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Writing Selection Criteria Responses

THE “S.T.A.R” APPROACH 

The S.T.A.R approach for writing successful selection criteria resppnse is an acronym standing for Situation, Task, Approach & Result. It is expected that, for each selection criteria, you will provide a written response according to the above methodology. In your response, you should address a particular scenario where you identify the situation, advise the task you were required to undertake, the action that you undertook and the result of that action. This approach to writing selection criteria is a standardized format requirement for many job applications.

 

Selection criteria are usually written in response to a position description and advertisement distributed by a government department and are written with a view to landing a sometimes elusive government job.  80% of the time the position description will have a page with a heading which specifically states: "Selection Criteria" or similar.  Where this is not specifically stated, things can get a little tricky and guesswork comes into it.  In this situation, upon looking at a position description forwarded to me by a client, I recommend they call or email the contact person listed within the position description.  It is far better, and safer to clarify any issues that may be uncertain prior to commencing any work on a selection criteria, in order to eliminate wasted time and effort.

 

Similarly, often a position description will specify a word limit for each question or dot point.  Where this is not specified, often it is a good idea to determine if the selection criteria panel has an idea of expectations as far as length of answers is concerned.  I have found that no longer than a page per question is a reasonable guide, however, again this is something that can also be clarified with the contact person.

 

Nine times out of ten, you will need to provide evidence based answers. A good formula or rule of thumb for phrasing your answers is the STAR formula, or Situation, Task, Approach and Result.  This may not necessarily be requested or specified in the position description, but is nevertheless the ideal way to address selection criteria. This has been mentioned on another section of this website, but basically you need to give specifics of a situation which demonstrates that you meet the criteria. I have included below some situational information provided by clients.  One is a good example, and one isn’t an example at all!

 

GOOD EXAMPLE OF SELECTION CRITERIA ANSWER

 

Selection Criteria Question or Bullet Point: "Adhere to and promote the APS values"

 

Situation: During my employment with XYZ, I have always based difficult decisions I am required to make on the XYZ Charter to assist in ensuring that I have made a fair and effective decision for the business and its employees.

In one such recent example, my Supervisor and I were recruiting for the Training Officer / Administration role within our department and upon review of the applications, I realised that I had a personal connection with three of the applicants.

 

Task/Approach:Although I was aware of my ability to make an unbiased decision based on the merit of each individual, it was unfair for the company to be questioned on its equity in employment.  With this being the case, I discussed the issue with my Manager and requested a replacement for my position on the panel.

 

Result: As a result, my Manager praised me for my honesty and I was removed from the panel and a suitable replacement was found. The applications were put under another review and the business is currently in negotiation with an individual.

 

BAD EXAMPLE OF SELECTION CRITERIA ANSWER

 

Selection Criteria Question or Bullet Point: "Attention to detail and accuracy"

I developed a keen eye for detail and accuracy especially whilst employed with University of New South Wales as an Administration Assistant. I was responsible for the entering of new project details on the NSS Finance System and the creation and set-up of accounts. It was vital that my input was accurate and I would always proof read my reports and correspondence thoroughly prior to distribution.

 

Whilst employed by ANZ, it was imperative that I ensure that a customer's details were entered correctly within the database. This included a customer's postal address and separate residential address, which were frequently two different addresses. It was vital that this information was 100% accurate, as often customer's identification/security questions were based around their residential and postal address information.

 

Note there is no Situation, Task, Approach or Result, the answer is a very general one, and appears to address the selection criteria but doesn’t.

 

It should be noted that writing good selection criteria responses is an ‘art’ and takes practice to obtain good results consistently. It is good advice to keep selection criteria that you write well. Many times, when you are applying for similar types of roles, you may be able to re-use parts of other selection criteria responses to reduce the time required in writing new selection criteria responses for each job you apply for. Remember, the secret is consistent practice in writing good selection criteria responses.