How to answer Key Selection Criteria like a Pro!

Not every job advertisement will ask you to complete Key Selection Criteria (sometimes just called Selection Criteria), but some will.

The higher level the role is, the more important it is to address the criteria and they will, most likely, insist that you answer criteria for them to even consider your application.  Regardless though, if you do see an advertisement that lists selection criteria but doesn’t specifically ask you to address them, it is still best practice to answer the criteria. Consider it a ‘weeding out’ process on their end and, by answering the criteria, you are very likely to be put ahead of the pile of applicants who didn’t. You already have a head start.

Our three steps to answering Key Selection Criteria like a professional, include: 1. Read. 2. Describe and Prove. 3. Clear and concise language.


1. Read and Read Again!

Read the criteria at least twice, three times is even better.

On the first read, just read it. Think about whether you fit the criteria. Don’t be too intimidated, recognise those selection criteria are mostly a ‘wish list’ and that most successful applicants are unlikely to have a 100% fit. Having said that, the most important criteria is quite obvious and if it wants someone with a degree level or at least 2-years experience in a field, and you have neither, perhaps move onto the next job ad.

On the second read, take notes on how you believe they want you to answer the question. There are key words you need to pay attention to.

For instance, if it says ‘Proven ability to manage busy workloads’, you need to think about a time you did this, the key word being ‘proven’. On the other hand, if the criterion states ‘Ability to work outside of working hours as necessary’, you just need to state that you are willing and able to do so.

Another example of a key selection criterion may be ‘ability to adapt quickly to changing workloads and manage priorities’.  While this criterion doesn’t have the word ‘proven’ in the sentence, you still need to give an example because it is a core behavioural requirement of the role. Anyone can say they have the ability to adapt quickly etc. but without back-up, it just sounds like an empty promise.  So next to this criterion you would make a note, ‘give an example’.

If the criterion says to describe a time… you need to do just that, again, giving examples from your past working history.

On the second or third read start taking notes of the examples you can give. Just in dot point form is fine at this stage.


2. Describe or Prove like a champion

Now start your answers.

Answer the easy questions first, this will keep you upbeat because you’ve completed some of it already.

Then head to the harder questions where you need to describe or prove.

If the question asked you to ‘describe a time’ – just describe one time, your best example. If it asks you to describe how you can perform certain duties or are asking for proven ability, choosing one or two of your best examples is enough.

Here is an example:

(Q) Describe your experience with managing busy workloads.

(A) My role as manager for a busy print firm involved prioritising and managing busy workloads for myself and my team.  With over 50 clients and competing deadlines, this was imperative to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction and repeat business. During my six year tenure as manager at Print Express, I introduced a prioritisation system with my team, as well as a reward structure for working after hours. This resulted in a 45% improvement on past customer satisfaction ratings.

Do you get the drift? Think back to a working role where you needed to act in the way the question is asking. Then describe that experience and most importantly, highlight your achievements.

In essence, a proven ability is similar to describe, however, you may need to add details that can be proven – for example, “I have over 6 years’ experience in project management roles and advanced experience in project management tools including Asana and Trello. This allowed me to create a new prioritisation method which I implemented with the team, resulting in a 45% improvement on customer satisfaction and equating to a 20% increase in financial revenue within 6 months”.

Get it? When you need to prove, state as many facts and figures as you can – these they can check with your referees.


3. Clear and Concise Language

Like all good writers do, while you are writing your criteria, it’s important to think about your reader.  Here are our tips:

  • Write your response to criteria on a separate page to your resume, clearly headed Response to Key Selection Criteria
  • Answer each criterion separately, with the question as a sub-heading and your answer underneath.
  • For some criterion you will only need a sentence. For example, ‘Current drivers license required’. All your response needs to say is “I have a current Qld drivers license and a clean driving record”.
  • If it is a ‘describe’ or ‘proven ability’ question, you will need between 1-3 paragraphs. Very rarely, if at all, will you require more than half a page to answer a criterion question.
  • Proofread your drafted version for flow, grammar and spelling. If you are saying in three sentences what can be said in one sentence, change it. Check your grammar (sites like Grammarly are very helpful for this) and definitely make sure there are no spelling mistakes (no excuses as you should have spell checker).


Don’t be afraid to ask a parent or friend or even a resume expert. Getting key selection criteria right is a sure-fire way to get you an interview. Follow the steps above and you are well on your way!

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