. The clock that is ticking away the moments of our lives does not care about winners and losers. It does not care about who succeeds or who fails. It does not care about excuses, fairness or equality. The only essential issue is how we played the game.

Regardless of a person’s current age, there is a sense of urgency that should drive them into action now – this very moment. We should be constantly aware of the value of each and every moment of our lives – moments that seem so insignificant that their loss often goes unnoticed.

We still have all the time we need. We still have lots of chances – lots of opportunities – lots of years to show what we can do. For most of us, there will be a tomorrow, a next week, a next month, and a next year. But unless we develop a sense of urgency, those brief windows of time will be sadly wasted, as were the weeks and months and years before them. There isn’t an endless supply!

So as you think of your dreams and goals of your future tomorrow, begin today to take those very important first steps to making them all come to life.

To read more articles from Jim Rohn – go to

You may be wondering why I have chosen to start off the newsletter on how to address selection criteria with an article on time.  Well the simple answer is, if you say to yourself I’ll apply for that job tomorrow, well you and I both know – that tomorrow will come, and the fire and enthusiasm that you thought you had, will have fizzled out.  Chances are that something will crop up and you won’t be able to apply for that job tomorrow. Well ask yourself this question – what is important to me.  Is it the next episode of Blue Heelers? Or should it be the job that you promised yourself that you were going to apply for.  Ask – what do I have to do today to get the job that I want, the future that I deserve, the career that I promised myself when I was studying.  Don’t sit back and let events or your ability to procrastinate conspire against you.

So how do you address selection criteria anyway?

Addressing the selection criteria is not an exercise in creative writing.  It is a statement of fact.  How do you prove to the prospective employer that you are capable of doing the job on offer?  By telling them – What, Where, When and How – and then backing it up with fact – examples that prove you can do what you say you can do. It’s as simple as that.

Actually it isn’t as simple as that, as those of you who have tried writing selection criteria have probably found out.

First things First
Do you have the application package? If you haven’t then I would suggest that you obtain it.  Not only will it have the questions that you will need to address (answer) but it will also give you lots of hints and tips on how “they” want the answers laid out.

Read the application thoroughly, what are they asking you to do?
For example: if the package tells you to answer in no more than 3 A4 pages.  Then make sure your answers do not resemble “War and Peace”.  By asking you to limit your word count, the prospective employer is looking for people who are able to convey the most meaning in the least amount of words.  It is also likely that the prospective employer is expecting quite a lot of applicants for the position and is trying to ensure that it doesn’t take them a month to read all of them. If the word count is limited – then it is up to you to make sure every single word counts.  And please do not cheat and use a smaller font size.

Do not be tempted to re-use components from previous applications.  The reason for this is threefold.

1. Keywords – you will need to ensure these are used in your application.  Go through the application and high light the words that you will need to consider, as well as their synonyms.  In some cases computer software does the first round of culling and searches for these words and terms.  If you don’t have the right mix – you won’t get through.
2. Cutting and pasting from one document to another is obvious.  The tone of voice is usually different, sentences can be stilted and the application does not flow.
3. The last reason is perhaps the most important.  Why re-use work that did not give you the results that you wanted? If you are basing your new application on a previous application, without considering the fact that the last application did not get you the results that you wanted.  Then why are you wasting your time doing the same thing? Chances are you will get the same result.

By all means re-read previous applications, this will tell you where you went wrong. But do not rely on your old applications as the basis for the new one.

Past behaviour predicts future behaviour
The main reason why employers are looking more and more towards using selection criteria as a way of selecting the best people for interview, is two-fold.  Sometimes a person’s CV leaves a lot to be desired, and it is very hard to compare individual applications based on a CV alone.  A statement which addresses the selection criteria can be used to compare “apples” with “apples” scores can be applied, and an informed judgement can be made.  By asking for examples of how you have handled yourself in a certain situation, a prospective employer can ascertain how you are likely to handle similar situations in the future.

Essential and Desirable
Essential criteria are those particular attributes, qualifications and experience, which are of CRITICAL importance to the position.  You must have these if you are to do the job properly.  If you do not have the required skills, experience or abilities then it is unlikely you will be short listed for the position.

Desirable criteria are those skills, experience and abilities that would be valuable to an employer if you had them.  It is not necessary that you have these requirements.  But you do stand a much better chance of being short-listed if you do.

It is also worth noting, that in today’s job market, then the short list of candidates for interview will be selected from those people who have met ALL the essential criteria as well as most, if not all, the desirable criteria as well.

Answering the Questions
When looking at each selection criteria, view the competency first.  For example – demonstrated ability to plan and organise.  Then look at the types of behaviours second.  These are the TYPES and LEVELS of behaviours in this competency area that you would be expected to exhibit in the position.  For example, which will enable the appointee to manage a wide variety of tasks, work effectively to deadlines and achieve a high standard of work.

The key to successfully responding to selection criteria is to support your claims by presenting relevant examples of how you meet the requirements. Vague, generalities will not do.  “I am well known for my organisational skills” – who says so? The prospective employer doesn’t know that.  Give them an example.  “As the CPD Officer for abc accounting firm I was responsible for coordinating the training needs for chartered accountants across Western Australia.  This entailed taking all bookings, receipting money, organising speakers, training venues and refreshments.” Whilst I am sure you can come up with a much better example than that, I’m sure you get the idea.  However, that is not where you should finish your answer.

We also need to give some figures and timelines.  For example “This training program covered 30 courses over a 6 month period catering to approximately 200 attendees.”

Sounds a bit better doesn’t it. 

But what if you don’t have any relevant work experience? Then you will need to use experience gained during study, practicum, committees or sporting groups. 

For each and every statement that you make, follow the STAR principle and you should be well on the way to giving your answers the structure that they need.
S State the Situation or
T Task that faced you
A give the Action that you took
R and the Results that you achieved.

– You should start the statement on a clean piece of paper (new document) – unless told otherwise in the application package.
– Begin the document with the “Statement addressing the selection criteria” or whatever words they have used.  Centre, Bold. Directly underneath, write the position name, under that, the position number.  To set out the remaining document it is advisable to begin with the criteria themselves (and state whether it is essential or desirable). 
– Use the same numbering and wording that they have used.  For example:
1. Eligible for membership of Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (Essential)
If you use bold, you can easily separate your answers without having to use a space.

– It is a professional document – so treat it as such.  Remember that first impression count and do not, use slang or abbreviations.
Statements should always be positive – saying that “I don’t have much experience with x, y, or z” is not going to get you to where you want to be.
– Use the same paper, font, size as the rest of your application.
– Can be a mixture of sentences, paragraphs and bullet points.  Although it should be noted that bullet points should not be used on their own, as it can make you seem “brash” and “straight to the point” – people can read a lot into an application (rightly or wrongly).
– Answers should be as long as they need to be without being too verbose.  (Make sure you follow the application package guidelines if a length is stipulated).  Ideally aim for 2 examples per question, unless the question is do you have a current drivers licence? Whilst a simple yes or no may be the easiest – you may like to write your answer in a sentence format, giving the class of licence that you hold.
– Do not bind or staple. Paperclip your application.  Remember that it will be photocopied so make the employers’ job easy.

Common Mistakes
– Using old applications to save time.
– Poor spelling and grammar – Do not rely on the computer to do the final checking for you.  Computers don’t usually recognise a word that may have been spelt correctly but used in the wrong context. Consider that every application is an example of both your written communication skills and your attention to detail.  So don’t be lazy.
– Re-read the application – but give yourself a day or so between typing and correcting.  That way you don’t read what you want to read, but what is actually on the page.
– Handwritten applications (unless specifically asked for) – should be avoided at all costs.  If you don’t have a computer at home, book time at your local public library.
– Missing the questions – people make the incorrect assumption that if they do not have experience in a particular area they can simply not answer the question.  All this does is prove to a prospective employer that your attention to detail is very poor.
– Not answering the question – vague, generalities are a no-no.  Examples, examples, examples
– Failing to follow their instructions.
– Failing to give examples.
– Expecting the panel to read between the lines. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Thought to Ponder:
“This life is not a dress rehearsal for the next”
Michael Cain