The Secret to a Good Key Selection Criteria

Most government positions, and even some commercial, are now asking the applicant to respond to Key Selection Criteria (KSC). These are a set of questions or statements which the applicant needs to respond to and this can be one of the most challenging actions for an applicant.

All positions demand a resume and usually a cover letter and there is plenty of advice on how to write up and present these in a way that sells the applicant. But a KSC can be a different kettle of fish.

Usually there are a set of questions or statements such as, “describe your ability,” or “Demonstrate your ability” and these can be simple or quite complex.

The applicant is confronted with what can be a daunting prospect to answer these criterions in such a way as to paint them in the best possible light.

Although a person may be a past master at writing reports, that does not mean they can write about themselves. Many people have difficulty writing about themselves and ‘blowing their own trumpet’ without sounding trite or boastful or even full of the stuff cows leave around in paddocks. In addition most people simple answer a criterion with what they can do. A description, “Oh I can do this,” or “I can do that.” The reader usually takes such statements with a bucket of salt and that criterion response can, more often than not, end up at the bottom of the pile and never sees the light of day again.

KSCs are used to find out if the applicant has the qualities considered necessary for the position. Do they have the experience, the knowledge and expertise? How does the recruiter find that out? He or she finds it out from the responses to the questions or statements. The recruiter looks to see if the responses match the requirements of the job. One could say there is an art to this but fortunately there are some simple basic principles one can use to improve the effectiveness of ones criteria response and get closer to that short list of applicants destined for an interview.

The basic principles are

1. Follow the guidelines asked for in the position description document exactly. The position description usually sets out the guidelines for responding to the criteria such as “No more than x number of words for each criterion,” for example, or “One page per criterion.” Find out what it is and ensure you adhere to those guidelines.

Understand exactly what required. Read the criterion and check that you fully understand it. Check every word. Some words may be key word and they give you an idea or a sense of what they are looking for.

2. Drop the use of ‘I’ as much as possible and reword. Do not start each paragraph with ‘I’. I did this or I can do that. Better to say something like, “During my tenure at so and so I …”

3. Be specific. This is perhaps one of the most important points. Often a criteria will ask, “Demonstrate how you would … Or “Demonstrate your ability in dealing with such and such.” Here examples are requested. These examples should be:

Relate to the criteria

A description of what you can do will not cut it. Use actual incidents (leaving out names of course).

Many recruiters look for the S.T.A. R process being used. This is:

Situation. What was the situation?
Task. What is required to be done?
Action. What did YOU do about it? And
Result. What was the result of YOUR actions?

Being specific with examples that demonstrate an ability, knowledge or expertise is going to end up at the top of the pile rather than a bald statement of, “I can do this,” which will end up at the bottom of the pile. A statement does not demonstrate your ability, knowledge or expertise to the same degree as an actual example. And remember it must be a true example as you may be asked about it in an interview.

Providing actual examples from your experience and career demonstrates to the recruiter that you understand what is required, have done that before, have the knowledge and experience called for in the criterion and have the qualities necessary for the position

4. Lastly if you have difficulty writing about yourself there is a simple way to overcome that. Pretend you are writing about someone else. But instead of saying, “Their superior communication skills,” you write down, “My superior communication skills.”

5. And when it is finished double check it or get someone else to double check it for grammar and typos. If the grammar is poor or there are typos or spelling mistakes the KSC will be rejected

Following the above principles will give you a better chance of success with any key selection criteria.