When applying for graduate roles, applicants may be required to provide a response addressing key selection criteria. Key selection criteria are a list of knowledge, attributes, and skills that the employer feels are necessary for an employee to possess to successfully complete the role. These responses are then compared against the other applicants to make a conclusion about the employee most suited to the role.
Where do you respond to selection criteria?
There are multiple common places during the application process where you may be required to address the selection criteria:
- A cover letter
- An additional statement or document that addresses key selection criteria for the role
- An online application - where you may be prompted to address selection criteria through questions and text box responses
It is important to read the application requirements carefully, to see which of these the role requires. Some recruiters automatically disregard an application that fails to provide a response to the selection criteria as it shows a lack of attention to detail and a lack of sincere interest in the role.
What does the selection criteria look like?
Selection criteria for a role often falls into two main categories: essential and desirable - this will likely be distinguished in the job description. It is important to address both essential and desirable criteria to maximise your chance of being selected for an interview. Within these two categories, there are different types of criteria that describe the different requirements of the role.
Qualifications refer to a degree, diploma, certified training course or other form of education.
- Example of a qualification selection criterion: “A degree in marketing or events management or equivalent.”
Skills refer to the ability of an applicant to do something. Selection criteria can refer to technical, industry-related or transferable skills.
- Example of a technical skill selection criterion: “Demonstrated skills of an intermediate level at UX Design, specifically using Adobe XD software.”
- Example of an industry-related skill selection criterion: “The ability to draft legal correspondence and legal documents of varying complexity.”
- Example of a transferable skill selection criterion: “The ability to work both independently and effectively as a collaborative member of a team.”
Experience refers to the previously performed duties of an applicant. Experience can arise from not only paid employment, but through volunteering, hobbies and extracurricular activities. Selection criteria may require examples of general or specific experience.
- Example of a general experience selection criterion: “Experience conducting legal research.”
- Example of a specific experience selection criterion: “Experience working as a paralegal in a legal office, preferably in the commercial law sector.”
Knowledge refers to the comprehension of a specific subject area, either through study or experience.
- Example of a knowledge selection criterion: “An understanding of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules.”
How to respond to selection criteria?
Understanding the criteria
First, it is essential to read the selection criteria carefully to ensure that you understand what the employer is looking for. The selection criteria is also helpful in determining the kind of questions that you are likely to be asked in the interview. Thus, understanding the criteria and the requirements for the role is imperative.
After identifying the criteria, think of examples from your work experience that demonstrate the qualities that are being sought after. A strong response will typically use a mix of these, instead of relying on one, and incorporate an array of examples.
When selecting examples, try to use more recent examples that are directly relevant to the criterion to maximise your chances of demonstrating your skills successfully. If you do not have direct work experience to support a criterion, refer to any internships, volunteering, university projects, extracurricular activities, your studies or any relevant hobbies you may have.
It is also effective to quantify your examples to demonstrate the level of your experience. E.g. “Five years experience using Python” is more impressive than “Experience using Python.”
Refrain from making brief, overview statements. This includes merely stating that you possess a necessary skill. You must provide examples as evidence to prove that you do. Instead of just saying that you completed administrative tasks in your previous employment, describe what those tasks were. If the role you are applying for requires the completion of similar tasks, the recruiter will know that you have the relevant experience and skills. A good response will provide specific details of how you applied a particular skill in a situation.
Addressing the criteria
Make sure to address all elements of a singular criterion. For example, when responding to “Demonstrate the ability to work in a team and independently”, ensure that your response refers to examples that prove both your ability to work in a team and your ability to work independently.
How to format your response?
Each criterion should serve as a heading to be addressed separately. At least one paragraph should be dedicated to answering each criterion. The STAR Method is a helpful tool for structuring a response to each criterion. Read our article on using the STAR Method here.
Make sure your responses are clear and direct. There is no need to use extravagant language. If the role requires good communication skills, your writing is an indicator of whether you are appropriate.
Use the same language in your response that is used in the selection criteria. These keywords will jump out to the recruiter when they are reviewing your application.
Ensure that you thoroughly proofread your responses. Spelling or grammar errors will signal poor communication skills. Ensure that you also abide by any page or word limit that is set.
✏️ Example Reponses
Criteria: Applicants must have a degree in English, Literature, Communications or Media Studies.
Response: I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at XYZ University, graduating with First Class Honours in 2015. I completed a major in Literature and a honours thesis in this discipline. My thesis focused on the process of literary production, from conception to completion. I believe that this demonstrates my suitability for the role of Production Assistant at your publishing house as I have completed extensive education on the inner workings of the industry.
Criteria: Applicants must have strong computer skills, particularly using Excel and other spreadsheet softwares.
Response: I have been using Excel for three years in my role as an Administrative Assistant at ABC Firm. I tracked the expenses of the business, created schedules, managed data, and monitored project tasks and deadlines. Prior to this role, I did the book-keeping for a small bakery business that used Google Sheets. When I was completing my account degree, I also learnt how to use other programs like Gnumeric.