Key Selection Criteria: What Is It and How To Use It?

If you’re applying for a job in Australia, non-profit or academic sector, you’ve probably heard of the term key selection criteria (KSC). This expression is often tossed around by the governmental bodies and headhunters but only a handful of candidates know what it actually means.

Basically, key selection criteria is used as a way of filtering the candidates and deciding which ones are best suited for a position. Due to its importance, you cannot take it lightly. Instead, make sure to learn more about KSC before applying for the desired position.

In this article, we will talk more about key selection criteria, how to answer them and how will they affect your ability to land a job. Read on!

How do you define selection criteria?

As the name might imply, selection criteria is a set of principles that help public agencies select the right candidates for a job. They are created by HR departments working within particular agencies or organizations.

In our case, key selection criteria are a set of questions that a department will ask a candidate during the recruitment process. They are used so that the HR department can learn more about a candidate, his or her skill set, experience and so on.

KSC usually focuses on the practical application of said skills. In most of the cases, a candidate will be asked somewhere between 6 to 8 questions. Occasionally, the HR department may categorize these questions in the essential or the desirable criteria. Needless to say, essential deals with crucial skills and experience.

Is key selection criteria necessary?

Some candidates may think that these principles are unnecessary especially if you have a wholesome resume. That they are just a waste of time. This is especially true for individuals who have worked within the private sector for most of their lives and don’t know anything about public organizations.

But they are more than just a procedure; without answering these questions, you won’t be able to land an interview. In fact, the application is regarded as incomplete if you’re unable to provide selection criteria together with a resume and whatever else a particular department needs from you. This is usually disclosed within a job ad.

Keep in mind that the selection criteria may help recruiters unravel some things about you that a regular CV cannot.

How are selection criteria scored?

Like with most other things during the vetting process, answers you provide are being scored. Each one is addressed individually and a certain amount of points is given to each response. In that sense, they are very similar to school tests.

Each criterion is used to asses one of your skills or to analyze how you behaved in particular situations. Those individual scores are then summed and you are given a total score. The final mark indicates whether or not you have passed. If you have, you will go to the next phase of the process, usually the job interview.

Always bear in mind that a candidate doesn’t have to answer all questions perfectly. Still, you need to show that you’re good enough for a position. Basically, the majority of questions should be met with an appropriate response. At least 80% of them to be precise. Forcing yourself will not help you even if you land a job. Instead, it is much better to answer these questions honestly and the department will tell whether or not you’re the best fit.

The best way to write KSC answers

Now, we come to the crucial part. Although you might have just the right experience and skill set to perform a certain task, you still have to be able to present it in the right way. “Selling” your skills is the best way to get a job so make sure to address key selection criteria properly with these tips:

  • Focus on the question. Make sure not to stray away or provide any additional information besides the ones that will help you get a job. Being short is oftentimes better than being too long. It will also create a better response in readers.
  • Focus on practical experience. While having a certain type of education is great, public organizations are more interested in people who can instantly help them and perform particular tasks.
  • Give real examples. Make sure to mention the problem, your approach, why you chose that approach and what your end results were.
  • Don’t overdo it or present yourself in a different light. Like with resume, faking information is never good as public departments are able to check you easily.

The government heavily relies on a method known as STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result). We recommend that you also use it for answering the criteria.

Writing these answers may seem really tricky. As you can see, there are lots of requirements that you have to meet. Furthermore, if writing is not your forte, it might become even harder. So, if you’re uncertain of whether you can pull it off, there are two choices ahead of you: either ask a friend or a family member for assistance or hire a resume writing company. No matter what, if you wish to get a job in a public sector this is something you will have to address sooner than later.

How important is formatting?

Almost everything within public service is structured so there is no confusion. Same goes with the formatting of selection criteria. Each one has to look the same and this is something that employers emphasize on. In fact, you will get instructions telling you which format to use so there is no confusion.

Commonly, there will be a guide for applicants where this information will be disclosed. This may either be the ad itself, on-site or on some other noticeable place accessible to all applicants. Anyway, you shouldn’t miss it. The help section will tell you which format to use, what font, how long the responses should be, how the answers should be formulated and so on.

The length of a response

As already mentioned, most organizations will provide instructions regarding the formatting. However, if there is no instruction regarding the length of the response, here are some of the tips that might help you:

Make sure that your answer is brief and up to point. You shouldn’t make an answer longer than half of a page. However, it also shouldn’t be too short as this will not provide enough information.

Being uncertain regarding phrasing

In most cases, when asking a question, the department will use phrasing such as “proven” or “demonstrated”. It is really hard to tell what a “proven track record” is or whether or not you’ve “demonstrated leadership”. Interpretation of these phrases is very subjective and may vary significantly from case to case. No matter what, you need to provide some kind of an answer.

Depending on where you’re applying, you can guess as to what is organization is looking for. Certain jobs may require discipline while others require creativity. No matter what, make sure to structure your responses so that you provide an answer they’re looking for, in a form they’re looking for.

Is this the right path for you?

Even if you managed to write proper key selection criteria, you might feel as if something is off. This is normal as there are numerous requirements when writing them. You might feel that your answers are subpar or that they won’t help you land a job. So, before sending your answers, here are some final considerations you need to keep in mind:

  • Is this really a job you want? Even if you have the necessary skills or education, perhaps this isn’t something you would like to do.
  • Are you answers adequate? Oftentimes, candidates cannot provide good enough answers because they don’t have the necessary skills or experience. You might notice this once you start writing or even worse when you finish writing the criteria.
  • Do you feel as if you cannot answer some of the questions? This is a good indication you lack expertise. So, instead of wasting your time, perhaps it’s better to find a position that is better suited your current skillset.

Final thoughts

Key selection criteria exist for a reason. It is meant to reduce the number of candidates searching for employment within the Australian public sector. They can also be eye-opening for the job candidates. If you’re unable to write it, that is a clear indication you don’t have what it takes to perform the task. Make sure to keep that in mind as it might save both you and recruiters a lot of time.


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