What is Selection Criteria and why is it important?

If you apply for a role in a government department (local, state or federal) it is likely that you will need to complete Selection Criteria. Selection Criteria are simply a set of questions that you must answer as part of your job application.

Your aim when answering the Selection Criteria questions, is to convince the reader that you have the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the requirements of the role. The person reading your application, will decide whether to short-list you based on your responses to the Selection Criteria and your ability to persuade the reader that you have the required capabilities to do the job,


Selection criteria describe the personal qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications (if any) a person needs to perform the role effectively. They are used to identify the right person for the role.

Important: if you apply for a role that has Selection Criteria, and you simply submit your Resume/CV and do not provide answers to the questions, you will not be considered for the role. Full Stop. You MUST answer all questions, and you MUST provide well rounded answers, not simple one-liners.

Selection Critiera:

The importance of Essential Criteria

As a general rule, it you do not meet the Essential criteria for the role, then it is not worth applying for the job. For example, if the role requires you to be degree qualified, and you have do not have a degree, then you will not succeed. 

Selection Criteria:

About Desirable Criteria

Desirable criteria are often the qualifications, skills and knowledge that would be useful to have, but may not rule you out if you do not have them. If you do have them, your application becomes a very strong candidate, provided that you have met the Essential Criteria too.

Selection Criteria Answers

The industry standard for preparing Selection Criteria Answers is by using the STAR method. 




Action / Approach


Sample Scenario: you are applying for a job as a Finance Officer. The Selection Criteria question asks you to explain how you implemented a procedural change in the workplace. This can be broken down using the STAR approach as follows:


Role as Finance Officer at Health Department



Needed to ensure that Managers and key staff knew about new accounting codes being implemented.


Action or Approach

Prepared a memo to be distributed via email to all Managers and staff. Arranged and delivered training to staff directly affected by the change.


Accounting code changes were successfully implemented, resulting in more accurate data entry into the system with correct coding, and therefore more accurate and meaningful reporting.

Now translate this into a paragraph…

“As a Finance Officer at the Department of Health, I identified the need to introduce new accounting codes to ensure that key financial information was being correctly reported. To do this, I prepared a memo that was distributed via email to all Managers and staff affected. In addition I prepared, organised and delivered training sessions to all affected to staff to ensure that they understood the new accounting codes and when to use them.

The successful implementation of the new accounting codes, resulted in more accurate data entry into the system using correct codes. This meant that I could prepare more accurate and meaningful reports to management in relation to expenditure, which in turn resulted in key project areas receiving additional consideration in the annual budget. The end result is that the introduction of codes enabled better financial decision making, and in turn assisted the business units, as they were able to clearly demonstrate a need to budget for future expenditure.”

The STAR approach is a good guideline, however does not need to be adhered to in robot like fashion to achieve good results.
A simplified view – or a less academic approach – of the STAR approach can be broken down into simple English steps that are simpler for people to follow:

The Situation

Your answer to each question should outline in which role you gained the experience or knowledge

Example & Solution

Provide an example of a situation and how you resolved or managed it


Explain how your example was of value to the team or organisation.

How long should each Selection Criteria answer be?

This depends on how much you have to say! As a general rule, one or two paragraphs is sufficient. Avoid writing more than half a page for each criteria. If you are writing more, then chances are you would benefit from a tighter edit.

Try to say more with less words. Have someone proof read your responses and suggest changes. Also consider the use of dot points, this often an excellent way of getting many points across and avoiding a huge ‘blob’ of text!

Emerging Trends in Selection Criteria

Recently we have seen employers changing the type of questions in their Selection Criteria. The traditional criteria such as: Must have strong communication skills, including interpersonal, verbal and written => are now changing.

One key reason for this change is that employers are now starting to look beyond the employee that can tick these boxes. More emphasis is now being placed on the individual. They are looking for people that show qualities other than academic ability. Those with volunteering experience, or have been involved with the community via sporting groups or have a particularly interesting hobby such as photography are starting to stand out. They are showing that they are genuinely team oriented people, have plenty of energy, and are engaged in life.

So what do these ‘new’ questions look like?

How do you go about answering them?

We are starting to see behavioural and personality based questions such as:

  • Provide a specific example of a time when you had conflicting priorities. How did you juggle these priorities simultaneously and what was the result?


  • What capabilities and personal attributes will you bring to the department?

This means that the above traditional STAR approach is starting to lose relevance. More than ever, you need to rely on excellent written communication skills to answer Selection Criteria. Perhaps this is the purpose of these new style of questions, to make sure that stock standard answers are not sourced from somewhere on the internet, and to force applicants to genuinely respond!

Your Selection Criteria answers need to be unique, well written and provide meaningful examples to ensure that you get short-listed.

Do you require assistance writing Selection Criteria? We can help. Send an Enquiry to find out more.

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