understanding selection criteria

Selection criteria can often be confusing and overwhelming, but from an employer’s perspective responses to selection criteria allow them to gauge each applicant’s suitability against a set of defined parameters.

Responses to selection criteria also allow an employer to quickly weed out applicants from what could be a pile of hundreds, simply by disregarding those that don’t meet all the stated criteria. So, it’s important that you understand exactly what is being asked.

Selection criteria can be broken up into two categories: Skills and experience relevant to the role, and organisational fit.

Skills and experience relevant to the role

These selection criteria are designed to ensure that candidates can be ranked against each other. Examples of this category might be:

  • Proven experience in J2EE, JSF, Spring, EJB, DB2, Websphere and Webservices are essential.
  • Minimum three years demonstrated experience working as a business analyst.
  • Possesses suitable qualifications or equivalent experience e.g. PMI, AIPM, PMBOK, Prince2 or similar.

Organisational fit

In this case the selection criteria are designed to gain an insight into the candidate’s soft skills (e.g. communication skills or mentoring capabilities). Examples of this category might be:

  • Ability and experience in liaising and communicating effectively with senior executives and engendering commitment for projects.
  • Good organisational skills and the ability to work to tight deadlines with competing priorities.
  • Well developed written and oral communication skills.

Selection criteria wording

Each of the selection criteria will start off with a number of familiar key phrases or expressions that indicate the type of skill or ability required for the role. Some of the more commonly used terms are:

  • Awareness: means a passing familiarity with a subject.
  • Knowledge: refers to familiarity gained from actual experience or from learning.
  • Understanding: requires having comprehension and perception of the significance of it.
  • Ability: means having the skills, knowledge or competency to do the task required.
  • Aptitude: suggests suitability to carry out a task or role. That is, you have a leaning towards a skill or quality.
  • Capacity: differs to aptitude in that it can mean you are able to or qualified to perform a task, but may not have demonstrated it.
  • Background in: is often used in reference to educational qualifications or areas of specialisation, such as marketing or journalism.
  • Experience in: means you must have literally done the work as distinct from observed it or had a sideline role.
  • A proven record: means that you must be able to substantiate any claims to the experience or skill.

The following expressions indicate you will need to provide examples of your experience or capability:

  • Well developed
  • Demonstrated
  • Extensive, and
  • High level of.

Essential criteria versus desirable criteria

Selection criteria will often be divided into “Essential” or “Desirable” criteria. You must meet all the “Essential” criteria in order to be considered for the role. If you don’t satisfy all the “Desirable” criteria it is still worth applying for the role. These criteria are not essential to do the job, however the candidate that meets these criteria is likely to be viewed more favourably.

For more information see our article on How to answer selection criteria.