Selection Criteria: A Complete Guide for Australian Job Seekers

Last Updated, 30 April 2024
Written by <a href="" target="_self">Nicole Wren</a>

Written by Nicole Wren

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Selection Criteria: A Complete Guide for Australian Job Seekers

by | Apr 30, 2024 | Writing Advice

Selection criteria are a set of specific qualifications, skills, abilities, knowledge, and experiences that an employer determines to be required or desirable for a job role. They are commonly used in job applications, particularly in government roles in Australia.

When applying for a position, candidates are required to provide written responses to each criterion, demonstrating with concrete examples how they meet the requirements of the role. For example, here’s some responses to written and verbal communication skills selection criteria. If applicants don’t answer the selection criteria, they are unlikely to move forward to the next stage.

Why Do Organisations Use Selection Criteria?

Government departments use selection criteria primarily to ensure a transparent, fair, and systematic hiring process. Using selection criteria aids in holding departments accountable to hiring practices that are free from bias and based solely on the competencies related to the job.

Selection criteria assist in complying with employment laws and regulations by providing a clear framework for non-discriminatory recruitment and selection practices.

Key Differences Between Resumes/ CVs, Cover Letters and Selection Criteria Responses

Resumes (or CVs), selection criteria and cover letters each serve distinct functions in the job application process.

Resumes or CVs summarise an applicant’s professional history, skills, and achievements in a structured format, providing a comprehensive overview of their career, and are universally used across various sectors.

Cover letters serve as a personal introduction, expressing the applicant’s interest in the position and detailing their suitability for the role in a formal letter format with an introductory section, body paragraphs, and a closing, aiming to personalise the application and complement the information provided in the resume.

Selection criteria require applicants to provide detailed, evidence-based responses to specific job qualifications and competencies. Selection criteria responses are typically formatted using methods like STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and used primarily in public sector applications to assess candidates’ suitability with clear evidence. These examples highlight how to respond to Aboriginal cultural awareness selection criteria.

What can be tricky, is that sometimes, applications request a ‘cover letter addressing the selection criteria’. Read examples of cover letters for government jobs.

Essential Vs Desirable Criteria

Essential criteria are the qualifications, skills, and experiences that are absolutely necessary for the job. Candidates must meet all essential criteria to be considered for the position. Unlike in private sector roles, when employers may overlook a lack of experience because the person otherwise seems to be a good fit for the role, failure to demonstrate competence in any essential criterion in government jobs generally results in the applicant being excluded from further consideration.

Desirable criteria are not mandatory, but they give candidates a competitive edge. These criteria are used to differentiate between candidates who meet all the essential criteria. Possessing desirable skills or experiences can make an applicant more attractive to the panel and potentially more suitable for the role.

Applicants should address both essential and desirable criteria thoroughly.

Which Organisations Require a Selection Criteria Response?

Australian Public Service (APS) Departments

Most federal government departments utilise selection criteria for hiring purposes. This includes agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and the Department of Defence. APS sometimes refers to this as a ‘statement of claims’. They also sometimes call it a ‘pitch’.

State Government Departments

Most state government departments, across every Australian state and territory, also use selection criteria. Read a Queensland Health cover letter as an example.

Local Government Authorities

Local councils and municipal governments across Australia often employ selection criteria when hiring for various positions, including roles in administration, planning, community services, and infrastructure. This Cairns Council cover letter example outlines one example.

Check out our guide to getting a government job in Australia, which outlines exactly where to find government jobs in Australia.

Universities and Educational Institutions

Academic and administrative positions at universities and other educational institutions commonly require applicants to address criteria. This includes roles such as lecturers, researchers, administrative staff, and executive positions.

Non-Profit Organisations and NGOs

Many non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Australia utilise criteria when hiring staff for various roles, such as project managers, program coordinators, fundraising professionals, and administrative positions.

Corporate Organisations

Some corporate entities, particularly larger companies and those with formalised HR processes, may also incorporate criteria into their recruitment practices, especially for roles with specific skill or experience requirements.

How to Write Selection Criteria Responses: Step-by-Step

Research the Job Description and Understand the Employer’s Needs

Begin by carefully reading the job description. Note down key phrases, required skills, and qualifications. Pay attention to recurring themes or emphasised points, which indicate crucial competencies or priorities for the employer.

Certain departments may refer to specific competencies or frameworks, which you need to take int consideration when developing your selection criteria response. For example, the APS uses the Integrated Leadership System, and you’ll need to make sure your responses are ‘targeted’ to the right ‘level’.

Analyse Each Criterion Thoroughly

For each selection criterion, break it down into its fundamental components. Understand what the employer is asking for—do they need proof of skills, experiences, or both? If the criterion is lengthy, make sure you are addressing each part of what they are asking for. Often, applicants will forget to include an example about both verbal AND written communication skills for example.

Gather Your Selection Criteria Response Ideas From Your Previous Experiences

Select examples from your past work that directly demonstrate your abilities in relation to each criterion. Use varied examples from different roles or projects to show versatility and a broad skill set. Where possible, use only the most recent examples.

Also check out our 10-step method here for how to write selection criteria for government jobs.

Methods to Write Your Selection Criteria Response

It’s important to present your experiences in a structured, organised way. Several methods can help you organise your responses effectively. Here’s a breakdown of four common frameworks: STAR, SAO, CAR, and CAO.

STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

Perhaps the most well-known method, the STAR method goes like this:

Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a task or faced a challenge at work. This sets the stage for what comes next. (approximately 10-20% of your response)

Task: Explain the actual task you were responsible for. This could be a problem you needed to solve or a goal you aimed to achieve. (approximately 10-20% of your response)

Action: Detail the specific actions you took to address the task. Focus on what you personally did, rather than the team or organisation. (approximately 30 – 40% of your response)

Result: Share the outcomes of your actions. Quantify results where possible (e.g., increased sales by 20%, reduced processing time by two days), and highlight any positive feedback or recognition received. (approximately 30-40% of your response).

SAO (Situation, Action, Outcome)

Situation: Similar to STAR, you start with the setting or challenge you were involved in.

Action: Describe the actions you undertook to manage the situation. The emphasis is more on what you did than the task itself.

Outcome: Focus on the results of your actions. The outcome should reflect the effectiveness of your actions and ideally relate to benefits or improvements for your team or company.

CAR (Context, Action, Result)

Context: Provide background for the scenario you were involved in. This is similar to the ‘Situation’ in STAR and sets the scene for your narrative.

Action: This is about your specific contributions to handling the situation. Detail your responsibilities and what steps you took.

Result: Highlight the results of your actions, focusing on specific achievements and positive changes that occurred as a result of your efforts.

CAO (Context, Action, Outcome)

Context: Set the stage by describing where and how the situation took place. It helps to explain why the actions you took were necessary.

Action: Explain the actions you performed. The detail here should show your direct involvement and initiative.

Outcome: This is similar to the ‘Result’ in other models but may focus more broadly on the impact of your actions beyond immediate results, including long-term changes or strategic benefits.

Each of these frameworks helps structure your selection criteria response in a way that clearly demonstrates your capabilities and directly ties your actions to results. A methodical approach helps the reader follow your story more effectively, which is why such a method is generally expected by panels assessing candidates.

Formatting Your Selection Criteria Response

Now that you understand how to write your selection criteria response, you should determine how it is formatted. Standardise the formatting across all criteria responses, including font size, type, and margins. Use standard font size (10-11) and font (e.g. Arial). Use standard margins.

If your response goes over the required word or page count, spend time culling it to make it fit, rather than expanding margins or reducing font size. You can do this by getting rid of any irrelevant ‘fluff’ and words like ‘also’. Revise your responses to eliminate redundancy and ensure clarity. Each sentence should add value—clearly addressing parts of the selection criteria without wandering off-topic. Aim for strong, active verbs to convey direct actions and achievements.

In some applications, you should use the selection criteria as a header for each of your answers. Sometimes (as in the case of writing a pitch), you may want to just include the answers (but make sure you include relevant keywords from the selection criteria, so the panel quickly understands what section you are addressing).

Sometimes, you will need to copy and paste your selection criteria answers into an online form. Other times, you will need to respond in a letter format. It’s very important to review the application guidelines to determine what is required.

Refine and Edit Your Selection Criteria Response

After drafting your responses to selection criteria, the next crucial step is to refine and edit them. This process is vital to ensure that your submission is not only accurate and consistent but also reflects a high level of professionalism.

Make sure that your responses accurately reflect the qualifications and experiences the employer is seeking. Adjust your language to mirror key terms and phrases from the job description, as this can help pass automated screening processes and catch the panel’s attention.

Thoroughly proofread your responses to catch any grammatical errors or typos. If possible, have a colleague or mentor review your application. A second pair of eyes can catch mistakes you might have overlooked and can offer valuable feedback on the overall impact of your responses.

Ensure that your writing is not only free of errors but also easy to read. Avoid jargon and overly complex language unless it is standard in your field. Remember, the goal is to communicate effectively with your reader, not to impress them with vocabulary.

Strategies to Make Your Selection Criteria Response Stand Out

When developing responses to selection criteria, it’s crucial not just to meet the requirements but to do so in a way that differentiates you from other candidates. Here are some strategies to help make your responses truly stand out:

Unique Experiences

Focus on providing examples that are not only relevant but also unique to your professional journey. Highlight experiences that showcase your specific skills and achievements that others might not possess.

Personal Impact

Whenever possible, detail the personal impact you had in your roles. It’s common for candidates to refer to ‘we’ and ‘our’ terms, but in selection criteria, it’s important to highlight what you personally achieved.

Use Numbers and Data

Wherever possible, use numbers and data to quantify your achievements. For example, instead of saying you “increased sales,” specify by how much, such as “increased sales by 30% over six months.”

Research the Organisation

Deeply research the organisation’s mission, values, and current objectives. Tailor your responses to reflect how your background and values align with theirs.

Use Job Description Keywords

Use keywords and phrases from the job description in your responses. This technique helps in aligning your application with what the hiring managers are specifically looking for and can be crucial when applications are initially screened by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

Resources to Help Write Your Selection Criteria Response

Selection Criteria Writers

These are specialised services provided by professional writers who have expertise in crafting job applications, particularly for sectors such as government, education, and healthcare, where selection criteria are commonly used. Professional selection criteria writers can help articulate your experiences and skills in a way that directly aligns with job requirements.


ChatGPT can assist in drafting and refining your selection criteria responses. It can generate ideas, suggest improvements, and even help with editing for grammar and style. While ChatGPT is a powerful tool, it’s important to ensure that the final submission accurately reflects your personal experiences and is tailored to the specific job and organisation.

Selection Criteria Response Examples


APS Statement of Claims Example APS4

APS Statement of Claims Example APS3

500 Word Statement of Claims Example APS6

Queensland Government

QPS Application Example
Queensland Government Cover Letter Example

Queensland Government Selection Criteria Examples AO2 – AO6

Victorian Government

Victorian Teacher Key Selection Criteria

Key Selection Criteria Teacher Aide
Key Selection Criteria Victorian Government

New South Wales Government

NSW Health Selection Criteria
New South Wales SAO Cover Letter
NSW Government Cover Letter

Western Australia Government

WA Education Assistant Selection Criteria
WA Nursing Selection Criteria
WA Teacher Cover Letter

South Australia Government

SA Government Cover Letter

Northern Territory Government

NT 1 Page Summary Application

Tasmania Government

Tas Health Selection Criteria Example

ACT Government

ACT Government Selection Criteria Example

We hope this information has been helpful in developing your own winning selection criteria response. As always, we are on hand if you have further questions or require more assistance. Contact us to discuss.

Nicole Wren

Nicole Wren

Senior Writer

Nicole is the principal resume writer at Resumes to Impress. Nicole loves writing and sharing her knowledge about all things job hunting and career guidance.

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